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Foreign Policy Analysis
Sykes-Picot: Would redrawing the borders improve the Middle East? | IN 60 SECONDS

Sykes-Picot: Would redrawing the borders improve the Middle East? | IN 60 SECONDS


The hundredth anniversary of the Sykes-Picot
Agreement has highlighted the artificiality of many of the borders of countries in the
Middle East. Now some people talk about, with the rise
of the Islamic State, that maybe it’s time to draw new borders. Well, that’s essentially imperialism 2.0,
but even if someone were to do it, would it really resolve any of the conflicts? The people in the Middle East don’t live in
neat little pockets. They’re all spread about, and so there’s no
way to draw the border that simply includes one group on one side, and the other group
on the other side. Any resulting state is going to have a minority,
and therefore a potential for conflict. If we were simply to redraw borders, what
would the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth order effects be? Consider for example the partition of India.
That was supposed to resolve conflict but if you look at all the displaced people
that came from the partition in 1947 and impose the same definition of refugee
that’s used for the Palestinians, there’s over 200 million refugees in South Asia and the resulting states point nuclear weapons
at each other. People criticize the borders as being an imperial
legacy, but to redraw the borders—wouldn’t that just be Imperialism version 2.0? Let us know your thoughts in the comments
and any other questions you’d like us to answer in 60 seconds.

26 comments on “Sykes-Picot: Would redrawing the borders improve the Middle East? | IN 60 SECONDS

  1. Redrawing borders is not automatically imperialist. There is a world where the West, or the UN, can work with populations in the area to create new borders that are as close to ideal as possible. Of course a perfect solution is not possible here because of the way populations are spread out in the Middle East, but to just throw the entire discussion out the window as "Imperialism 2.0" is ridiculous.

  2. Why not establish non-regional states based on voluntary association? In addition to freely offering citizens the benefits of a state regardless of where they are located, having a mix of peoples would decrease the liklihood of military conflict.

  3. I agree mostly with the video – we can't simply draw new borders to try and fix the problem. I don't think there is a quick and short solution to the Middle East. It will take time and probably more blood to resolve these problems – the same as it did in Europe. It would be well to remember that Sykes-Picot wasn't the only failure from World War One. It took two more World Wars (one Hot and one Cold) to really solve most of Europe's issues, and it could be argued that many of them have just been left to simmer (see the Balkans and the Ukraine). Remember that before the 20th Century we saw hundreds of years of wars over religious differences and would be Emperors. So it would be incredibly naive to think that if we just sat everyone down at a table we could solve all the problems.

  4. This arbitrary establishment of imperial borders did end up biting them in the ass a few months later. The French effectively vetoed an invasion at Alexandretta when they insisted because this was on their side of the border they should be in command (ignoring the reality that they had no soldiers to actually participate in or lead the landing). So the allies went for the more difficult and less strategic landing at Gallipoli.

  5. Are there any states in the Mid East that are not artificial constructs? Do most of the inhabitants of the region identify primarily by nation or by religion, tribe, family etc.?

  6. The Kurds should have a place they can call their own given the amount of persecution they've faced, the US should support it if they are consistent with the formation of Israel and the Kosovo convention.

  7. Build a network of walls around all the population subgroups. Each year, if the walls aren't working, make them 10 feet taller.

  8. Given the history of the middle east and particularly the recent history of the middle east I suggest a strategy of containment rather than repair. Generally speaking I think we'd be better off if we stopped viewing these kinds of regional, religious and ethnic conflicts between the world's lesser nations as something broken to be fixed but rather more like say forest fires.

    They're inevitable so just contain and manage them rather than trying futilely to resolve them. Europe's mistake in accepting refugees from this conflict and all the problems that's caused in Europe prove what I'm saying. Turkey has recently started walking machine gun fire across the ground in front of refugees and thereby turning them around, and that's really what everyone should have done from the very start.

    Yes it's brutal but you have to ask yourself. Is allowing mass migrations that have caused the destabilization of entire regions really preferable to just being a cold hearted bastard and containing the problem at it's point of origin?

  9. You move the people around to fit the borders end of WW2 European style. Look up Joshua Landis and the great sorting out and you will understand, sadly.

  10. not if they do the redrawing, themselves. those who end up as a minority can decide to relocate or not. if not, they have no authority to complain. whatever the outcome of such rebordering, they will find some other reason to fight each other.

  11. Both sides need to discuss and attempt to create a deal while a third party mediates. We're dealing with grown people that have to be told when enough is enough. The goal here is to strike a balanced deal. It is can be seen as a cultural problem with these people, not as much a geographic issue.

  12. secular democracy and multiculturalism is the only way forward. Ethnic states will always find a new group to cleanse. Look at Pak, after reducing the number on non Muslim from 20% to 2%, they are now after non Sunni sects of Islam.

  13. One point of order if I may: redrawing the borders is only 'imperialism 2.0' if it's done by other states outside the Middle East without consultation with the countries in the region who are affected. If the countries in the Middle East decide to redraw borders, then I don't see how the rest of the world can maintain some arbitary stance that borders must remain fixed and existing nations must stay together at all costs.

    Would it actually help? Well I don't think it would be some kind of magical panacea, but as a part of a solution to some specific situations, it might well help.

  14. Why you don't solve political problems of europe by redrawing new borders in Spain , Britain or in Ukraine?
    The problems of the Middle East are the consequences of the United State invasion of Iraq which conduct an increasing acts of terrorism in that region and in the world.
    New borders means more instability, more pain , more blood and more terrorism, the best solution to that situation is political, efforts of the world should act in ordre to increase stability of those countrys by giving help to establish DEMOCRACY.

  15. The very idea of the West redrawing borders in the East is too stupid to consider. This is not Imperialism 2.0, it is Invasion 3.1.

    Don't you remember, we already did this, with disastrous consequences? Did you forget that at the end of the First World War the remains of the Ottoman Empire were redrawn, creating, reshaping and deleting countries with the stroke of a pencil on a map?

    The USA is horribly ignorant of the realities of almost all of Asia and Africa, to mention a few. And the ignorance is compounded by arrogance, whereby the most important decisions are taken by a an Empire that does not distinguish between Shia, Sunni, Arab, Hindu, or any other group.

  16. They essentially need to solve the problems by themselves, with the "Civilized" world being there to broker peace and protect itself when there conflicts boil over. Basically, the need to tire of the fighting. It's what the West did. The other way is to treat them like antisocial adolescents and step in and be willing to stay there and invest time for a good 50-100 years to "grow them up emotionally".

  17. Dear Michael,

    As a Kurd, I have read many articles by you. Without a doubt, you have great insight on what constitutes the KRG and it's constituent problems (ie the Barzanis/Talabanis etc.)
    I would love if you can explore the idea of indipendent Kurdistan

  18. I love the way you try to hide any blame for the borders by forgetting to say it’s the borders that have started all the modern day chaos all at the hands of the Europeans.

    Imagine if Muslims had done this…

    Hypocrisy at its finest

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