The only thing more shocking than the airplane engine control falling apart that happened during the trip south was reading an editorial in the Washington Post by Ralph Peters entitled “Must Iraq Stay Whole”. This is the first time that I’ve seen any sign in the mass media that anyone else has the same thoughts that occurred to me last year regarding Afghanistan (see the Boston-Alaska-Baja-Boston trip report) and this year regarding countries such as Nigeria and the Sudan (see the Israel essay).
In the old days a good argument for being large would have been that a country could thereby defend itself against aggression by other large countries. In today’s world, however, where even the most armed-to-the-teeth Third World government can be unseated in a few weeks by the U.S. military, it doesn’t make sense for people who hate each other to live together in one country.
Peters makes the seemingly obvious points that (1) the Kurds hate their Arab conquerors, (2) the Kurds demonstrated during the 1990s that they can govern themselves quite nicely, (3) giving the Kurds their own country would really irritate the Turks, which is just what they deserve for not supporting the U.S. [Peters doesn’t say this but presumably it would be a powerful example to foreign governments if the Turks’ biggest nightmare came true as a consequence of their failure to obey U.S. instructions], and (4) the Sunnis and Shiites Muslims don’t seem to like each other.
Follow-Up (Responses to Comments)
To judge by the volume of comments that this posting elicited it is indeed an issue worthy of debate, which was my main point: “Why doesn’t this question ever come up in the mass media when it seems so obviously debate-worthy?”
Most of the comments point out that the India -> India/Pakistan/Bangladesh split was a failure in their opinion. From this we can conclude that splitting up a country into the smaller chunks advocated by anthropologists (the book A Pattern Language recommends that countries be no larger than 2 to 10 million inhabitants, and they are talking about developed countries with good road and communication networks) is not necessarily a complete solution to Islamic violence. However, nobody mentions the successful splits throughout history: Czech and Slovak from each other, the U.S. from Britain, the former Soviet republics and satellites from each other, Canada and Australia from Britain. Nor does anyone mention that one can combine political independence with economic and monetary union, thus combining the efficiencies of a large market with the comfort of knowing that the supreme leader of your country is not supremely distant from your local concerns. I’m not advocating splitting Afghanistan and Iraq before giving them independence, merely advocating a serious debate on the question.
Dimitri asks a good question: “if a country is punished for that (“a consequence of their failure to obey U.S. instructions”) what remains of the democratic ideals and liberty and rest of BS that U.S. tells us time and time again that it stands for?” The answer to this would seem to be threefold: (a) the U.S. must have some reason for maintaining the world’s largest military and the most obvious explanation is that we like to be able to push foreigners around whenever we feel like it, (b) the democratic ideals and liberty are for U.S. citizens only; if we cared about foreigners’ welfare we’d be feeding Africans, preventing malaria, getting medical care to the poor in India, removing generic dictators (e.g., nearly any head of government in Africa or the Arab Middle East) rather than only the ones who insist on thumbing their noses at the U.S. (e.g., Saddam), etc., and (c) our politicians like to lay on the syrup just as thick for foreign audiences as for domestic and the result is a perception of insincerity, i.e., the U.S. could have said “We’re removing Saddam because he doesn’t follow our instructions and because we can” but presumably W and Co. thought that it sounded better to paint Saddam as terrifyingly bad and heavily armed.