X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Blogs Coffee House

A lesson of Iraq in 2014: the nation-state is the future

12 August 2014

12:45 PM

12 August 2014

12:45 PM

The collapse of some of the Sykes-Picot states in 2014 will spur people to ask which way the world is heading and what it all tells us, just as with the fall of Communism in 1989. After Communism we had at first Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History,which foresaw the triumph of western-style liberal democracy, and then the more prescient, although equally controversial, The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntingdon, which viewed the world as essentially consisting of power blocks centred around ancient civilizational, religious ties.

So what does 2014 mean? A clear lesson that the Yazidis and Christian Assyrians have learned is that without a patch of land for oneself, and soldiers to protect it, no people is safe.

Ten years ago, when the pogrom against Iraq’s Christians began with a number of church bombings and sectarian murders, Christian leaders in that country proposed an administrative area in the Nineveh Plains where Iraq’s minorities, including the Assyrians and Yazidis, and smaller but equally persecuted groups like the Shabak and Mandeans, would have political and military autonomy, with a police force composed of minorities to protect them.

[Alt-Text]


Iraq’s more powerful groups rejected the idea, and the Americans did nothing to help; the counter-argument was that Iraq’s minorities should be encouraged to remain part of a multi-denominational country, and that a safe haven would be a magnet for jihadis. The former argument is fine in theory, but the latter looks rather irrelevant now.

The lesson of history, especially Europe’s, is that without a homeland or safe area of its own, no minority is ever entirely safe. The Kurds learned this lesson under Saddam Hussein. After 1991 Iraqi Kurdistan gained de facto autonomy. Now it looks certain to emerge as a nation-state. While I cannot say what will happen in the battle between the Islamic State and the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters), Kurdistan will certainly survive and will have even acquired a foundation myth, its status in the world elevated after a struggle against an evil enemy.

For a long time now there has been an idea among many western intellectuals that we had somehow outgrown the nation-state. No one told the Kurds, obviously. And while nationalism is discredited because of its associations with 1914-45, it can also act as a counter-balance to other forces, namely religious extremism. It may not be coincidence that Turkey, the one Islamic nation in the region with a very strong national identity, is the most resistant to Islamism; perhaps it is only a matter of time but second-generation Turks in Europe also seem far less prone to religious extremism than men whose families hail from weak states with multiple, competing identities, such as Pakistan. (I’m not suggesting this is the main reason — Pakistan is, after all, much more religious than Turkey.)

One Iraqi minority, of course, learned this lesson very, very painfully some time ago. Baghdad was one-third Jewish a century ago. Had Israel not come into existence, how might Iraq’s Jews have fared today? Not very well, I’d imagine.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close