Greedy Goblin

Monday, October 31, 2016

How to fix Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and co? (satisfaction guaranteed)

Yep, in my infinite wisdom I will fix all the failed states. Because where the brightest, the most experienced, the most dedicated politicians and Hillary Clinton failed, I will succeed. OK, I won't. But I can tell exactly who will.

Failed states differ from "bad" countries. "Failed" isn't a moral term, it's objective, the country doesn't function as one, don't follow a singular leadership. It's often in civil war. The typical reason is that there isn't a unifying identity among the people. France can be a "bad" country, but can't really be a failed state as the French have a unifying nationality. Syrians do not. There are no "Syrians" at the first place. There are Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Turks and whatnot, but no one is self-identifying as Syrian.

Now, the question is: why do we have Syria at the first place? Who needs it? Who would cry if the formal entity would disappear? Likely nobody. So let's just do that! Get rid of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Jemen and the rest of the failed states and distribute their land and population among their neighbors and local strong countries! The basis of the distribution should be the self-placement of their people. Practically, a huge allied army should occupy the country for a few weeks. It wouldn't be too hard to assemble 500K troops for two weeks. After it's under control, everyone is questioned where he wants to live, new borders are drawn and people who find themselves somewhere they don't want to be are resettled. Then the peacemaking army can leave and armies of the recipient countries would arrive.

For example, here is what Syria would look like:
  1. To Israel/Palestina: there are many Palestinian refugees from the original Israel-creation (70 years ago) live in Syria. One of the biggest obstacles before the Israeli - Palestine peace is their return. Well, they don't have to return to Palestine, Palestine can go to them. Having them already inside the borders and having more land to distribute will make it much easier to negotiate that peace.
  2. To Iran. Iran keeps Assad alive and the local population is Shia. So let them officially be Iran. After all, Iran proper did not do the war crimes of Assad, so it's not a long shot to assume that the new Iran province won't do either. Israel won't be too happy, but since they got (1), they won't complain.
  3. To Jordan and/or Saudi Arabia. The population is Sunni. Some of them are so devout that they joined the IS to bring the "perfect land for Muslims". They'll fit in the Vahabite Saudi province. The less religious will be fine in Jordan, which is a moderate Sunni land.
  4. To Turkey. The population is mostly Kurds, but independent Kurdistan wouldn't be viable. There are already lots of Kurds in Turkey and since it's a democratic country (even if a strongly autocratic one), the more Kurdish voter, the more Kurdish rights.
I'd like to stress that no one is bound to live in a country he doesn't want to. Those who are a local minority (like a Sunni in Northern Syria) will get help to resettle to the Jordan/Saudi part.

Why would it surely work? Because the recipient countries are not failed states so they demonstrated their ability to operate with people like the new ones. It would be crazy to assume that Saudi Arabia couldn't handle Sunni fundamentalists, considering they do it every day. And in the rare case one of the recipients go failed state, they can be distributed similarly.

This plan wouldn't simply end the failed state, but would decrease hostility among competing local powers due to the strongly positive sum nature of the action. If they cooperate in the distribution process they both get land and people. The typical example is Iran and Israel. While none of them wants the other be stronger, it's the interest of both to split up Syria. There's no way either one can secure the whole country. With peaceful distribution Iran can get its "Shia Crescent", Israel can separate from the Palestines and become near-pure Jewish, both accomplishing their decades old objectives.


Esteban said...

You're right in general terms - a good proportion of the chaos in the Middle East is precisely because the colonial powers drew up very stupid borders at Versailles. (Sykes-Picot among others) To officially let go of this and redraw a little more along ethnoreligious lines would be very helpful.

