Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. military officer whose devilish delight in contemplating scenarios of future geopolitical mayhem is palpable. -- On Thursday, a faculty member at the University of Sussex, Brighton, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, called attention to a new article by Peters indulging his fantasy of a Middle East with borders completely redrawn. -- Peterss article appeared in August in the Armed Forces Journal and is reproduced below. ...
U.S. ARMY CONTEMPLATES REDRAWING MIDDLE EAST MAP TO STAVE OFF LOOMING GLOBAL MELTDOWN
By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
August 31, 2006
In a little-noted article printed in early August in the Armed Forces Journal, a monthly magazine for officers and leaders in the United States military community, early retired Major Ralph Peters sets out the latest ideas in current U.S. strategic thinking. And they are extremely disturbing.
ETHNICALLY CLEANSING THE ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST
Maj. Peters, formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence where he was responsible for future warfare, candidly outlines how the map of the Middle East should be fundamentally re-drawn in a new imperial endeavour designed to correct past errors. "Without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East," he observes, but then adds wryly: "Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works."
Thus acknowledging that the sweeping reconfiguration of borders he proposes would necessarily involve massive ethnic cleansing and accompanying bloodshed on perhaps a genocidal scale, he insists that unless it is implemented, "we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own." Among his proposals are the need to establish "an independent Kurdish state" to guarantee the long-denied right to Kurdish self-determination. But behind the humanitarian sentiments, Maj. Peters declares that "A Free Kurdistan, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan."
He chastises the United States and its coalition partners for missing "a glorious chance" to fracture Iraq, which "should have been divided into three smaller states immediately." This would leave "Iraq's three Sunni-majority provinces as a truncated state that might eventually choose to unify with a Syria that loses its littoral to a Mediterranean-oriented Greater Lebanon: Phoenecia reborn." Meanwhile, the Shia south of old Iraq "would form the basis of an Arab Shia State rimming much of the Persian Gulf." Jordan, a U.S.-Israeli friend in the region, would "retain its current territory, with some southward expansion at Saudi expense. For its part, the unnatural state of Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan." Iran too would "lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State, and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today's Afghanistan." Although this vast imperial program could be impossible to implement now, with time, "new and natural borders will emerge," driven by "the inevitable attendant bloodshed."
As for the goals of this plan, Maj. Peters is equally candid. While including the necessary caveats about fighting "for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy," he also mentions the third important issue -- "and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself."
The whole thing sounds disturbingly familiar, especially to those who have read the musings of then Israeli Foreign Ministry official Oded Yinon.
KEEPING THE WORLD SAFE . . . FOR OUR ECONOMY
Despite trying to dress up his vision as an exercise in attempting to selflessly democratize the Middle East, in a contribution to the quarterly U.S. Army War College journal Parameters almost a decade ago, he acknowledged with some jubilation that: "Those of us who can sort, digest, synthesize, and apply relevant knowledge soar -- professionally, financially, politically, militarily, and socially. We, the winners, are a minority." This minority will inevitably conflict with the vast majority of the world's population. "For the world masses, devastated by information they cannot manage or effectively interpret, life is 'nasty, brutish . . . and short-circuited.'" In "every country and region," these masses who can neither "understand the new world," nor "profit from its uncertainties . . . will become the violent enemies of their inadequate governments, of their more fortunate neighbors, and ultimately of the United States." The coming clash, then, is not really about blood, faith, ethnicity, at all. It is about the gap between the haves and the have-nots. "We are entering a new American century," he says, in a veiled reference to the Bush administration Project of the same name founded in the same year he was writing. In the new century, "we will become still wealthier, culturally more lethal, and increasingly powerful. We will excite hatreds without precedent."
