Well.skeptical view world


Understanding the Middle East is complicated <that, my friends, may be the biggest understatement you will ever see on the enlightened conflict site>.


The geography and boundaries are confusing <and complex>.

The mix of cultures and religions are complex <and confusing>.


Everything is overlapping between a long history, a present that always has a portion of the past buried within … and some absurd intervention at times by the Western world.




I believe it is important, no, imperative that we try and understand. And try to put some things in perspective, and have respect for THEIR perspective and become more knowledgeable so that WE have some perspective moving forward (because these issues are not going away). That said. Let me begin with some thoughts from some pretty knowledgeable people:


From General Patton’s biography ‘General Patton: A Soldier’s Life’

“..One of the things he did was to read the Koran. He wanted to get some insight into the character of the native Moroccan population.” Reading the Koran, Patton became especially concerned, because he feared some of the invading troops would have to pass through and desecrate a burial ground. This act might arouse the native population, something Patton wished to avoid.”


“People who wish to understand the Islamic tradition would do well to try to start with an examination of the role that Islam played in the development of law rather than with the various Muslim bashing books that has appeared recently.”

Tom Palmer


“Yet the biggest ethnic conflict in the Middle East today is not between Jews and Arabs. It is between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.”

Niall Ferguson





Before I go further. I will admit I am not an expert on this. But I want to learn more and try to understand <although I doubt I will completely make sense of it>.

This post was inspired by an awesome map <you will see later in post> I came across. It kind of captured what I sensed was a thoughtful solution <from unreasonable people who wanted to ignore the politics and power shit associated with any restructuring of borders>.


And, in the end, suffice it to say the truth is complicated <as are the solutions>.


I think the whole area confuses most Americans because we want to apply our rules and what we know when we think of the area and the issues they are facing. The cultural differences are so extremely different it sometimes makes it difficult for us to find a common foundation for the discussion.



Americans feel better with borders and countries and democracy and feel compelled to build them. And when we do invariably we ignore the nuances of differentiation (for example … finally creating Pakistan out of India to permit a free Muslim country yet when partitioning the land exclude a Muslim region adjoining the new Pakistan so that India and Pakistan continue to fight and debate the geography.)




Life is funny <in a non laughing way>.


It can give you a window of opportunity to do the right thing.

It can even put the right people in the same place to make it happen.



And then for a variety of reasons the opportunity is missed.



Right after World War 1 was one of those opportunities. Borders were being redrawn. A horrible war was to have shown the world, and leaders, the way it was before … was not going to be the way it was going to be.


The basic idea was on the table.

Permit like minded people govern themselves. Some leaders failed us at that time <but it would be silly of me to say they were stupid or silly in not doing the right thing>.


Choices were difficult.

Politics were as they are today … politics. And of course money and power loomed.


With that said.


Where the window of opportunity existed.


In 1919, in Paris, diplomats from more than 30 countries met, discussed and came up with a series of treaties that reshaped the map of Europe and the world. At its center were the leaders of the three “Great Powers” … President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Britain, and Georges Clemenceau of France.



Germany and Russia were not invited to attend, but numerous other nations did send delegations, each with a different agenda. Kings, prime ministers and foreign ministers with their crowds of advisers and lobbyists for a hundred causes, ranging from independence for the countries of the South Caucasus to women’s rights all attempted to reach a favorable decision. For six months Paris was effectively the center of a world government, as the peacemakers wound up bankrupt empires and created new countries.

note: if you want an incredibly fascinating read on this event read “Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.” It is extensive and detailed but easy and interesting to read.

Anyway. The key point to the discussion and what would have made a difference today if it had been implemented well & correctly was the thought of self-determination (it is seen as the freedom of the people of a given territory or national grouping – a nation is a grouping of people who share common history, culture, language or ethnic origin, often possessing or seeking its own government – to determine their own political status and how they will be governed without undue influence from any other country). France and Britain which already controlled empires (and colonies) and wielded power over their subjects around the world still aspired to be dominant colonial powers and balked at self determination.

note: if you have a chance to pick up the 4/10 The Economist there is an interesting short article on defining what makes a country “In quite a State.”

But this thought of self determination is very important to where I am going in this post. The following map was offered in Armed Forces Journal and is based on self determination and grouping likeminded people. What I really liked about their exercise was not to draw maps as we would like them but as local populations would prefer them. They actually refer to this idea as ‘How a better Middle East would Look.’

Once again I preface this by saying typically the only way country boundaries get redrawn is by war so this type of idea seems quite unreasonable <but sure does look reasonable>.



re mapped middleast





(The following is the rationale for the remapping):



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: Phoenicia 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.



–          This is an awesome idea.


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. 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.





I love this stuff. I love this type of thinking. I wish we could figure out a way of taking this seemingly unreasonable reasonable solution and implement it <as well as a redrawn Africa which may have the only other more wacky country boundaries>.

Interestingly, if you are paying attention and can keep track of what is happening in the Balkans this redrawing is happening even today <some even without war & negative conflict>.


I post this because it interests me.


I also post this because I don’t think any of us know enough about this.

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Written by Bruce