Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Trouble with Theories

Today, my Turkish team came across this article in the Armed Forces Journal and they were livid.

The article suggests that to solve the problems in the Middle East, you'd have to redraw the borders of the entire region. It makes arguments as to why various borders should be changed. It is an interesting idea, but troubling when you see the map, and in some ways just as arrogant and those postwar people who "arbitrarily" drew the current borders to begin with. While I tend to agree that Kurds need to have a state of their own, I am also aware that someone else would have to loose land. And that is never an easy proposition. Imagine the wars and death that would have to take place for Ralph Peter's borders to be become reality. That is the problem with theories.

A side note: the cover story in the Journal that I have linked to above, is very interesting and worth a read. I realize that it merits a separate post, but in the interest of space, I'll add it here. I'd be interested in Dr. S's perspective on it.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't get too upset about this. It's just what passes for an intellecutal excercise in military circles. I doubt even the military folks who read this journal would be willing to fight all the wars that redrawing that map would require. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Borders can, of course, be redrawn at conferences (Vienna 1815, Versailles 1919, Yalta 1945). While the details can be debated, I think the article is right in principle that international borders as drawn by departing colonial powers should not be a shibboleth, but they should be redrawn if needed. Border fetishism is destructive. However, the standard should be to make functioning states, without the assumption that ethnic nations states are required. That is an idea that failed at Versailles in 1919. For that reason, I take great issue with the proposed map.  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

The article presented a few possible causes for the "revolt" against Rumsfeld:

#1: Long-standing tension between the civlian and military chains of command in the Department of Defense.

#2: Personal dislike for Rumsfeld's arrogance.

#3: The bungling of the Iraq war, including actions taken against the advice or will of senior military leaders

#4: Cancellation of pet weapons systems, and general resistance to the "transformation" of the U.S. military.

I have not witnessed an undue amount of the kind of tension mentioned in #1. Oh, I'm sure it is there, but it seems to me something of a moderate level, no worse than (say) the rivalry between Services. And let us be clear that no active general has joined this "revolt"--they have respectfully waited until they are no longer in the chain of command. That seems to me to be tremendous restraint!

While Rumsfeld's arrogance is legendary, and has irked people, it is not the arrogance per se but rather his actions that have been the root cause of the revolt. That he is a civilian probably also grates on the military leaders, but as I said, that is an aggravating and not an instigating factor. That only an arrogant man would have acted as he did does not, however, make the arrogance itself the real issue.

After all, arrogance alone is hardly unique to Rumsfeld. The difference is that an arrogant Rumsfeld rudely ignored and overrode the advice of many senior leaders and bungled the war in Iraq. Thousdands of U.S. servicemen have died, and believe it or not, the generals care about that a great deal.

So a reckless and arrogant man, and a civilian to boot, disdained the advice of some top military leaders and led them into a disastrous war. But the cherry on this sundae of disaffection, however, has surely beenn Rumsfeld's handling of this situation. True to form as a politician, Rumsfeld has desperately tried to paint all opposition to him as blind resistance to the notion of transformatio (a concept Rumsfeld has also tried to hijack as his own, even though it began with the military leaders under Clinton.)

It has very little to do with transformation. The lesson we learned in Iraq was that we still need those heavily armored vehicles that the advocates of transformation had originally wanted to replace wholesale with lighter vehicles. The future force will need both light and heavy. So while the original transformation was more threatening, the new view is a boon to the Army: once faced with an agonizing choice, the Army now gets to have its cake and eat it too. I have rarely heard anyone oppose transformation, and now that it largely involves getting new systems while keeping the old favorites, resistance is even harder to find. The bureaucracy of the military itself--once a reluctant convert--is now a champion of transformation (and the additional funding it brings.) So Rumsfeld's claim that the generals are resisting "transformation" is pretty ludicrous on its face.

My reading of the "revolt" is this: Rumsfeld's purges left the military without a strong voice, and Rumsfeld was arrogant and hard to talk to anyway, so the usual channels to express concern and disagreement were essentially gone. The war was planned against the wisdom of many generals, and the initial success of "mission accomplished" was rubbed in their faces. (It is certainly true that the first month of fighting appeared to vindicate Rumsfeld's position that a "light footprint" was all that was required... conveniently forgetting the stabilizaition force needed afterward.)

But now the generals feel vindicated in their original view. And they are angry at how their leadership have been dealt with by Rumsfeld, and how they have been sidelined in their own war.

The chickens have come home to roost. Though he will blame anyone and everyone else, the truth is that Rumsfeld has no one to blame but himself.

Anonymous said...

Dr.S - you must be replying to something else. Perhaps it belongs in its own post.
Got a comment about political cartography?

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Dr. S was replying to the last bit of my post, where I link to an second article in the same publication and where I acknowledge that this may merit a post of its own, but in the interest of space . . .

Thanks, Dr. S for the summary. I think you put it very well. The irony in all of this is that Rummy is a protégée of McNamara. And when you put the two side by side, you couldn't get any two men more alike than if they had been father and son.

Political Cartography: I am not sure you can plan borders completely. As the article points out, they shift and change all the time. Since the end of the Cold War, we've witnessed the creation of several states. Nor do I think borders are the source of the problem, and changing them won't really bring about more peaceful globe with happy, satisfied people. I think the article doesn't do a good job of really examining the reasons borders change. It just says, here's the new map.

As I commented somewhere else on the blog, what is happening in the Middle East now can be likened to East Europe at the end of the Cold War in that changing political realities are forcing changes on the ground. The Kurds, for instance, are emboldened by the cooperation they have gotten from the U.S. It helps that prior to the war and even thereafter, Kurdish held territories have been the most stable and the most prosperous. These are a people ready for a state of their own. However, taking land from other states to create it is sort of like what happened in British Mandate Palestine and similar problems are liable to result.

