Michael Totten

"The Fragile Crescent"

By Noah Pollak
A handful of articles and essays have been published in the past couple of weeks that are worth noting.
The first is from my friend and colleague at the “Shalem Center”:http://www.shalemcenter.org.il/, Martin Kramer (and by “friend and colleague” I mean someone who I admire greatly and who probably forgets more about the Middle East in a year than I currently know). Martin spends part of the year at Harvard as an Olin Institute Senior Fellow, and on April 30th he gave a lecture there entitled “After Iraq: The Future of the United States in the Middle East.” He has now “posted an excerpt”:http://sandbox.blog-city.com/the_fragile_crescent_olin_harvard.htm of his talk on his website, and it is exemplary of Martin’s great skill in putting current events in this region into their larger historic and geopolitical context.
Martin argues that the United States, through the Iraq war, has delivered a shock to the Middle East that is “rendering parts of the political map an anachronism.” Put differently, he says, “the dissolution of the Ottoman empire has resumed.” The first cause is the Shiite revival; the second is the rise of Kurdish nationalism; and the third is the “refugee crescent.”

The choice the United States will face with greater frequency and urgency is whether or not to sustain its traditional support for that [post-Ottoman] map. Past challenges came from aggressive states encroaching on smaller ones, and aggressors could be cajoled, deterred, and punished. But transformation within states, in which the main actors are movements, insurgents, refugees, and secessionists, is another matter.

As they say, read the whole thing.