In predicting the future course for the U.S. Army, Maj. Peters argues that "We will see countries and continents divide between rich and poor in a reversal of 20th-century economic trends." In this context, he says, "we in the United States will continue to be perceived as the ultimate haves," and therefore, "terrorism will be the most common form of violence," along with "transnational criminality, civil strife, secessions, border conflicts, and conventional wars." Meanwhile, "in defense of its interests," the U.S. "will be required to intervene in some of these contests." And then he sums it all up in one tidy paragraph:
"There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the U.S. armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing."
So what's prompted Maj. Peter's decision to air his vision for the Middle East in the Armed Forces Journal at this time in the wake of the latest Middle East crisis? A number of critical developments.
SOURCE: IMMINENT GLOBAL CRISES CONVERGE
According to an American source with high-level access to the U.S. military, political, and intelligence establishment, Western policymakers are in no doubt that the world faces the imminent convergence of multiple global crises. These crises threaten not only to undermine the basis of Western power in its current military and geopolitical configurations, but also to destabilize the entire foundations of industrial civilization.
The source said that the latest petroleum data indicates that "global oil production most likely peaked two years ago." This is consistent with the findings of respected geologists such as leading oil depletion expert Dr. Colin Campbell, who in the late 90s predicted that world oil production would peak in the early 21st century. "We have come to the end of the first half of the Oil Age," said Dr. Campbell, who has a doctorate in geology from the University of Oxford and more than 40 years of experience in the oil industry. Similarly, Kenneth Deffeyes, a geologist and professor emeritus at Princeton University, estimates the occurrence of the peak near the end of last year.
The source also said that leading U.S. financial analysts privately believe that "a collapse of the global banking system is imminent by 2008." Although the warning is consistent with the public findings of other experts, this is the first time that a more precise date has been estimated. In a prescient analysis drawing on highly placed financial sources, U.S. historian Gabriel Kolko, professor emeritus at York University, concluded in late July that:
"All the factors which make for crashes - excessive leveraging, rising interest rates, etc. - exist . . . Contradictions now wrack the world's financial system, and a growing consensus now exists between those who endorse it and those, like myself, who believe the status quo is both crisis-prone as well as immoral. If we are to believe the institutions and personalities who have been in the forefront of the defense of capitalism, and we should, it may very well be on the verge of serious crises."
The source also commented on the danger posed by rapid climate change. Although most conventional estimates suggest that global climate catastrophe is not due before another 30 odd years, he argued that the multiplication of several "tipping-points" suggested that a series of devastating climatic events could be "triggered within the next 10 to 15 years." Once again, this is consistent with the findings of other experts, most recently a joint task-force report by the Institute for Public Policy Research in the U.K., the Center for American Progress in the U.S., and the Australia Institute, which said in January last year that if the average world temperature rises "two degrees centigrade above the average world temperature prevailing in 1750 before the industrial revolution," it would trigger an irreversible chain of climatic disasters. In its report, the task-force says:
"The possibilities include reaching climatic tipping points leading, for example, to the loss of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets (which, between them, could raise sea level more than 10 meters over the space of a few centuries), the shutdown of the thermohaline ocean circulation (and, with it, the Gulf Stream), and the transformation of the planet's forests and soils from a net sink of carbon to a net source of carbon."
The source also revealed that U.S. generals had repeatedly war-gamed a prospective conflict with Iran, but consistently found that the simulations predicted "an absolute nuclear disaster," from which no clear winner would emerge. The scenarios gamed were so dismal, he said, that the generals briefed administration officials to avoid such a war at all costs. However, the source said that the Bush administration is ignoring the fears of the U.S. military.
