The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The mosaic theory of the Middle East, and its rotten advocates

I remember a few years ago seeing Michael Totten blogging as part of the bigoted Pajamas Media network. His posts, most of the time, were incredibly badly informed and dishonest, and systematically tried to push the neo-con worldview of the Middle East. Now he writes for the ethno-chauvinist Jewish magazine Commentary, in which he advocates the old "let's divide the Middle East into ethnic and religious micro-states" approach that was a favorite of the British and French before WW2:

Most of Syria’s Alawites live along the Mediterranean coast, away from the Sunni heartland. They could, at least theoretically, be separated from Syria into their own Alawite nation. The Middle East would probably be a safer place if they were. They did have their own semiautonomous government under the French Mandate between 1930 and 1937, and again from 1939 to 1944, but their Latakia region has been a part of Syria ever since.

Such a nation almost certainly would make peace with Israel, at least eventually, if it wasn’t ruled by Assad and his thuggish clan. Arab nationalism would lose its appeal among a people that would no longer need to demonstrate belonging to an ethnic majority to make up for its status as a religious minority. The strident anti-Zionism of the Sunni “street” could likewise ease. A free Alawite state might even be a natural ally of Israel for the same reasons the Middle East’s Christians and Kurds tend to be.

Note that there is only one standard: will it be good for Israel? This type of thinking -- "the Middle East is a mosaic, let's divide it into its smallest possible units" -- has almost always been advanced for the interests of foreign powers in mind (here's an article by Yizthak Shamir, the former Israeli PM and Stern Gang member, making use of the mosaic concept). But I guess when you're going after the Likudnik shekel, you tow the Likudnik line.

I wonder if Totten would advocate his mosaic plan for Syria for other places. Should Copts form an independent state in Upper Egypt (as American missionaries petitioned the State Department for during WW1)? Should Jewish New Yorkers try to seize the city (or at least Brooklyn) and break away from the US (they'd be a "natural ally of Israel," well some of them anyway)? Perhaps Hispanic Americans should form their own state across the southern US states (that'll go over well at Little Green Footballs!)? And Provence, Languedoc and Bretagne -- at least! -- should declare independence from France. One could go on.

Now this guy is currently trying to get his earnestly moronic readers (read their comments), who've funded much of his reporting, to give them a thousand dollars so he can finish his book. He'll put them in the acknowledgements in exchange. I'm with Angry Arab on thinking it will be a masterpiece:

What an honor. What a distinction. Who in his/her right mind would pass on this great opportunity? In fact, I hear that people are holding parties around the world in order to donate to the book just so that they can see their names mentioned in the acknowledgements section of a book on the Middle East by somebody who has never studied the Middle East and who knows none of the languages of the Middle East and who has never been able to say anything original about the Middle East and who can't get to say anything outside of recycled cliches about the Middle East and who has never deviated from the neo-conservative line about the Middle East.

Via the always excellent Friday Lunch Club.