You're sorely underestimating the strength of local nationalisms and faith splinters, though. For example, sure, Iran and Syria are both Shi'a, but Alawite Shi'ism is different from Iranian Shi'ism. Alawis do not accept ayatollahs, which is not a problem for an alliance, but it is a problem for an annexation. For another, obvious, example: Jews and Muslims will fight over Jerusalem until Judgement Day. And there is already a strong quasi-Kurdistan in Iraq. There's no putting that genie back in the bottle: a sovereign Kurdish state will likely emerge from any breakup of Iraq, whether the Turks like it or not.

Samus said...

"To Turkey. The population is mostly Kurds, but independent Kurdistan wouldn't be viable. There are already lots of Kurds in Turkey and since it's a democratic country (even if a strongly autocratic one), the more Kurdish voter, the more Kurdish rights."

Uh...I think you need to read a little more about how Turkey regards and treats the Kurds. All the Kurdish political parties have been banned, and the new Kurds will almost certainly NOT be allowed a vote. I think it is very likely that conditions for Kurds in Turkey would get even worse than they are now, as the Turkish government is "forced" to crack down on the "unstable region." I think this would be very similar to the Armenian genocide that Turkey still absurdly denies.

Honestly, the Kurds are probably better off fighting in a civil war than being under Turkey.

maxim said...

This is exactly what we were trying to do at least until early 00s (beyond that, USA had other ideas).
The issue here is that there are some territories to which different ethnic groups have the same claim, on the basis that their ancestors lived and died for it. And then they are ready to live and die for it. Success or failure (of states, too) sort of stop mattering when people become willing to put their lives on the line.

The only way to stop these conflicts is to give the locals more to live for in the form of better standards of living. That, however, would require stepping on a good amount of interests of "developed" nations.

Incidentally, the only people who were so far successful in improving standards of living of the locals were the "bloody ruthless antidemocractic dictators" like Gadaffi or Assad family.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: the problem is that the fanatics are allowed to physically live next to each other. Draw a line, build a wall and deport everyone to his side. Then a lone or small group of fanatics can't do anything.

Anonymous said...

Countries get nervous when other countries in their region start splitting up along ethnic or tribal groups. No countries in that region would support such a solution because they think it would encouraging their own minority groups to start demanding independence.
Neighbouring countries with different alignments almost never get along well. There is a case to argue that if different factions are incorporated into the same country then it becomes an internal issue. The parties are forced to work together and create common ground and communications links. Issues get acknowledged and stand a chance of being resolved. Segregation breaks communications and re-enforces the difference. Issues are ignored, rivalries and mistrust grow. A border creates a them-us mentality of rivals or enemies. A federal government creates reluctant allies.

Slawomir Chmielewski said...

Why would you assume the players are rational? Those guys strap dynamite to their chests and walk into schoolyards, how can you possibly imagine that they will just take their piece of land and let others be?

Why do you want to remove Assad, who is the only person out there without a religious bug? There is good evidence the "gas attack" was false flag operation by militias. Think about it this way: Hussein was an absolute psychopath and he voluntarily destroyed his own chemical weapons out of fear. Why would anybody, ever, think that Assad would actually use chemical weapons after what happened to Hussein?

How to stop Middle East wars? I sugget you start with removing political correctness. Do to Islam what media has done to Christianity over last 50 years. There should be prophet cartoons in every paper. There should be jokes about Quran in every brakfast tv program. There should be ridicule of idiots fighting over religious dogma in every news report. There should be open contempt for any Muslim living outside ME who does not categorically, unequivocally and vocally renounce islamist ideology and the idea of jihad. If they don't, they should be treated as open racists are today - not quite put in prisons, but socially outcast.

Matt Varnish said...

"the problem is that the fanatics are allowed to physically live next to each other. Draw a line, build a wall and deport everyone to his side. Then a lone or small group of fanatics can't do anything."

Ask Pakistan and India how that worked out for them after Gandhi died.

maxim said...

