Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A great sorting out?

Two experts in the Middle East have been more useful to me than most of the more prominent ones. They are Juan Cole and Joshua Landis. If you are interested in what is going on there and how it will affect us in North America, read this and this.

Here is an example of what Landis has to say:

My advice to Obama would be to lay low. This sectarian-nationalist process has been boiling up for a more than a century. It should be seen as part of the breakdown of the Ottoman order and emergence of nationalism. I compare what is going on in the Levant today to Central Europe during WWII. In Central Europe, the great powers drew national borders after WWI, carving up the lands of the defeated empires without rearranging the peoples to fit them. Thus Poland was only 64% Polish before WWII. Czechoslovakia was made up of close to 25% minorities. WWII was the “great sorting out.” (Read:http://qifanabki.com/2013/12/18/landis-ethnicity/ ) Over the war years, the peoples of central Europe were rearranged according to the WWI borders. By the end of WWII, Poland and Czechoslovakia had been reduced to their core Polish and Czechoslovak peoples. They got rid of their unwanted (Jews) or guilty (think the 12 million Germans of central Europe) minorities, along with many others. It was a nasty and brutal nation-building process.
Of course, in the Middle East, the emergence of national identities is bedeviled by competing religious identities, which seem to be stronger than both “Arabism” or “Iraqism.”
I doubt we will see high degrees of Shiite-Sunni cooperation in the coming months. If the U.S. sticks its long oar into this mess, the U.S. will end up with a broken oar. It seems possible that within the next two years, ISIS will largely be destroyed by the concerted action of both Iraqi and Syrian forces with help from Iran and possibly the U.S.  Sunni Arabs will not be pacified so long as they receive scant justice and minimal political representation in both Syria and Iraq, but ISIS cannot represent their needs. It is an expression of sectarianism run amok.

1 comment:

  1. Was there ever a time when one ethnicity made up as much as 64% of the population of Canada? Yet we seem to do alright. As Margaret MacMillan points out, most of the population of eastern Europe in 1919 had several national and religious identities not one, so the builders of Stephen Vincet Benet's perfect state had to pick arbitrarily who to favour and who to shove into cattle-cars.