Let the Dust Settle

SplittingMiddleEastWar. How many more need to die? What can we do to stop it?

Valid questions that could – and have – been asked by most of us over the last month and more. Gaza, Ukraine, and of course, the unfolding drama in Iraq are so shocking, so horrifying, we feel the need to do something.

And that’s when we need to pause and think. The law of unintended consequences has, for the most part, got us to where we are today with most of the horrors we see around the world. Our desire – often with the best intentions – to interfere with some of the terrible things happening around the world has led to a series of even worse results.

Take Iraq. Things are bad there now, to put it mildly. The system that we installed just isn’t working. The idea you can “install” a system from the outside is, to many libertarians, a painfully clear example of Hayek’s “fatal conceit”: that other people in other countries are merely pieces you can move on a chessboard, without taking to account their dreams and desires. It’s the pretense of knowledge.

But we had to do that in Iraq didn’t we? The nonsense of WMD’s aside, wasn’t Saddam an evil dictator? Yes, but again, one we installed. Another awful unintended consequence of our previous interventions. We’ve been arbitrarily carving up that map and imposing artificial borders for years. This needs to stop.

The map you see in this blog post is controversial, but perhaps the only resolution in Iraq that doesn’t allow for a never-ending cycle of violence and war. The fact is, a big part of Syria and Iraq should be – according to the Sunni majority who live there – a Sunni state. Similarly, The South-East of Iraq, the Shi’ite dominated area, should be a Shi’ite state.

I’m not saying this solution (allowing for autonomy for the Kurds as well of course, as well as others), would be some sort of utopia. But if we didn’t interfere, after a while – and yes, lots of bloodshed – this map would be what we end up with. And maybe, just maybe a lasting piece.

The same can be said of the Crimea region of the Ukraine, or the creation of a recognised Palestinian state. Yes, these wouldn’t magically fix things, but they are the steps needed to a lasting peace.

Instead of trying to constantly fix and reshape the world around us, maybe us Brits, Americans and others should do the most painful thing of all: let the dust settle. Keep dolling out aid and let a peaceful solution find itself.

It’s difficult and counter-intuitive. But it might just work.