Ralph Peters wrote an article, Blood Borders. This article looks at the prospect of redrawing borders in lands between the Bosphorus and the Indus.
Daniel Hannan is a writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the European Union is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He recently wrote The Arab Spring has failed because constitutional democracy needs nation-states. One thing that both of these writers write about and are in agreement is that a super power drawing lines for borders creates a bloody mess.
The conflicts I read about today make me wonder if the borders will change. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from the Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now. The following is an excerpt of Ralph Peters’ article.
A root cause of the broad stagnation in the Muslim world is the Saudi royal family’s treatment of Mecca and Medina as their fiefdom. With Islam’s holiest shrines under the police-state control of one of the world’s most bigoted and oppressive regimes – a regime that commands vast, unearned oil wealth – the Saudis have been able to project their Wahhabi vision of a disciplinarian, intolerant faith far beyond their borders. The rise of the Saudis to wealth and, consequently, influence has been the worst thing to happen to the Muslim world as a whole since the time of the Prophet, and the worst thing to happen to Arabs since the Ottoman (if not the Mongol) conquest.
The following is an excerpt of Daniel Hannan’s’ article.
The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement was an accord between Britain and France (with a minor role for their Tsarist Russian ally) on how to dismember the Ottoman Empire against which they were then at war. It is forgotten in the countries that authored it, but keenly remembered in those it created.
Sykes and Picot – representing, respectively, the British and French governments – carved up the eastern part of the Ottoman lands more or less arbitrarily.
The resulting states were wholly synthetic, lacking ethnic or religious identity. Iraq exists in its present form largely because, in order to yoke the oil-rich Ottoman provinces of Mosul and Basra together, the British Government had to include Baghdad. Along with Jordan, it was placed under an imported monarch, a son of the Sharif of Mecca.
Democracy functions best within units where people feel that they have enough in common with one another to accept government from each other’s hands. Take the demos out of democracy, and you are left with the kratos: the power of a state that must compel what it cannot ask in the name of civil loyalty.
In the absence of nation-states, cross-border affinities magnify, which is why the Syrian conflict risks becoming a regional Sunni-Shia war.
‘If the Syrian opposition is victorious,’ said Iraq’s prime minister earlier this year, ‘there will be a civil war in Lebanon, divisions in Jordan, and a sectarian war in Iraq.’
The Sykes-Picot accord created governments where there were no nations. People were capriciously sundered from their co-religionists, and demographic maps resembled fruit salads. Lebanon, where no single group constituted a majority, has suffered a series of sectarian wars ever since. In Syria and Iraq, minority groups exercised dictatorial rule over the majorities.
It is hard to see anything that the West might do to help. If a decade of occupation and hundreds of thousands of soldiers failed to pacify Iraq, how can we realistically hope to stabilise Syria or Egypt?
The days when we could draw lines on maps are gone. Events are beyond our control – though this doesn’t mean we should make unforced errors, as when we held back from immediately condemning the coup in Egypt. I wish I had a solution, but the prospects of the region are just so dark.
The super powers after WWII were no better at drawing lines to split Berlin, Germany, and eastern Europe. A much better result is when after the USSR fell, Germany reunited and countries won independence with no super power interference. I don’t agree completely with Ralph Peters’ vision of what Asia Minor could have looked like with organic nation-states, but this map is a good starting point for conversation. I find some grim locker room humor that the folks at the Armed Forces Journal named new countries on this map Sunni Iraq, Free Kurdistan, Free United Baluchistan Republic, Saudi Homeland Independent Territories, and Arab Shia State. The abbreviations read SI FK FUBR SHIT ASS. I’ve never traveled there, and would like confirmation from any vets that the bold letters reflect thoughts they may have had about some of those inhabitants.
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