Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is this the New Middle East?

This is an article that appeared in early July '06 in the Armed Forces Journal distributed to all US forces. It was written by a retired US Army Colonel - Ralph Peters - who was also assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Peters wrote numerous amounts of books and his latest one was called "Never Quit the Fighting" published 10 July '06. Interestingly, Peters drew a map of what he thinks the New Middle East should look like (above) and explained his reasoning behind this. I find his ambitions a bit far-fetched. Enjoy.

Blood borders
How a better Middle East would look
By Ralph Peters

International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.
The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.
While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region's comprehensive failure isn't Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.
Of course, no adjustment of borders, however draconian, could make every minority in the Middle East happy. In some instances, ethnic and religious groups live intermingled and have intermarried. Elsewhere, reunions based on blood or belief might not prove quite as joyous as their current proponents expect. The boundaries projected in the maps accompanying this article redress the wrongs suffered by the most significant "cheated" population groups, such as the Kurds, Baluch and Arab Shia, but still fail to account adequately for Middle Eastern Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, Naqshbandis and many another numerically lesser minorities. And one haunting wrong can never be redressed with a reward of territory: the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians by the dying Ottoman Empire.
Yet, for all the injustices the borders re-imagined here leave unaddressed, without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East.
Even those who abhor the topic of altering borders would be well-served to engage in an exercise that attempts to conceive a fairer, if still imperfect, amendment of national boundaries between the Bosporus and the Indus. Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools — short of war — for readjusting faulty borders, a mental effort to grasp the Middle East's "organic" frontiers nonetheless helps us understand the extent of the difficulties we face and will continue to face. We are dealing with colossal, man-made deformities that will not stop generating hatred and violence until they are corrected.
As for those who refuse to "think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).
Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.
Begin with the border issue most sensitive to American readers: For Israel to have any hope of living in reasonable peace with its neighbors, it will have to return to its pre-1967 borders — with essential local adjustments for legitimate security concerns. But the issue of the territories surrounding Jerusalem, a city stained with thousands of years of blood, may prove intractable beyond our lifetimes. Where all parties have turned their god into a real-estate tycoon, literal turf battles have a tenacity unrivaled by mere greed for oil wealth or ethnic squabbles. So let us set aside this single overstudied issue and turn to those that are studiously ignored.
The most glaring injustice in the notoriously unjust lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Himalayas is the absence of an independent Kurdish state. There are between 27 million and 36 million Kurds living in contiguous regions in the Middle East (the figures are imprecise because no state has ever allowed an honest census). Greater than the population of present-day Iraq, even the lower figure makes the Kurds the world's largest ethnic group without a state of its own. Worse, Kurds have been oppressed by every government controlling the hills and mountains where they've lived since Xenophon's day.
The U.S. and its coalition partners missed a glorious chance to begin to correct this injustice after Baghdad's fall. A Frankenstein's monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts, Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately. We failed from cowardice and lack of vision, bullying Iraq's Kurds into supporting the new Iraqi government — which they do wistfully as a quid pro quo for our good will. But were a free plebiscite to be held, make no mistake: Nearly 100 percent of Iraq's Kurds would vote for independence.
As would the long-suffering Kurds of Turkey, who have endured decades of violent military oppression and a decades-long demotion to "mountain Turks" in an effort to eradicate their identity. While the Kurdish plight at Ankara's hands has eased somewhat over the past decade, the repression recently intensified again and the eastern fifth of Turkey should be viewed as occupied territory. As for the Kurds of Syria and Iran, they, too, would rush to join an independent Kurdistan if they could. The refusal by the world's legitimate democracies to champion Kurdish independence is a human-rights sin of omission far worse than the clumsy, minor sins of commission that routinely excite our media. And by the way: A Free Kurdistan, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.
A just alignment in the region would leave Iraq's three Sunni-majority provinces as a truncated state that might eventually choose to unify with a Syria that loses its littoral to a Mediterranean-oriented Greater Lebanon: Phoenecia reborn. The Shia south of old Iraq would form the basis of an Arab Shia State rimming much of the Persian Gulf. Jordan would retain its current territory, with some southward expansion at Saudi expense. For its part, the unnatural state of Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan.
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.
While non-Muslims could not effect a change in the control of Islam's holy cities, imagine how much healthier the Muslim world might become were Mecca and Medina ruled by a rotating council representative of the world's major Muslim schools and movements in an Islamic Sacred State — a sort of Muslim super-Vatican — where the future of a great faith might be debated rather than merely decreed. True justice — which we might not like — would also give Saudi Arabia's coastal oil fields to the Shia Arabs who populate that subregion, while a southeastern quadrant would go to Yemen. Confined to a rump Saudi Homelands Independent Territory around Riyadh, the House of Saud would be capable of far less mischief toward Islam and the world.
Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today's Afghanistan — a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State.
What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan's Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren (the point of this exercise is not to draw maps as we would like them but as local populations would prefer them). Pakistan, another unnatural state, would also lose its Baluch territory to Free Baluchistan. The remaining "natural" Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.
The city-states of the United Arab Emirates would have a mixed fate — as they probably will in reality. Some might be incorporated in the Arab Shia State ringing much of the Persian Gulf (a state more likely to evolve as a counterbalance to, rather than an ally of, Persian Iran). Since all puritanical cultures are hypocritical, Dubai, of necessity, would be allowed to retain its playground status for rich debauchees. Kuwait would remain within its current borders, as would Oman.
In each case, this hypothetical redrawing of boundaries reflects ethnic affinities and religious communalism — in some cases, both. Of course, if we could wave a magic wand and amend the borders under discussion, we would certainly prefer to do so selectively. Yet, studying the revised map, in contrast to the map illustrating today's boundaries, offers some sense of the great wrongs borders drawn by Frenchmen and Englishmen in the 20th century did to a region struggling to emerge from the humiliations and defeats of the 19th century.
Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible. For now. But given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.
Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself. The current human divisions and forced unions between Ankara and Karachi, taken together with the region's self-inflicted woes, form as perfect a breeding ground for religious extremism, a culture of blame and the recruitment of terrorists as anyone could design. Where men and women look ruefully at their borders, they look enthusiastically for enemies.
From the world's oversupply of terrorists to its paucity of energy supplies, the current deformations of the Middle East promise a worsening, not an improving, situation. In a region where only the worst aspects of nationalism ever took hold and where the most debased aspects of religion threaten to dominate a disappointed faith, the U.S., its allies and, above all, our armed forces can look for crises without end. While Iraq may provide a counterexample of hope — if we do not quit its soil prematurely — the rest of this vast region offers worsening problems on almost every front.
If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own.

