Public: United Nations
Sovereign Host Recognition   (+8, -2)  [vote for, against]
more than an armed gang, less than a country

"Shepherd of the Hosts" is Homer's second favourite epithet for Agamemnon. The God of the Old Testament is the "Lord of Hosts". However, as soon as we roll forward from archaic times to merely ancient times, "hosts" seem to fade out of the picture, except in embarrassing rhetorical flourishes.

A host is not quite the same as an army. A host amounts to an entire population in motion, or able to move. It is generally in readiness to make war, but not necessarily at war.

Even in times of Levee en Masse or Totale Krieg, a modern population doesn't really count as a host, because so many of them go home at night to sleep in the same solid houses as before.

Except, except...

In about 1991, something odd happened in Moldova.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the nature of the game in the Conventional Forces Europe negotiations changed abruptly; one of the new goals was to share out the heavy weapons systems of the Red Army equitably among the successor states of the Soviet Union - a few hundred main battle tanks for a medium-sized country, a few dozen for a small country, and so on.

It all seemed to go quite smoothly, until the newly independent government of Moldova tried to take physical possession of its allotted heavy weapons. At about that point, another sovereign state declared its independence, the so-called "Trans-Dniestr Republic". With only a fraction of Moldova's territory and population, it appeared to hold most of the hardware.

It was reported in the media at the time as representing the Slavonic ethnic minority within a country (Moldova) that was predominantly Romanian. But what was not reported was this; if I took the standard manning level of one Soviet mechanised army, and multiplied it by the approximate size of one "nuclear" family, I arrived at a number remarkably similar to the claimed size of this Russo-Ukrainian minority in Moldova, and to the population of the Trans-Dniestr Republic. (I forget what these numbers were exactly - I lost the back of that envelope almost twenty years ago).

Add to this the fact that these Trans-Dniestrians (not a term with any previous history) were in possession of most of the heavy weaponry in Moldova, and it was difficult to excape the conclusion that the Trans-Dniestr Republic was none other than the old Soviet Fourteenth Army, reinventing itself as a sovereign nation. In other words, it was a host.

Anyway, as border controls become less effective, and as resource depletion pushes the world towards the next dark age, I believe phenomena of this kind are likely to become more common. Consequently, a system of international law which doesn't recognize them is likely to become more problematic and less effective.

So, what if we were to recognize certain entities as sovereign entities, without recognizing defined geographical boundaries for them? Examples that spring to mind outside Trans-Dniestria include Kurdistan, Palestine and some rather sad parts of the Congo.

There are three primitive functions of government, namely, external conflict resolution ("defence"), internal conflict resolution ("justice") and public ritual. Of these, only justice needs a territorially fixed jurisdiction to work. Regularizing the other two functions in the eyes of international bodies might have some stabilizing or civilizing effect. Then again it might not. Monstrous gypsy caravan parks come to mind.
-- pertinax, Apr 08 2010

Millets http://en.wikipedia...et_(Ottoman_Empire)
[mouseposture, Apr 08 2010]

Passport to Pimlico
Makes me think of this old Ealing comedy about a small community that ends up as a soveriegn state... [Jinbish, Apr 09 2010]

Knights Of Malta http://en.wikipedia...tary_Order_of_Malta
Baked? [BunsenHoneydew, Apr 09 2010]

Tiraspol, where theircompetitor was born <iframe width="425"...larger map</small>
[theircompetitor, Apr 10 2010]

[theircompetitor, Apr 10 2010]

Is this what [Their] looks like? http://www.webtopos...e/agamemnonMask.htm
[pertinax, Apr 10 2010]

Also close but not the same thing. http://en.wikipedia...iki/Nansen_passport
[mouseposture, Apr 11 2010]

UNPO http://en.wikipedia...eoples_Organisation
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation [BunsenHoneydew, Apr 13 2010]

Stateless nation
[BunsenHoneydew, Apr 13 2010]

Encyclopedia of Stateless Nations http://en.wikipedia...e_Stateless_Nations
In handy list form [BunsenHoneydew, Apr 13 2010]

The Great Heathen Army http://en.wikipedia.../Great_Heathen_Army
A classic, but not classical, example. [Aristotle, Apr 14 2010]

-- calum, Apr 08 2010

This is more post-factum, and I don't think it affects anyone's theoretical tax liabilities.
-- pertinax, Apr 08 2010

//Getting 1000 people together to declare themselves as a tax haven just isn't going to work.// It might if they've all just taken delivery of a battle tank.

Was it here that I read the defining feature of a "state" was that which had the final legal resort to violence? i.e. A state, host etc, in order to be identified as legitimate, is that which can legally get away with being the arbiter of force (war, prison, execution - in fact any form of state-managed sanction are all being varying degrees of force). Lots of tanks would certainly be one way to achieve this - until such time as the host gets in the way of a larger host and is aquisitioned.
-- zen_tom, Apr 08 2010

Well, they'd have to have something. There's bugger all else in Nevada. Las Vegas is Anywheresville and could be jacked up and wheeled off somewhere else, and Reno has as much ambience as a discarded paper cup.

