Third Party & Independents Archives

Why neither side wants to listen to the "Great Powers" - Part 1: The World Wars

Many of the conflicts today find their roots in our history. While much of this history is not related to the past actions of America herself, we are tainted by it and we are dealing with it. Maybe we can learn some lessons that will help us in our current role.

Feelings of Betrayal:
Mistakes were made in the formations of these countries.
On the Arab side, feelings of betrayal seem to begin with confusion about the promised rewards for the Arab Revolt during World War 1. Soon after the secret negotiations between France and Britain for "spheres of influence" were revealed to them by Turkey (with proof sent by the Bolsheviks), the Balfour Declaration added to these feelings of unjust treatment. Although the Balfour Declaration said that "nothing shall be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", this declaration also declared the goal of the "establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people". The people already living in Palestine obviously wondered what this would mean for them.

The great disconnect between the messages coming from the United States and other Allies immediately after the war and the actual results of the Paris Peace Conference did more than set the stage for World War 2 - they also resulted in feelings of betrayal and bitter disappointment in many peoples of the conquered territories. People living in colonies all over the world believed that these lofty statements concerning "self-determination", "independence" and "consent of the governed" would apply to them. Declarations were misunderstood to mean something different than they did and some treaties were never implemented.

Acting in the interest of the imperial state:
During France’s mandate period, France took many steps to suppress Syrian nationalism and to favor Lebanon’s Christian population. One example took place shortly after Lebanon began its existence: In May of 1920, the Syrian mandate was divided by the League of Nations and Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were created. In August of 1920, France expanded the borders of Lebanon at Syria’s expense. The policy of "le Grand Liban" led to resentments by some in the community as it was seen as a heavy-handed policy meant to extend France's influence in the region. (1)

Britain faced similar problems with disillusionment in its mandate. In addition to conflicts between Palestinians and the Zionists, there was an uprising in Iraq early in the mandate due to anger about lack of representation.

I believe both France and Britain were honestly trying to help these populations with administration and infrastructure, but the fact that their own interests are more important sometimes shines through. As I am lucky enough to live in a nation that is clearly on the top-side of the imperialistic equation, I can often understand the explanations of why this is so - but I find it difficult to condemn the "subject" peoples for ignoring the rhetoric in favor of acting in their own best interest as well.

I also find it interesting that the independence treaties that were negotiated when the mandates ended maintained existing oil concessions, military bases, foreign policy alliances…. Looking at it in this light, it’s easy to see why some people may think it’s attractive to try it again. I think we should learn from the past. It seems that they have.

"Artificial" Borders:
Even with perfectly altruistic administration and optimistically self-determined populations, there will still be problems in these places. This is because the biggest problem these regions face is the feeling of many of these peoples that the boundaries of all of the "new" states that were carved from the Ottoman Empire are completely artificial.
These borders were imposed by imperial powers, they were not fought out and determined by the people. I think the primary motive here was to avoid conflict and unrest between peoples, so they meant well, but we are still seeing the effects today - and not just in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian guerilla fighters. Guerilla groups of peoples like the Kurds who feel that they were cheated out of a state of their own, the difficulty we’re having keeping Iraq together right now, border disputes like the one in Kashmir...
Competing claims may be unavoidable, especially now that time has passed and the regions are more blended, but I think the lack of input and ownership given to the former "subject races" has led to less respect for the formal boundaries that they were given. This makes the conflicts harder to resolve and it also makes the people that are thrown together harder to govern.

While "let them fight it out" may or may not lead to a result both parties can live with, its results tend to lead to more national cohesion and ownership than boundaries imposed by outside forces. At the same time, I feel that the urge to protect and separate the populations will never be gone from compassionate people. When I think of these questions, I wonder if we would have accepted outside intervention in our own Civil War (which almost did happen - on the side of the Confederacy).

Terrorist vs. "Irregular" force:
It was difficult for me to decide what to call the "guerillas" I mentioned above. It seems that while you are still ruled by a government you disagree with, you are a terrorist but after you win you are recast as "irregular forces" fighting against all odds for your freedom and independence.
Here are a few examples of this:
British Loyalists probably considered US Patriots to be terrorists.
Zionist terrorist groups were part of Israel’s fight for independence.

I am not a fan of terrorists - or of wars - but I am cynical about this black and white rhetoric everyone is throwing around right now. I do understand that there is a difference between targeting civilians and targeting military assets - but these captured Isreali soldiers are military targets. And despite what people seem to think, all of our weapons systems have margins of error. Collateral damage is unavoidable and full scale war will never eradicate terrorism.