In this context, it would seem that the musings of Maj. Peters issue less from a concerted confidence in U.S. power, than from a sense of growing desperation and unease as the political, financial, and energy architecture of the global system is increasingly fragmenting under the weight of its own inherent instability. Despite the seeming gloominess of the situation, however, there is clearly fundamental dissent about the current trajectory of American and Western policy at the highest levels of power. The source remarked that "humanity is on the verge of a precipice, and either we'll all just drop off the edge, or we'll evolve. I'm not sure what that new human being might look like, but it will clearly have to involve a completely new set of ideas and values, a new way of looking at the world that respects life and nature." -- Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is the author of The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry. He teaches courses in International Relations at the School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, where he is doing his Ph.D. studying imperialism and genocide. Since 9/11, he has authored three other books revealing the realpolitik behind the rhetoric of the "War on Terror," The War on Freedom, Behind the War on Terror, and The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism. In summer 2005, he testified as an expert witness in U.S. Congress about his research on international terrorism.2.
By Ralph Peters
** How a better Middle East would look **
Armed Forces Journal
International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference -- often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.
The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East -- to borrow from Churchill -- generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.
While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone -- from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism -- the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region's comprehensive failure isn't Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.
Of course, no adjustment of borders, however draconian, could make every minority in the Middle East happy. In some instances, ethnic and religious groups live intermingled and have intermarried. Elsewhere, reunions based on blood or belief might not prove quite as joyous as their current proponents expect. The boundaries projected in the maps accompanying this article redress the wrongs suffered by the most significant "cheated" population groups, such as the Kurds, Baluch, and Arab Shia, but still fail to account adequately for Middle Eastern Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, Naqshbandis, and many another numerically lesser minorities. And one haunting wrong can never be redressed with a reward of territory: the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians by the dying Ottoman Empire.
Yet, for all the injustices the borders re-imagined here leave unaddressed, without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East.
Even those who abhor the topic of altering borders would be well-served to engage in an exercise that attempts to conceive a fairer, if still imperfect, amendment of national boundaries between the Bosporus and the Indus. Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools -- short of war -- for readjusting faulty borders, a mental effort to grasp the Middle East's "organic" frontiers nonetheless helps us understand the extent of the difficulties we face and will continue to face. We are dealing with colossal, man-made deformities that will not stop generating hatred and violence until they are corrected.
As for those who refuse to "think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).
Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.
Begin with the border issue most sensitive to American readers: For Israel to have any hope of living in reasonable peace with its neighbors, it will have to return to its pre-1967 borders -- with essential local adjustments for legitimate security concerns. But the issue of the territories surrounding Jerusalem, a city stained with thousands of years of blood, may prove intractable beyond our lifetimes. Where all parties have turned their god into a real-estate tycoon, literal turf battles have a tenacity unrivaled by mere greed for oil wealth or ethnic squabbles. So let us set aside this single overstudied issue and turn to those that are studiously ignored.
The most glaring injustice in the notoriously unjust lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Himalayas is the absence of an independent Kurdish state. There are between 27 million and 36 million Kurds living in contiguous regions in the Middle East (the figures are imprecise because no state has ever allowed an honest census). Greater than the population of present-day Iraq, even the lower figure makes the Kurds the world's largest ethnic group without a state of its own. Worse, Kurds have been oppressed by every government controlling the hills and mountains where they've lived since Xenophon's day.
The U.S. and its coalition partners missed a glorious chance to begin to correct this injustice after Baghdad's fall. A Frankenstein's monster of a state sewn together from ill-fitting parts, Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately. We failed from cowardice and lack of vision, bullying Iraq's Kurds into supporting the new Iraqi government -- which they do wistfully as a quid pro quo for our good will. But were a free plebiscite to be held, make no mistake: Nearly 100 percent of Iraq's Kurds would vote for independence.
As would the long-suffering Kurds of Turkey, who have endured decades of violent military oppression and a decades-long demotion to "mountain Turks" in an effort to eradicate their identity. While the Kurdish plight at Ankara's hands has eased somewhat over the past decade, the repression recently intensified again and the eastern fifth of Turkey should be viewed as occupied territory. As for the Kurds of Syria and Iran, they, too, would rush to join an independent Kurdistan if they could. The refusal by the world's legitimate democracies to champion Kurdish independence is a human-rights sin of omission far worse than the clumsy, minor sins of commission that routinely excite our media. And by the way: A Free Kurdistan, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.
