Take a quick look at this map. Given that the Middle East is such a volatile and combative part of the world, it is amazing that so little has changed since the pacts after the First World War. At that time, there were quite a few changes: Several countries that formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire were carved out of desert because the British and French wanted it so. The British and French are long gone, but the lines they drew still hold (as of 1:30 p.m. today anyway).
The biggest change on the map was the creation of all the independent “-stans” after the Soviet Union fell apart around 1992. Other changes include the creation of Pakistan in 1946 (though its eastern part is now Bangladesh) and the union of the former British colony of Aden with Yemen. Also Cyprus is now independent (but divided into Greek and Turkish halves).
Probably the only country whose boundary was not drawn by the European powers is Pakistan. Far from stable, however, the Islamabad government is currently facing three insurgencies: the Taliban, the Belochis, and in Karachi (from several ethnic groups). They also risk war with Iran because of the Belochi insurgency and with China over helping to radicalize in Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province.
Islamic populations in general seem to be divided into two groups:
- Apprehensive, politically ineffectual people who just want to get on with their lives, and
- Jihadists who want to conquer the world and introduce Sharia law everywhere.
In the near future, it seems that the Jihadists will be in the ascendant. That tendency will be reversed eventually because radicals who want to blow themselves up are generally not effective in creating a strong country. I suspect that soon the map boundaries will change until they are unrecognizable from the above illustration. Also, I suspect that there will be a lot more countries: several in Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria. Even tiny Lebanon is split between Sunni, Shi’ite, Druze, and Maronite Christian enclaves. Talk about Balkanization!
I think the best thing for the United States to do is to disengage from any military activity in the region: We always end up arming the wrong people. (It would have helped if someone in the Pentagon knew Arabic.) Although extraction of oil through fracking is dangerous, it would be nice if we were independent of the Middle East for our oil needs. Then we could just let them kill one another and go tsk-tsk while shaking our heads.
One exception: Look at what’s sitting right in the center of that map. The most stable country of the group is Iran. I think we should be friends with them and let bygones be bygones. But no military intervention, please!