Yesterday, in a televised appearance, President Barak Obama outlined his plan to push back the hardline Sunni extremist group, known as The Islamic State, or IS. At the time of writing, IS controls large areas of Northern Iraq and Syria and is infamous for a series of atrocities committed both on foreign nationals and on the people forced to live in the areas under their boot.
America does not stand alone in its condemnation of the rapid rise if the Islamic State. The Abbott government has already offered the potential support of Australian advisory forces on top of humanitarian and military aid. It seems that our government, as well as much of the western world is determined to intervene in the growth of this growing Middle Eastern power.
However, I’m hesitant as to whether further Western military intervention in the Middle East is what’s best for the long-term stability of the region. Despite the horrific nature of IS maybe a more measured, long term approach is what’s needed.
I just want to preface this by stating clearly that IS is a terrible organisation. Their particular brand of horror is in no way acceptable or understandable. Extremism in all its forms is something we all should stand against. Nothing about them is redeemable.
The modern Middle East is a series of states that was created post WW1 by the Allied powers. In what became known as the Sykes–Picot Agreement
France and Britain divided up the territory of the defeated Ottoman Empire into two zones of influence. The French controlled what is modern day Syria and Lebanon. While the British received modern day Iraq and what was then Palestine. The modern day issue with these artificially created borders is that they ofteb do not reflected the cultural and ethnic realities on the ground.
If we take Iraq for instance we have 3 main ethnic groups. The Shia, Sunni, and Kurds. Now it seems to me that we need a 3 state solution, each major group to have its own homeland.
In a perfect world this world it would be a simple matter of redrawing the border to something that approximated the ethnic reality. Unfortunately the world is far from perfect and there is too much bad blood between the different groups for any negotiations to run smoothly. Furthermore any form of Western influence in the creation of the new Middle East would further destabilise the process and delegitimise the states that were created. Major military intervention is severely shot sited and undertaken only because there is political pressure to do so. Don’t be fooled into thinking that intervention in the Middle East by Western nations is motivated by genuine concern for human life. If the protection of human life was a priority why hasn’t American or Australia offered support for victims of the multitude of civil conflicts in Africa? The only reason that we’re even talking about military intervention is because there is a political pressure to do so.
The nation-state is the child of warfare. Maybe the only think that war is good for is the creation of borders. I don’t think you can point to a single stable nation, which didn’t at some stage go through a period of horrific violence in its creation. Artificially created borders very rarely work. Look at India and Pakistan during partition. Look at Israel and the constant conflict it finds itself in.
IS and the whole instability of the entire region is the creation of western intervention. Not just from the American invasion of Iraq but from almost 100 years of pseudo-colonial dominance.
The way I see it is that this current wave of violence is the chaos that would naturally occur as a region finds it’s own internal balance.
IS is going to push against the Kurds. Wherever they get to would probably be a good place for a Sunni/ Kurd border. IS is going to push against the Shia. Wherever they get to is probably going to be a good place for the border between Sunni and Shia Iraq.
Now I think the Wests game should be all about harm minimisation. Kind of like when you rip a Band-Aid off fast so you have less pain in the long run.
Aid the Kurds and Shia just enough to protect the approximation of their own natural borders. Provide any help we can for other persecuted ethnic groups but let the situation sort itself out. Western intervention created this mess and I really don’t think more is going to help it.
It’s not nice. It’s not perfect. And it certainly doesn’t help the people dealing with the realities of living in the new Caliphate. However I feel that it’s the only option for long-term stability.
We made this bed and now the people of Iraq and Syria have to sleep in it.