A just alignment in the region would leave Iraq's three Sunni-majority provinces as a truncated state that might eventually choose to unify with a Syria that loses its littoral to a Mediterranean-oriented Greater Lebanon: Phoenecia reborn. The Shia south of old Iraq would form the basis of an Arab Shia State rimming much of the Persian Gulf. Jordan would retain its current territory, with some southward expansion at Saudi expense. For its part, the unnatural state of Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan.
A root cause of the broad stagnation in the Muslim world is the Saudi royal family's treatment of Mecca and Medina as their fiefdom. With Islam's holiest shrines under the police-state control of one of the world's most bigoted and oppressive regimes -- a regime that commands vast, unearned oil wealth -- the Saudis have been able to project their Wahhabi vision of a disciplinarian, intolerant faith far beyond their borders. The rise of the Saudis to wealth and, consequently, influence has been the worst thing to happen to the Muslim world as a whole since the time of the Prophet, and the worst thing to happen to Arabs since the Ottoman (if not the Mongol) conquest.
While non-Muslims could not effect a change in the control of Islam's holy cities, imagine how much healthier the Muslim world might become were Mecca and Medina ruled by a rotating council representative of the world's major Muslim schools and movements in an Islamic Sacred State -- a sort of Muslim super-Vatican -- where the future of a great faith might be debated rather than merely decreed. True justice -- which we might not like -- would also give Saudi Arabia's coastal oil fields to the Shia Arabs who populate that subregion, while a southeastern quadrant would go to Yemen. Confined to a rump Saudi Homelands Independent Territory around Riyadh, the House of Saud would be capable of far less mischief toward Islam and the world.
Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State, and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today's Afghanistan -- a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State.
What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan's Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren (the point of this exercise is not to draw maps as we would like them but as local populations would prefer them). Pakistan, another unnatural state, would also lose its Baluch territory to Free Baluchistan. The remaining "natural" Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.
The city-states of the United Arab Emirates would have a mixed fate -- as they probably will in reality. Some might be incorporated in the Arab Shia State ringing much of the Persian Gulf (a state more likely to evolve as a counterbalance to, rather than an ally of, Persian Iran). Since all puritanical cultures are hypocritical, Dubai, of necessity, would be allowed to retain its playground status for rich debauchees. Kuwait would remain within its current borders, as would Oman.
In each case, this hypothetical redrawing of boundaries reflects ethnic affinities and religious communalism -- in some cases, both. Of course, if we could wave a magic wand and amend the borders under discussion, we would certainly prefer to do so selectively. Yet, studying the revised map, in contrast to the map illustrating today's boundaries, offers some sense of the great wrongs borders drawn by Frenchmen and Englishmen in the 20th century did to a region struggling to emerge from the humiliations and defeats of the 19th century.
Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible. For now. But given time -- and the inevitable attendant bloodshed -- new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.
Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself. The current human divisions and forced unions between Ankara and Karachi, taken together with the region's self-inflicted woes, form as perfect a breeding ground for religious extremism, a culture of blame and the recruitment of terrorists as anyone could design. Where men and women look ruefully at their borders, they look enthusiastically for enemies.
From the world's oversupply of terrorists to its paucity of energy supplies, the current deformations of the Middle East promise a worsening, not an improving, situation. In a region where only the worst aspects of nationalism ever took hold and where the most debased aspects of religion threaten to dominate a disappointed faith, the U.S., its allies and, above all, our armed forces can look for crises without end. While Iraq may provide a counterexample of hope -- if we do not quit its soil prematurely -- the rest of this vast region offers worsening problems on almost every front.
If the borders of the greater Middle East cannot be amended to reflect the natural ties of blood and faith, we may take it as an article of faith that a portion of the bloodshed in the region will continue to be our own.
WHO WINS, WHO LOSES
Arab Shia State
Islamic Sacred State
United Arab Emirates