November 8, 2013

As Artificial Borders Dissolve, Will Governments Build Walls Or Face Demographic And Cultural Realities?

The Turkish government is building a wall to physically separate the Kurdish minority in northern Syria from the Kurds in southern Turkey.

In the last year and a half the cities and towns close to the Turkish-Syrian border have witnessed deadly car bombs, random helicopter shoot-downs, and spontaneous citizen protests against the interventionist policies of the Turkish government. On the Syrian side, al-Qaeda and other like-minded Sunni forces are battling the Kurdish minority for territory and power.

The Turkish government has responded to Kurdish battlefield victories by constructing a wall along its border, thus dividing key strategic towns in the Kurdish areas of the two countries.

The intent of the Erdogan administration is to prevent Kurds in Turkey from capitalizing on the new-found momentum of their cross-border kin. At the same time, Turkish security forces are keeping other areas on its border open for fighters belonging to al-Qaeda to make their way through into Syria.

Turkey has yet to settle its differences with its sizable Kurdish minority. The peace talks that went into gear in March with the withdrawal of armed Kurdish guerrillas from Turkish territory into northern Iraq is slowly coming to a halt.

Rather than expanding cultural, economic, and social links with the Kurds, and treating them as one nation, the Turkish government is playing a divide and conquer game by sweetening its economic relations with the Barzani-led government in Iraqi Kurdistan while deploying al-Qaeda terrorists against the Kurds in Syria.

Instead of helping the Kurds to build their own political institutions and enable them to grow the regional economy which would benefit Turkey most of all, Ankara is instead choosing warfare as the preferred option to solve the so-called Kurdish question. It is a massive waste of human potential.

The border between Syria and Turkey was the work of the criminal and oppressive French and British tyrants. It will disappear from history because it is an unnatural boundary and a product of wrong-headed imperialism.

There are other borders around the world that will also dissolve because of the force of demographic and cultural realities such as the border between Mexico and America. In January, Robert Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography, said
"America's only geographical challenge is with Mexico to the south, where it's an artificial border, where it's one of the places where there's the greatest disparity in income levels between south of the border and north of the border. North and South Korea is much greater but there's only a few places in that zone. The population of northern Mexico has doubled since NAFTA in 1995. The average age of Mexicans is 25, the average age of Americans is 35. It's a younger population, it's gone from a fifth of the U.S. population to a third, it's coming closer. And it's also an economic power, the 12th largest economy in the world. In a decade Mexico could crack the top ten, whereas countries like Spain and Italy fall down. At the same time, a significant part of Mexico is controlled by drug gangs. And when I say control I mean the original Hobbesian definition of government, which is he who monopolizes the use of force in any given geographic area is the government of the area. And these drug gangs are placed geographically on the extreme east coast of Mexico where silver and gold used to go up north, now drugs do. Again, it's geographically determined in that sense. Most of the cities of the American South West have majority Hispanic populations. Geography dictates that Mexico is as crucial to the future of the United States as anything that will happen in China or the greater Middle East. And that is becoming more and more important. Latin history is demographically and culturally moving North at a reasonable rate. As much as 40% of Americans will have some working knowledge of Spanish by the middle of the 21st century. I grew up with North America geography as the East to West, sea to shining sea of patriotic myth. That's changing now. North American geography is North-South, from the old British territory of the Pacific North West which is today Vancouver and Canada all the way south to Mexico city. That's the notional future of North America."  
The American government is wise by not building a huge wall on its border with Mexico. Any wall will be unmanageable. There are better ways to contain and control the flow of people, goods, and drugs.

The Turkish government can learn a thing or two from America about how to solve problems dealing with minority rights and border issues. Building a wall is a dumb solution to complex problems. It worked in the past, but it has no chance of working in this era.