Winners —
Arab Shia State
Free Baluchistan
Free Kurdistan
Islamic Sacred State

Losers —
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
West Bank


Anonymous rafiek said...

borders cannot be decided in a unilateral or even a two-state diplomacy solution. All the countries in the region needs to discuss it. The arab-israeli and israeli-palestinian problem needs to be solved in order for any "good" to be part the future.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Completely agreed. None the less, it was fascinating reading.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Fares said...

Harming Syria, Dream on

1:31 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, while I may not totally agree with it I think this is a issue worth looking at, maybe the middle east does need to be changed a little to reflect the makeup of certain nationalites, but it is something that the people of the region would need to decide for themselves, but still very interesting

3:43 AM  
Blogger in indigo said...

since we're playing god,
what about free turkestan (currentday uyghur autonomous province of china) and tibet? and burma...

5:18 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

*lol* Yeah, and they also didn't resolve the Jammu and Kashmir situation either!

6:34 AM  
Blogger Bash said...

Hey it's because we're the Middle East, we're Arabs.. it's OK to redraw OUR borders by some military dude from far far away who has no relation to us..

8:57 AM  
Blogger Bash said...

Hey it's because we're the Middle East, we're Arabs.. it's OK to redraw OUR borders by some military dude from far far away who has no relation to us..

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Nic said...

I agree with Bash, this is pretty funny stuff but good read, Im sure some sad people actually use this as their foreign policy!!!!


11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes since we obviously weren't ever able to make any decisions by ourselves, obviously, others than those that lead to civil wars and the spread of hate. The only governance that ever worked in our part of the world was bloody dictatorships such as dear old Saddam and dear old Assad. Was this a choice of the Arab people? did you ever decide that you wanted to have the Syrian dictatorship spilling on your own country and taking lives from it? did the Syrian people ask for the Assads to rule their country and make them miserable? did the Iraqis ask to be ruthlessly killed and oppressed during decades of Saddam regime? So what if more civilized nations can help educated people in this part of the world make good things happen for the benefit of the less advantaged that cannot speak for themselves?

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Omar said...

Greater Jordan? Arab Shia State? Come on , this is BS

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2:44 PM  
Anonymous Gidi (Tel Aviv) said...

Please post the following coment from Haaretz.com


At five after the war

By Gideon Samet

The war is actually over, even if both sides don't know it yet. The bitter argument as to whether it was justified will, perhaps, be settled only in the coming months. But Israel is not prepared for what will come later any more than it was fully alert when it started. The really big test will not be the balance of casualties, destruction of missile launchers, blown-up houses or morale symbols - whether false or true - that both sides will try to impress on the tired minds of millions of citizens.