Law enforcement in coordination with intelligence agencies used to be and should have continued to be our tool to prevent terrorist actions.
Only rejection from the populations that support the terrorist groups will kill actually kill terrorism and it is my belief that our recent actions have moved us farther from that long term goal.


(1) The Arabs, by Peter Mansfield Third Edition: 1992

Posted by Christine at August 2, 2006 12:04 AM
Comment #172749


“I believe both France and Britain were honestly trying to help these populations with administration and infrastructure, but the fact that their own interests are more important sometimes shines through.”

I believe that France and Britain were still trying to help themselves in their colonial search for natural resources. Administration and infrastructure were merely side notes in the history of exploitation around the world.
After all, besides doing what they considered their “Christian” duty, it also was to their strategic advantage to “civilize” the populations of their occupied colonies.
Especially after oil was discovered in Persia.

Terrorism has always been the warfare of choice for those that have had limited resources with little to lose, and everything to gain.

Posted by: Rocky at August 2, 2006 8:18 AM
Comment #172757

Re Middle East - there is a very good book on this subject called a “Peace to End All Peace.” The slow motion breakup of the Ottoman Empire spawned wars for a century and is still causing problems nearly a century later.

Re terrorist - I think the definition of terrorist versus insurgent or irregular is fairly simple in theory, although sometimes harder in practice.

A terrorist SPECIFICALLY TARGETS civilian populations w/o regard to military necessity and/or military with whom they will not admit they are at war.

I know I will get in trouble for this formulation, but if insurgents attack a U.S. military convoy, even if they use remote bombs or suicide bombers, they are insurgents not terrorists. When they set off a bomb in a marketplace or indiscriminately launch rockets at cities, they are terrorists.

Most of the activities of insurgents in Iraq today are terrorism. Almost everything Hezbollah does is terrorism, but attacking an Israeli military outpost was not. That was an act of war and the Israelis properly treated it as such.

The problem comes with collateral damage. If you bomb a factory or a military installation, civilians may die, but I don’t think this is terrorism. Exactly how much precaution should be taken to avoid civilian deaths is a matter of dispute.

It IS however, terrorism to purposely specifically locate offensive military assets among and behind civilian populations. Hezbollah, for example, are terrorists not only for attacking Israeli civilians but also because their activities lead to deaths of Lebanese civilians.

Posted by: Jack at August 2, 2006 8:49 AM
Comment #172768


Isn’t the whole point of terrorism to create terror amongst the population and thereby put a country’s leaders on the spot?

Do you truly think either Hezbollah and Hamas give a rat’s ass about our definitions of what a terrorist is?

Posted by: Rocky at August 2, 2006 9:52 AM
Comment #172772

Christine, Thank You! Excellent post.

Jack, I agree with your comments generally. I have some difficulty with the following:

“It IS however, terrorism to purposely specifically locate offensive military assets among and behind civilian populations. Hezbollah, for example, are terrorists not only for attacking Israeli civilians but also because their activities lead to deaths of Lebanese civilians.”

Urban warfare involves civilians, period. Defining purposefully or specifically is a very fuzzy concept to me. I understand your point, but it seems something that is more about propoganda, than a specific tactic. It requires knowing what is in the mind of the “terrorist or freedom fighter”

Posted by: JBOD kids at August 2, 2006 10:08 AM
Comment #172791

JBOD, what I think Jack was saying that hezbollah purposely puts thier military assets within the general population, so when civilians are killed then can say that there was nothing there, and Israel targeted civilians. Therefore they are terrorist against their own people because they know sooner or later it will happen. They are using the civilians as a human shield.

Urban warfare has been around as long as there has been war, just never in the news like now. Also take all news with a grain of salt because usually you only see the aftermath and only from one side of the conflict.

Posted by: KT at August 2, 2006 10:48 AM
Comment #172800

oops, I just revealed my secret identity. I hope I’m not supoened by Fitzpatrick. I’m glad Joe got a laugh out of it.)

Posted by: gergle "Joes kids" at August 2, 2006 11:22 AM
Comment #172801

KT, that wasn’t JBOD it was me. I left the posting name from a joke I made in another post. I understood what Jack was saying, I just think it becomes non-meaningful to talk about purposelfully hiding among civilians in Urban Warfare.

Clearly, attacking a civilian target, when no military forces are around, can be called terrorism. It becomes tricky in open Urban Warfare to define what is intentional and what is collateral.

