‘Arc of instability’
poses global threat,
Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani, a key player in Geneva talks. Click image to enlarge.
THERE ARE TWO sets of vital international talks under way in Geneva, both of global significance and both fraught with danger.
The first involves Syria and its civil war. The second, Iran and its nuclear weapons ambitions.
They may seem to have little in common, but that is a misperception.
Their commonality is that their model of governance is obsolete. In Syria, it could be argued the territory never was a nation state. In Iran, it has suffered under two extremist dictatorial regimes for more than half a century.
It’s time to re-think the concept of the modern nation state for a growing portion of the world before the threats to global stability become reality.
WE HAVE RAISED this topic several times already, as long ago as June in Artificial nation states created in colonial times are not ‘countries’ and more recently on Oct. 2 in Post-Ottoman map of Middle East must be dumped
But we are not the only ones. The topic was raised Sept. 28 in The New York Times in the story Imagining a Remapped Middle East
The Guardian story on the Geneva talks about the Syrian “civil war.” Click image to enlarge.
It reappeared from a different angle in a fascinating story buried deep within The New York Times on Oct. 12.
In The End of the Nation-State? noted author and scholar Parag Khanna says:
“[T]hough most of us might not realize it, “nonstate world” describes much of how global society already operates. This isn’t to say that states have disappeared, or will. But they are becoming just one form of governance among many.”
Khanna is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of “The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the 21st Century” and “How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance.”
He is a serious man who ought to be taken seriously.
“Nowhere is a rethinking of “the state” more necessary than in the Middle East. There is a sad futility to the reams of daily analysis on Syria and Iraq that fail to grasp that no state has a divine right to exist. A century after British and French diplomats divided the Ottoman Empire’s eastern territories into feeble (and ultimately short-lived) mandates, the resulting states are crumbling beyond repair.”
This is exactly what we have been saying in the references cited above and also on Sept. 19 in A long-term solution for Syria: 40-40-20 partition.
Khanna confirms our thinking.
“The Arab world will not be resurrected to its old glory until its map is redrawn to resemble a collection of autonomous national oases linked by Silk Roads of commerce. Ethnic, linguistic and sectarian communities may continue to press for independence, and no doubt the Palestinians and Kurds deserve it.
“And yet more fragmentation and division, even new sovereign states, are a crucial step in a longer process toward building transnational stability among neighbors.”
Indeed, Syria has become so fragment it is difficult to find the counter-parties. The regime of Bashar al-Assad has crumbled; it controls just a small portion of the territory now, and is surrounded by multiple enemies of dubious origin.
What started as a civil uprising has become a free-for-all. Who can negotiate a peaceful settlement when there are so many well-armed divergent groups warring with each other? It’s a problem not even Solomon could solve.
The New York Times story about the Syrian war’s impact on Jordan. Click image to enlarge.
But it does not end with Syria. Neighboring Lebanon is reeling under the influx of more than 2 million Syrian refugees; it cannot house, clothe and feed so many driven from their homes without massive international aid.
Jordan, too, is straining from the war to its north. The New York Times reported on Oct. 6: Jordan’s Schools Buckle Under Weight of Syrian Refugees and the BBC has covered the impacts on Jordan extensively.
But a little further around the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, Egypt has exploded into what is rapidly becoming a civil war.
With the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, we reported Sept. 24 about it in Move cements military control of government, start of Arab ‘winter’?
Egypt’s short-lived experiment with democracy has failed.
The same is true a little further west in Libya.
The German news channel Deutsche Welle carried the following story on Oct. 12: Tribal feuds, local conflicts engulf Libya
The Deutche Welle story about chaos in Libya. Click image to enlarge.
“Ever since its revolution, Libya has been riddled with tribal conflict. The state remains powerless in the face of weapon proliferation and violence. Societal fragmentation seems inevitable,” we learn.
It is the same story, repeated over and over again in an “Arc of Instability” stretching around the southern and eastern edges of the Mediterranean Sea.
State control is weak or non-existent. Violence is becoming the only means of dispute resolution.
It is an untenable situation, bound to cause increasing global disruption, if for no other reason than the region’s vast wealth of natural resources.
But there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding everywhere, too. Like the thousands of refugees pouring into southern Europe, and the recent tragedies at Lampedusa, Italy.
Men and women of good conscience everywhere cannot sit idly by and watch as a new, more primitive social order takes hold that threatens to revert large swathes of the world to the Dark Ages.
The Geneva conferences are too narrow in their scope. Some imagination is needed to start work on a global solution.
It’s not just about weapons of mass destruction. It’s about massive destruction of modern nation states with global implications for our interconnected societies. The world must wake up.
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