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Thread: Blood Borders

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Blood Borders

    17 June Armed Forces Journal commentary - Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look by Ralph Peters.

    ...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)...

  2. #2
    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default An important caveat

    Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now
    True enough. And when you take away the admittedly irrational but stabilizing effect of the post-WWII consensus that new borders cannot legitimately be changed by force alone, then you will ramp up the number of would-be conquerors and "liberators" by at least a factor of ten.

    We have enough trouble with just Iraq without attempting to unscramble Winston's Churchill's entire omlette. Remarkably stupid piece by Peters.

  3. #3
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default

    I think what Peters is doing with this bit is pointing out that border changes are now more or less inevitable. Granted his language is sometimes more provocative than necessary, but he's pointing out something that is happening and more importantly will continue to happen.

    The post-WW2 borders to a great extent relied on the Cold War to keep them in place. Both the US and the USSR would go to a great deal of trouble to prevent border shifts, which would create new regions of conflict and possibly disturb the balance of power that had been created in the Third World by a number of proxy states created by both powers. With the end of the Cold War, we've seen a number of new and shifting states created out of the old molds, and there is no reason to think that this trend will suddenly halt.

    Also, he may be exploring an option that could hold new opportunities for the US in the war on terror. Many of the terrorist factions use the lack of a homeland (and not just the old PLO or new Hamas, et. al.) as a serious recruiting and propaganda tool. Taking that tool away from them might give us a major advantage, or at the very least create some new opportunities and areas for maneuver.

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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default Relative costs

    Hi Steve,

    I agree that Peters is probably trying to be deliberately provocative and actually knows better. Likewise borders are and will continue to change, sometimes in defiance of the strong international consensus against such changes.

    But the rule is an important brake on that change process because unilateral annexation generally lacks legitimacy in international law. Throwing out the rule because it is sometimes honored only in the breach is simply giving away diplomatic leverage ( and creating an incentive to settle disputes with warfare).

    As for:

    Also, he may be exploring an option that could hold new opportunities for the US in the war on terror. Many of the terrorist factions use the lack of a homeland (and not just the old PLO or new Hamas, et. al.) as a serious recruiting and propaganda tool. Taking that tool away from them might give us a major advantage, or at the very least create some new opportunities and areas for maneuver
    Possible in very narrow circumstances, broadly speaking the costs would outweigh the tactical benefits.

    Elevating the Kurds to de jure statehood with American power simply makes an enemy out of Turkey and encourages Ankara to make common cause with Iran and Syria. The Kurds will only be accepted as a nation-state after settling bilaterally with Turkey ( much like German reunification had to address Russian, British and French concerns by being locked into the EU and not ressurrect the fears of a " German Europe").

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    Council Member Stu-6's Avatar
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    Default And here is the catch. . .

    Who is going to draw this map? While outsides powers may be able to do a better job than the first time the boarders will have no legitimacy. If the states of the modern Middle East do it, they will be loathed to give up valuable territory (regardless of who lives there) and it will become simply the strong imposing what they can on the weak, with no more accurate boarders than we have now. The Untied Nations, while problem the best bet, has never taken on a job this and struggled with much smaller boarder adjustments.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Peters and the "New Kurdistan"

    A friend of mine and roommate at Leavenworth for nearly 3 years sent me a link today http://zaman.com/?bl=readerschoice&a...60929&hn=37007 that concerns Turkish reaction to a presentation by Ralph Peters at a NATO Defense College in Rome. Peters according to the report pulled out a map that outlines a new Middle East in a post-OIF era. You can see the map at http://zaman.com/2006/09/29/harita_b.jpg It creates a Kurdistan by lopping off portions of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.

    The ideas Peters was promoting came from an article that Peters had in Armed Forces Journal's June issue (see http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2006/06/1833899/) on borders and sectarian/ethnic divisions. Vintage Peters, the article had other surprises that included taking Mecca and Medina away from the Saudis.

    Gratefully the Saudis were apparently not in the audience in Rome but Turkish offiders were and they were less than pleased...and the Turkish Chief of Staff called JCS Chairman General Pace who apologized.

    Not good IO...

    best

    Tom

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