What will determine Israel's place in this bad neighborhood for many years to come is the way the country's political and social leadership knew how to navigate in this new situation. No committee of inquiry will mark the path. Heads will have to roll, mainly because of the scandalous treatment of the home front. But above all, minds must open themselves up to a completely different reality. The strangest war in our history has suddenly made clear the extent of the danger emanating from the contemptible enemy in the backyard. In spite of its unprecedented cruelty, this war has not yet opened the eyes of the government, which knows how to pull the trigger, but whose diplomatic mind is as narrow as an ant's world.

In a way that is still unclear to this government, the war, like many in history, is also a special opportunity for a new diplomatic move. Ehud Olmert understands that unilateral convergence has been hit with a crushing missile. Perhaps, therefore, in one of this battle's strange phone calls, he hastened to apologize to MK Efi Eitam this week for saying in an interview that an achievement in Lebanon will boost convergence. Nothing can be unilateral any longer. Not dealing with Hezbollah, not withdrawing from the West Bank, no boastful patter about Israel's power to arrange matters as it sees fit. The new age now forced on Israel is one of dialogue with those pulling the strings in the West as with our neighbors.

A visit to east Asia over the past two weeks made well clear to this writer the extent of the Islamic fundamentalist threat to the east of us, all the way to the continent's edges. A look at this Islamic axis from its back can be more frightening than the local threat. The radical Islamic chain feeds the local threat from dark depths, beyond Iran, Syria and Lebanon. But Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and any country with a Muslim minority also feel its poison stinger in their backs.

Jamaa Islamiya wants an Islamic religious state in Indonesia, which is Muslim, but largely secular. The same is true in southern Thailand and the Philippines. Singapore, which is surrounded by the tom-tom drums of world jihad, lately sent a high-level and curious delegation to learn from Israel's experience. But it has nothing to learn from us regarding the insight that the United States is only just beginning to internalize: to deal with the huge conglomerate of religious fanaticism, smart bombs are not enough. The U.S. magazine Atlantic Monthly, for example, published a comprehensive cover story this month about the need to understand that the war on terror, a la George Bush, is over. The time has come for a no less extensive diplomatic and humanitarian moves accompanied by occasional military means.

To many in Israel who in their minds have yet to take their finger off the trigger toward Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, it may seem surprising that this is the time to move to a completely different front. Now, after the mutual killing, circumstances are ripe for a wider Israeli assault in favor of serious negotiations with Hamas and the Palestinian administration. This is also the time to talk to Syria, or at least to take its pulse.

This is the right time to bring forth everything the Israeli genius can, despite its famed historic limitations, toward dialogue, clear bilateralism, arrangements, humanitarian sensitivity, a lowering of the repulsive macho tone that Olmert is not lacking. A crack has opened toward another age. Olmert and company will be courting our disaster if they do not move toward it with a firm step. Not at six after the war. At five.

3:13 PM  
Blogger a sane voice in a mad world said...

May the Labanese and the ME and the rest of humanity see an end to the bombings and the killings. aameen

I do not like the map in your link, because it leaves a very crucial element of injustice.

I think the problem started with the allocation of all of the coast of Palestine to Israel. aAnd in this plan too, Syria also loses the coast to agreater Lebanon, while Lebanon was created by separation from Syria because the West wanted a Westernised outpost in the ME, and with Israel it got a Crusader one.

A better plan to my liking is here:

Bob's peace Plan

The concept is important. I would readjust the borders of Palestine/Israel in this amp to give more coast to Palestine than in the map.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about not going through all that bull and trouble, and remove the root cause of all problems and shift it to, ummm say Ireland? Would be much easier :/ It only takes 50 years to repopulate the area, right?

Article was total bull, and only complete bias. Aloting land to factions that dont even know english or for that matter dont even know one word other than their own name is ludicirous; Free Baluchistan and Afghanistan with all the Northern Pakistan? Free speech is only good with sound logical reasoning.

3:19 AM  
Anonymous blogwatch said...

A great quote by Golda Meir:

"We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours. Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us."

9:28 PM  
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11:33 AM  
Anonymous bigberta said...

I think, this is not only bias, although it caries al lot of sheer nonsense. Here is the first part: http://bigberta.twoday.net/stories/2502309/

where I linked an article by the same author: you Germans nauseate us. If it were sheer nonsense and bias it would not habe been published in a US military magazine which is distributed to all troops...

8:39 PM  
Blogger sun wukong said...

Nice one, in the end the lion of Syria is going to be buried in Lebanon: He will haunt Lebanese even after his death.

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