The lone or small group of fanatics will blow up the wall. So you will have to rebuild it (thus constant financial expenditure) and be required to guard it (thus further financial expenditure).
Then the lone or small group of fanatics will attack the guards. More often than not, successfully. At this point, you will start incurring the expenditures not only in money, but also in blood. You will have to establish some sort of regime there.
At which point, the fanatics will point the finger at you and go "this neocolonialist totalitarian scum", and suddenly they are no longer "small" or "lone".

And that's before questioning the effectiveness of the wall as a divisive mechanism in the world of pervasive Internet.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: there is no constant fighting between Saudis and Iranians, despite they hate each other. So I don't see why would be fighting between the Saudi and the Iranian province of Syria

The wall would be guarded NOT by "us", but by the border patrol of the owner country. So the Saudi-Iran wall would be guarded by Saudi soldiers on one side and Iranians on the other. The Saudi-side Sunni extremists would have to kill Saudi Sunni guards first before they could get to the wall. Some would probably do that, but they couldn't expand into a mass movement as they kill "one of us".

Also, I never said it would be perfect. But it would function at the same level as Iran and Saudi Arabia now.

Anonymous said...

as a turk, living in turkey let me tell you a few things;
first of all; how will you feel if someone from, say new zealand, says you like "you will not drink beer", "you must eat popcorn before sleep" or "you must dance before lunch with your wifes clothes" just because his country has more GDP than yours, or he has a gun with him?
the intervention of western countries is not a solution to blood in here, its the reason why people die in here, in fact, everything is about petrol. no one cares about lives in here.
us and russia killed more civils than isis in last 15 years, but they are the saviors of us again.

Anonymous said...

biggest issue is that if you make this systematic then it rewards nations for destabilising its neighbors, carrying out war by proxy and covertly funding civil unrest.

Rob Thompson said...


I can't work out whether your proposals are a genuinely serious attempt at solving these seemingly intractable problems, or you were just low on ideas for today's blog and thought you'd lay out some controversial stuff that's been filling your head recently. Only you can answer that.

US foreign policy has shown that it wants a foot-hold (normally called a Base or Stooge) in every part of the globe. It does this not to bring Peace and Freedom to those places, but to assuage its own fear of being attacked and destroyed.

In response, other great powers seek to achieve a kind of obscene balance by doing exactly the same.

In the process, 'local' solutions to 'local' problems have inevitably become casualties as these monsters gradually carve up the world between them.

Add to the fear of attack the greed for cash and resources, and you have a very toxic mix indeed.

These 'powers', the US, Russia, China - they don't care who lives where or what religion or politics drive them. It's all the same to them. What they want is Control. And while they are busy establishing just that, ISIL, the PKK and other little groups only matter when their activities threaten to turn public opinion against those great powers. And public opinion can be 'managed' with a few deft media brush-strokes.

In short, these problems have all been created by the actions of power-players or their stooges. You'll not solve them locally, and it is doubtful whether they are now capable of resolution at all.

Anonymous said...

"Draw a line, build a wall and deport everyone to his side. Then a lone or small group of fanatics can't do anything."

how does that work out in Israel? Or any of the countries with similar ideas? Or the Berlin Wall?

Strangely, people get quite annoyed when they get moved out of their homes and/or country, especially when forced to.

You also think a lone, or small group of fanatics are useless....Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Anders Brevik.

The internet is ubiquitous, unless you plan on cutting off communication from everyone in these areas. Ideas spread over walls, national borders etc.

Smokeman said...


Who's "we"?

You can't just chop up a sovereign country because you think it's better for them. Because... well, they're a sovereign country.

How would you like it if the EU decided to chop up Hungary because it's horrible people didn't want to accept enough refugees? (For the record, I cheer Hungary's response to the refugee issue.)

Gevlon said...

1: they aren't sovereign, they are in chaos
2: their people don't want to live there, while most Hungarians want Hungary

Provi Miner said...

The Kurdish issue you need to resolve. First they are a viable state what they lack is recognition and access to the world. give them those two things and Kurdish turk/Iraq/Syria issue goes away as those three countries use the land lock to force unreasonable demands upon the kurds. Oddly enough kurds are more western then just about any "muslim" state in the region.