Posted by: gergle at August 2, 2006 11:29 AM
Comment #172817


No, I don’t think they care. That is why they are terrorists. We should not let ourselves be fooled by them.


There are two clear situations and then fuzzier ones in between. If someone sets off a bomb or is a suicide bomber among civilians in a place where opposing forces are not engaged at the time, that is always terrorism. If civilians are trapped between opposing forces who, shooting at each other hit civilians, that is not terrorism. We agree that in between it gets fuzzier. But there are many cases of clear cut terrorism in Iraq and Israel. We need not give someone who blows up a city bus the benefit of the doubt.

And KT is right that Hezbollah, by specifically hiding behind women and probably dressing like them, is committing acts of terror against Muslims.

Posted by: Jack at August 2, 2006 12:44 PM
Comment #172897

Jack, Hezbollah dressing like women? Well as KT pointed out, the first casualty of war is the truth.
Feel better now, Jack?

I think Hezbollah is little more than a political and military front for thugs, but I don’t need to fanatasize about them in burkahs to despise them.

As Bill Maher pointed out, and was chastised for, the 911 terrorists weren’t cowards. They may have been radical, insane, and stupid, cold-blooded killers, but not cowards.

Posted by: gergle at August 2, 2006 7:26 PM
Comment #172899

Suicide bombing a bus or a market is one thing - it is clear cut.
My fuzziness is the difference between a terrorist and a foot soldier in a resistance movement.

In the case of resisting a government that you want to change with force, you are going to have to attack military or government targets even though they are not actively engaged against you.

I don’t like it but this is the gray area that Hezbollah seems to live in the most.

Unlike many of the other groups that Israel is trying to deal with, Hezbollah has always had more of a military flavor. Also, it seems to target soldiers, military installations, embassies… usually not random civilians.

Now that Israel has left Lebanon and the new goal is supporting the intifada, things may have changed, but I’m not so sure.


Posted by: Christine at August 2, 2006 7:28 PM
Comment #172901

Hmm - rereading I need to say I’m not defending Hezbollah’s actions - but I wouldn’t be able to defend Isreal’s either.
My intent is to cut through the “good and evil” talk and actually look at what’s going on.


By the way, if anyone is thinking of the indiscriminate firing of the rockets, I’m sure Hezbollah would prefer to have Smart Bombs. ;)

Posted by: Christine at August 2, 2006 7:37 PM
Comment #173095

I see an awful lot of discussion and debate here and I must ask…What do we want? Most people say they want “peace”, but when pressed can’t define what “peace” is. I think we should at least define our goals if we are trying to achieve them, especially if we are going to argue about how to get them.

Would any of you care to give your defination of “peace”?

Posted by: Tom D. at August 3, 2006 5:53 PM
Comment #173190

Tom D.

To me it’s an absence of violence. I always want peace, but also I want justice and fairness. When injustice and unfairness become large enough, there will not be peace.

Posted by: gergle at August 4, 2006 3:08 AM
Comment #173212

To me, peace happens when people agree to live together even though they want different things.
They don’t dehumanize each other - they know enough about the opposing perspectives to put themselves in each others’ shoes. If this can be done, solutions can be found.

Right now, we have multiple situations where both sides have dehumanized the enemy. Neither side is willing to give the benefit of the doubt because they don’t trust that it will be reciprocated. Violence is hardening views.

This post was intended to be more than Israel and Lebanon. It is about Iraq, the other “rogue states”, Baltic countries like Serbia…
I wanted to talk about the border creation of these countries and the impact of the interests of the Great Powers that decided what happened in them, because it will help us understand all of these countries.

It’s not about blaming us, or Britain or France - we need to understand their motivations if we want to find ideas to bridge the gap and find peace.


Posted by: Christine at August 4, 2006 6:36 AM
Comment #173364

Christine, last time I checked Serbia was not located along the Baltic near Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; I think it was on the Balkan Penninsula with the other fromer Yugoslav states as well as Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.

Tom, my definition of peace is when both sides are willing to end the violence, stop hating each other and learn to get along. Hopefully the situation amongst Israel and its neighbors will reach this point just like North Ireland and other places have already.

Personally, I think this will only happen if:
1. Israel pulls back to at least the pre-1967 borders or more preferable to the 1948 UN Borders

2. UN peacekeepers and/or NATO, US or EU troops
guard the border and prevent any future invasions by either side or violent strife.

Posted by: Warren P at August 4, 2006 5:28 PM
Comment #173396

Thanks Warren -
I apologize to all for the mistake.


Posted by: Christine at August 4, 2006 7:36 PM
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