Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lines in the sand

by Clifford F. Thies 

During the occupation of Iraq, then U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware suggested that the country be partitioned. Today, with the on-going civil war in Syria, a writer for the New York Times proposes that that country be partitioned, along with four others in the region, mostly along ethnic and religious lines. 

To be sure, the continuing problems in the region stem from the break-up of the Ottoman Empire following WWI. But, come on, that was almost a hundred years ago. Why should the lines continue to matter so much? From a collectivist point of view, the lines very much matter. The dominant ethnic or religious group will inevitably impose itself on minorities, well, except that some minorities might be able to defend themselves through special carve-outs or by aligning themselves with a particular voting bloc within the dominant dominant ethnic or religious group. Hence, in this country, blacks align themselves with the secularized socialists of the Democratic Party, even though blacks do not generally share those values. Similarly, in India, the Muslims of that country align themselves with the secularized socialists of the Congress Party. 

The Bush administration, in opposing the partition of Iraq, hoped that some kind of cross-sectarian alignment would occur, so that the minority Sunnis of the country would find political allies among the Shi'ites of the country. But, is this possible? In Syria, a dictatorial regime had maintained power by aligning several minorities - including a Shi'ite-like sect, the Alawites, along with the Christians and Druse of the country, against the majority Sunnis. In Israel, a democratic country, the Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, are drawn to the secularized and socialist left-wing parties, even though the majority of Arabs are neither secular nor socialist. In Egypt, the minority Copts (which simply means Christian in the former language of the country) strongly supported the former dictator and support the current military government, being in fear of majority rule. But from a libertarian view, it shouldn't matter much where the lines are drawn. The purpose of government is not for the strong or the more numerous to rule over the weak or the less numerous. Rather, the purpose of government to enforce the rule of law. As much as possible, things are to be left to the private decisions of individuals and their free associations. 

To be sure, there will be matters of decorum in public places: what are the limits, for example, for covering-up or for being uncovered. So, you cannot completely divorce the drawing of lines from shared values. But, allowing free trade between countries enables people to both be secure in the cultural values they hold dear and gain the advantages of economic integration, scientific progress and the exchange of cultural values. Accordingly, we at L-R are inclined to support federal-style governments. We oppose the tendency of central governments to accrue power. And, we support Free Trade Zones (like NAFTA), that simply permit cross-border trade and investment, and oppose Customs Unions (like the EU). We also like homelands - whether "republics" within Russia or independent nations such as Israel and Azerbaijan - that preserve the fascinating cultural heritage of the peoples of the world, even as we support the emergence of a global community that transcends the ethnic, racial and religious milieu that has brought our species to this point. 

But here is our question for the New York Times and others who support the partitioning of Arabs countries: why do you support the centralization of government in the U.S., in Europe and elsewhere? Why is it that what is good for the goose is not also good for the gander?


Gary said...

The entire Middle East has always been Balkanized. It was the imperialist idiots in Europe who drew lines in the sand creating "nations" that had never existed before.

mitsukurina said...

"The entire Middle East has always been Balkanized."

I am afraid you're rather wide of the mark. Much of the Middle East has spent more time as parts of great empires than as small states.

From the Achaemenid Persian Empire, to the Macedonian, then the Roman, through the Mamluk Empire to the Ottoman and then the British and French empires.

mitsukurina said...

Moreover, the French sought to maintain small "homelands" in their mandate for the Druze and Maronite Christians and the Alawites in what had been the Ottoman's Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate (which itself had been created under Western "idiot" duress after widespread murders of non-Muslims).

You should really learn more about the region before making silly claims.