Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I have written before about the duplicity of maps.  Most result from fabrication, cunning and unlawful appropriation. Mercator must turn in his grave after all the Napoleonic or post-World War I fabrications and totally arbitrary boundaries.  Now the Sykes Picot borders look to be on life-support. The end of the Ottoman Empire lent indifferent victors a free hand in carving out territories for indifferent rulers. At least some form of hybrid stability resulted, glossing over sectarian trans-border tensions.  The post-Ottoman construction was arbitrary, but expedient. Now we start to recognize that yesterday's flaws were preferable to today's nightmares. The current events in Iraq, coming after the Syrian tragedy, could very well change the map, brand the souls and multiply the "hybrid".

The situation is becoming so perverse that it might well blur all genres.  The alliances look surreal when one considers that Qatar, of all places, has the largest US base in the region while playing the wild card everywhere; that the Americans who relied on the Sunnis in Iraq to quell the
former insurgency might find themselves in contradictory unison with Iran, supporting Al Maliki and the Shiites, whom they despise...and one can go on.  Speaking of dysfunctional partners!  All those contradictions and paradoxes pile up. They certainly complicate any clear cut decision- making.  The past is made responsible for all evils today and the dire situation now is equally linked to faulty policies and choices yesterday. 

In Washington this blame game goes on and on.  President Bush was misguided intervening for non-existing reasons. President Obama prefers for the time being not to be an overexposed part of the "conversation," creating, in so doing, a vacuum plagued by potholes in the road, which are becoming larger with every hour that passes. Both presidents stumbled. Obviously there are no easy solutions and, indeed, a mix of political and military options should be considered. The clock is ticking!  Nnevertheless, diplomacy is also the by-product of perception. Yet again the United States appears faltering, allowing the undesirable, ISIS  (Islamic State for Iraq and Syria/the Levant..."they" are already expanding!) and Iran to steal the headlines.

The making of some Jihadist rogue launching pad in Iraq could as well become an ominous reply of Afghanistan, closer to home, and in a region where yesterday's friends are tomorrow's foes.  The situation becomes even more perverse in the absence of any leadership and given the duplicity of the Iraqi regime. We might end up with four entities rather than with the de facto three (Shiite South/Sunni Middle and Kurdistan North).  A fourth spoiler entity might be in the making if not timely aborted. All these morsels will vie for patrons and money, leaving the American lender of last resort and arbiter of former days hors jeu. The more correct leftovers in the region of past days, Jordan and Turkey (NATO member) must look on in disbelief. Egypt is too self-centered for the time being to want to get over involved.  Lebanon is a hostage. Syria is a killing field.  As usual Israel remains the only rational actor and must feel lonely in the region and in the world. 

Sometimes I am reminded of Delacroix's "Sardanapalus" in the Louvre, of a distant ruler in denial of the horrors which surround him.  The difference is that, contrary to the ruler in the painting, the Administration does not order itself to death, but to abstraction.

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