By the way, [pertinax], the word you're seeling is not "Host" but "Collective". Step into our office for a moment ...
-- 8th of 7, Apr 08 2010

There was a time in European history before nation states became the norm, when multiethnic empires gave legal status to internal nations something like this idea <link> Those empires collapsed around the beginning of the 20th century, but from the point of view of this idea, they seem surprisingly modern.

Also, if we're allowed to cite fictional examples, I want to put in a plug for John Calvin Batchelor's _The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica_
-- mouseposture, Apr 08 2010

"hosts" or "celestial militias" or even the "celestial armies" are mainly the stars (in theology).
-- Yesearch, Apr 09 2010

Hmm. Well, the Order of Malta is considered soverign despite having no territory. That gives a modern precedent, and there are lots of historical precedents. Assuming a coherent system of international law to determine jurisdiction, I see no reason this couldn't be done. [+]
-- gisho, Apr 09 2010

// lots of historical precedents. //

The Knights Templars ... the Rosicrucians ... the Masons ... Opus Deii ... the Jesuits ... Majestic 7 ...

Conspiract theorists, this way.
-- 8th of 7, Apr 09 2010

[gisho] beat me to the punch, but yes, the Knights of Malta do represent a bake of this idea. Rather than a //modern precedent//, they are the last extant example of an older system.

[morrison_rm] The distributed nation-states in "Snowcrash" did have territoriality, even if they were multitudinous, tiny, and far flung enclaves. The societies in Stephenson's later "Diamond Age" approach closer to [pertinax]'s conception.
-- BunsenHoneydew, Apr 09 2010

[Bunsen], I meant 'modern precedent' in the sense that they still exist today, so nobody can claim the idea is dead. However, they're the Order of Malta because they used to rule the island of Malta, until Napoleon kicked them off. I can see someone arguing that only a group that used to control territory, even if they don't now, should be eligible for Host status, which seems contrary to the spirit of the thing.

Didn't the groups in Diamond Age have territory too? The Vickies did, at least.
-- gisho, Apr 09 2010

It occurred to me that before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people were (as I recall) granted observer status at the UN.
-- BunsenHoneydew, Apr 10 2010

Time for some nice distinctions, I think.

The difference between a host and a millet is that a millet has everything *except* autonomous armed force. This is probably a good thing from some points of view, but if you recognized the Trans-Dnietrians as a millet then, unless you were willing to fight a war with them, I think they would just laugh and keep the tanks.

A host is almost the opposite of a late-medieval feudal state. In a feudal state, land-holding is everything, and the people who inhabit the land are incidental. In a host, the people *are* the host, and the land under their feet at any given time is incidental.

There is an etymology of the German word 'volk' ('folk'), according to which it means a 'following', i.e., a group of people on the move together, and this is very much the same thing that I mean by 'host'. An example would be the Franks ('the Free People") who were looking for somewhere to live and settled for Gaul. So, think early middle ages (alias Dark Ages), rather than late middle ages.

I understand that, in the German version of history, the whole process known to us as 'the barbarian invasions' is called the völkerwanderung - 'wandering of folks', or of hosts, if you like.

The Roman mis-handling of one such group prior to the disastrous battle of Adrianople has modern relevance, I think.

Thank you, [BunsenHoneydew] - I think UN Observer status might be similar to what I had in mind.
-- pertinax, Apr 10 2010

Get those Shakesperean monkeys out -- what are the odds of an idea that mentions both Agamemnon and the Trans Dniester region, where yours truly was born?
-- theircompetitor, Apr 10 2010

jutta, sorry, posted link with wrong info from Google maps, won't let me edit or delete it.
-- theircompetitor, Apr 10 2010

//both Agamemnon and the Trans Dniester region//

You don't have a rather striking gold death-mask, by any chance?
-- pertinax, Apr 10 2010

Or a T72?
-- pertinax, Apr 10 2010

ha. I probably won't recognize much, left in 1973.
-- theircompetitor, Apr 10 2010

Of course Tiraspol itself (as opposed to Trans-Dniestria in general) is a classical Greek colony (Tyras Polis), and a fleet-load of classical Greek colonists is another rather host-like entity - though more in some cases than in others.
-- pertinax, Apr 10 2010

[pertinax]//The difference between a host and a millet// Thanks; that helped. This seems like a proposal for nomads & geographical nation states to coexist, which (as you point out) notoriously leads to violence and tends to occur in in chaotic times.

The conventional wisdom, as I understood it is that the incompatibility of those two kinds of nations stems from something fundamental, like competition for resources, in the absence of a geographical rule for separating meum from tuum. You seem to be proposing that this problem be solved by a legal framework. Would this not require a strong world government?