Anonymous said...

Most people want to live where they are. There have been 5 years of civil war in Syria with massive destruction and breakdown of civil life yet more than 2/3rds of the original population are still there. Of the six million that have fled, most are in neighbouring countries and will return to Syria as soon as they can. There are plenty of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories while being subjected to massive impediments to their everyday lives in spite of having friendly neighbours that would accept them. The population of Northern Ireland have spent most of the last 90 years at each others throats but yet both factions still live there. This is in spite of the country splitting along sectarian lines as you suggested.

maxim said...

You built it, you own and maintain it.

I do agree that a set of regimes capable of building their own walls and maintaining them is the best thing for middle east at this junction. This is not, however, what the West wants for the middle east.

souldrinker said...

There is one problem: you want neighboring countries to "carry" parts of Syria, i.e. the territory with bombed infrastructure, a few millions of hungry homeless people and a few well-armed gangs of religious fanatics.

Is it worth the hassle? It would take significant investment to fix, and may destabilize the recipient country itself.

Gevlon said...

@Provi Miner: the problem with Kurds is that they are living in 4 countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. To build a viable Kurdistan, you have to cut out land from all 4. Iraq and Syria isn't a problem because they are failed states and no one would cry if they'd be disbanded. Iran can be traded with (you give up Kurd lands, you get Alavite lands), but Turkey is strong and Syrian Turks are small group compared to Turkish Kurds. You can't offer a good deal to Turkey and you can't force them to take a bad one.

@dobablo: most people could live where they are. The sectors can be drawn based on local population votes (90% of town wants Jordan, town goes to Jordan, 10% moved).

@Souldrinker: the recipients could get international financial aid.

Provi Miner said...

wrong on turkey late 1990's a military coup is brewing its there Clinton picks up the phone and tells the generals that "this time" the US wont recognize a successful coup. Back story about every 15 to 20 years turkey ends up with a bit to much muslim and not enough world in its government this is typically reset by a coup that wipes out the hardliners and quickly gives power back to moderates. A few months ago the turk military said F the US and tried and it didn't work.

Here is the trade "give up some of that land, the land that has been your Vietnam for 40 years and we won't back the next coup either, don't and we will"

That's a good trade for turkey removes threat of coup and ends a bloody atrocity filled struggle over some pretty pointless dirt.

lowrads said...

All well and good to have strong opinions, but where does the national interest lie? I can sympathize with the desire of peoples to emancipate themselves from minority rule, but at the same time, I don't really think that ethnostates are inherently more legitimate than others. The people the live there probably disagree, so I go back to the first point.

Liberal democratic states should stick to the high road. Treat people as an ends in themselves and not as a means to an ends. We're better at marketing our ideas than we are at forcing them on people. If there was ever an opportunity to support groups with alignments closer to ours, that window has closed for at least a generation or more. Ultimately, people get the kinds of governance they deserve, or at least, what their actions merit. Meanwhile, we should focus on pursuing achievable polity with clearer political ambitions while deliberately eschewing those which are ambiguous.

Anonymous said...

It would not work for a very simple reason: The fanatics are the problem. They would fight being resettled, no matter how you bribe them. They want to live HERE, and HERE needs to be their land. It won't matter to them that they are being stupid, they will insist anyway. Just like Palestina: You'll have an endless war because both sides insist that it is their city and the others should fuck off.

Those people are not reasonable.

Gevlon said...

@anon: Fanatics would be a problem. But not OUR problem. They will be forcibly resettled and then they'll be the problem of the country they are moved. If they evade resettling, they will be the problem of the country they are staying in. If a Sunni extremist is blowing up a Saudi guard post after resettlement or kill Irani Revolutionary Guards trying to catch him for resettlement, that's not my problem and not yours.