I agree with RBR that the writer was doing an intellectual exercise. But I am willing to bet all the money in my pockets that there isn't s map similar to this in a drawer somewhere at the DOD. They study this stuff for a reason.

I agree with LTG that purely ethnic states aren't the best idea, but we have tried blending ethnicities in modern states, and it hasn't worked well either. Witness the world we are currently in. If an ethnic group feels marginalized, like the Chechens for instance, they will battle forever to get a state of their own. The desire to change borders, or to create an ethnic state, is a result of the unjust treatment, either real of perceived, of minority groups. Often, however, they are so busy battling, they never plan for what happens if they win. Often, as we see with the Palestinians, there are smaller units within a larger ethnic group that will start battling over how to form a state. That is partly what the Civil War was about in this country.

The article provides an interesting point of view, but just a single point in what is a much more complex reality. Utlimately, borders have to be negotiated among the parties most affected. But in this day and age, the number of affected parties can be quite large! So I am not sure what the best way to redraw borders would be.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

My concern is the principles used to redraw a map. Self-determination is just one principle, often mistaken as the idea that each ethnic group gets a state. It's not the greatest principle, except where a massive history of idiotic sectarianism and geographic separation makes it possible to divide territory.

RBR has persuasively made the point that democracy is almost impossible in a country whose economy is dependent on one product (i.e., where the only political issue is a zero sum game of dividing up a single resource and its income). Drawing a map to reduce the number of such states is a good idea.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

The article states that borders are "unjust" without really defining it beyond the unexamined principle that each "people" deserves a state. Rubbish. There's no limit to that principle. As soon as the Basques are free, we will see Navarrian Basques and Franco-Basques demanding their independence, and ginning up histories and traditions to separate themselves. It never ends.

There are always minorities, and ethnicity is only one way to be a minority - usually the one that matters least, actually, if you think about it in comparison with issues of money and ideas.

IT s not clear why Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE are privileged in this map. Nor is it obvious that Lebanon, which is so fractured, needs to grow. Or that Syrian and Iraqi Arabs need to be apart. Or that Azeris need out of Iran. Or that Afghanistan would benefit by having the lawless Northwest Tribes of Pakistan join the already chaotic mess. Or why should Saudi Arabia be bereft of the holy places, when the issue is just that Saudi Arabia needa a revolution - the entire Royal family exiled and dispossessed. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG's makes an excellent point. The AFJ article implicitly assumed that mono-ethnic states were the only lasting, just solution to the ethnic and religious conflicts in the middle east. By that argument, Quebec must be "liberated," and one can only imagine what a similar map might look like drawn for the U.S. LTG is absolutely right that the notion of a right to self-determination for all ethnic minorities is, and has always been, "rubbish." (Especially when, as with the Serbo-Croatians, the modern ethnic division was essentially manufactured for political purposes.)

I do not believe that giving angry ethnic groups their own leaders, territories, and armies is the best way to foster peace between those people. Indeed, as a liberal, I believe that the tolerance of a multi-ethnic state is the best way to proceed. Those in the middle east are not children incapable of learning to share--they can handle an adult solution. I think LTG's point is excellent that having a "functional" state is critical to peace, whereas having a homogenous state is not.

That leads me to the issue with the concept of Israel that I have: it is effectively defined as a Jewish state, a mono-cultural (if not ethnic) state. Yes, there are many Arab-Israelis--but the the Jewish Israelis do not require the hyphen. Were it not the specific history of the Holocaust and the centuries of persecution, I would advocate the creation of a wholly secular state encompassing Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Some may wonder why I make an exception for Israel... I can only say that if any people or religious group deserves an exception, it's got to be the Jews.

Anonymous said...

Both LTG and Dr. S put it more clearly than I did. If you have a functioning state that gives ethnic groups enough room to express themselves and to participate in the workings of the state, then they are less likely to insist on a state of their own.

An additional point is that if every ethnic group were to have its own state, can you imagine the microstates that we'd end up with? What a nightmare.

Jews are far from mono-cultural. They come from all over, Russia, Western Europe, the US, etc. The thing to remember with Jews is that they are at once the holders of a faith (with several different branches and sects) and an ethnic group that derives from the Hebrews. But because they have been spread out all over the world, they have a very interesting cultural mix. In fact, I have been told that Jews who were originally from the Middle East have a very different view of Arabs than those who came from post-soviet Russia. Those indigineous to the region got along well with the Arabs and visa versa. In fact, those coming from Past-Soviet Russia, I am told, are the most conservative politically and thus, the most hostile to the Arabs. It is Russian Jews that are predominate in the settlements now.

I heard it explained wonderfully the other day by an editor of a Jewish paper in New York. He said that you don't really have two sides in Israel. You have 2 sides-those among the Arabs and the Israelis that support a two state solution, and those that do not. On the Arab side, those that do not advocate the destruction of Israel. On the Hebrew side, they support the deportation of Arabs to neighboring states. I hadn't thought of it that way. I had thought of it more as an issue of religion and ethnicity.  

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

There are some people who want a multiethnic democracy. In the 1930s, there was a substantial movement among secular Jews in Palestine advocating just that. They were not in favor of a "Jewish" state - one that inherently defined non-Jews as outsiders - but a state in which Jews would be full members of the political and social community (including Arabs and whatnot), as they were nowhere else. They called it the "bi-national" state. Although it's considered "impossible" now, I still think it's the best solution, one we should consider for the distant future. There are still those in Israel who believe in such a thing. When Israelis talk about the destruction of Israel through Arab immigration (right of return) they really mean the destruction of its Jewishness. 

// posted by LTG