Incidentally, the Batchelor novel describes exactly the above scenario. The tragic conclusion is that the existing nation states are unable to accommodate an armed nation without boundaries, so the sovereign host is forced to settle on the (almost uninhabitable) only remaining unclaimed territory on Earth.
-- mouseposture, Apr 11 2010

"solved" is rather a strong world. After all, conflicts between existing states are not exactly "solved" by existing international law. However, existing international law provides some options for managing inter-state conflicts, given a modicum of political will. The proposed change might provide some comparable options for managing conflicts involving non-state entities.

In the case of Adrianople, part of the problem arose from a complete lack of respect from Roman officials towards the initially non-violent Gothic refugees. If the displaced population can claim a specific, defined group status, which is recognised by third parties, then that might help to improve the behaviour of officials of the settled population. It might not change strategic policy, but the way in which such policy is implemented can make all the difference. I think it's somewhere in Book 2 of Ammianus Marcellinus, but I may be wrong.
-- pertinax, Apr 11 2010

[pertinax]//not exactly "solved" by existing international law// Agreed. I'm just cynical about any system of law where the law-enforcers have less military power than the law-violators. Years ago, I read (_The Sovereign State and its Competitors_ I think) that the technical term for our current system of world government is "anarchy." The reason for that wasn't the lack of international law, but the lack of a supranational body with enforcement power. According to this view, laws may be just or unjust, but without the threat of violence, they're not really laws. Absent cynicism, your proposal is a good idea.

You might consider doing some editing on the "Battle of Adrianople" Wikipedia page. It describes the Goths as "rebels," which, if you know what your talking about (and you certainly sound like you do) is an oversimplification.
-- mouseposture, Apr 11 2010

Thank you, I might do that. I've never tried updating Wikipedia before. I wonder whether I should delay until I've actually found the relevant bit of Ammianus Marcellinus, or whether I could just reference Gibbon's version, which is not the primary source, but which I do have on my shelf. It's actually quite a disturbing story, and important to get right.
-- pertinax, Apr 12 2010

Further and variously disputable examples that spring to mind: Mosaic Israel, the Romany people, ancient Polynesians, the Bo of SE Asia, the Berbers, the Colonial Fleet in Battlestar Galactica.

Perhaps it's time to have a good, long look at that whole Treaty of Westphalia thing.

Does a host aspire to a homeland? A new one, or to reclaim an old one - whether historical or mythic? Or are they perpetual wanderers?
-- BunsenHoneydew, Apr 13 2010

Technically, when does a host become a horde? (As in "Mongol Hordes"?)
-- coprocephalous, Apr 13 2010

"Horde" almost always seems to be derogatory, or at least more "other"-ish than "host". It's hard to imagine a "heavenly horde" or (with apologies to Wordsworth) a "horde" of daffodils.
-- pertinax, Apr 13 2010

Such an idea is bound to see many stand-offs between NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard local reactionaries) and the nomads. Who wants nomads near them when they can be near someone else instead.

In the Dark Days of Thatcherism groups called New Age Travellers sprung up. Thatcherist-inspired police reacted by an increasing oppression which tended to culminate in the seizing of their vehicles, which were their homes, and destroying them with fire.

As you can see I have mixed views about whom the actual barbarians were ...

In essence such an independent, roving grouping would only make sense as a landless state amongst a collection of conventional states, such as the EU or US. [-]
-- Aristotle, Apr 13 2010

//a good, long look at that whole Treaty of Westphalia//

That certainly would be a pertinent starting point. There's just one slight problem. In its time, that treaty performed a fairly specific function, namely, to provide firewalls against the spread of religious conflict. Well, it's a good thing we don't need that sort of thing nowa...

Oh. Hang on.

We could make a case for rethinking Westphalia anyway, on the grounds that those firewalls aren't working as well as they used to, and they probably need updating, not necessarily on a territorial basis.
-- pertinax, Apr 13 2010

Fortunately we will soon have the "Cameron Youth" to guide us into a 1,000 year reich of glorious, totalitarian rule along side the SS-loving European partners that David chose personally for all of us.

Large air-brushed posters of the great leader, David Cameron, will return to every bill-board reminding us that the Big Bullingdon Club is watching us ...
-- Aristotle, Apr 13 2010

//Perhaps it's time to have a good, long look at that whole Treaty of Westphalia thing//
On today, the 40th anniversary, it is good to note that Westphalia is not an option.
-- AbsintheWithoutLeave, Apr 13 2010

// Then the SS send you to a concentration camp. //

... where you are "re-educated".

And then we Assimilate you.

Oldthinkers Unbellyfeel Ingsoc ...
-- 8th of 7, Apr 14 2010

I was thinking that something like this will be happening with the natives here in Canada.

They are mostly self governing and self policing now, have unlimited access to free education and then don't pay income tax on the money they make with that education while working for the band. Within the next generation or two they will become a nation of doctors, lawyers and scientists and if I don't miss my bet, they will set aside their differences and band together to vie for the status of country within a country, and a seat in any world government.

They have a rare opportunity to become powerful as a nation, (if reclaiming something stolen can be called an opportunity), and It's what I would push for in their shoes.
-- 2 fries shy of a happy meal, Apr 15 2010

random, halfbakery