Monday, February 8, 2021

Changing the Map: What Will The Effect Be

It is funny, but in a couple of areas, Ex-president Trump blew up hypocrisy. Of course, only where it helped him and pissed off others, but still... The question is, what effect will his change in policy have? Let us look at the his actions. And let's see what outcomes might or might not happen.

If you look at the map above, you will see two areas circled. In red, the area around the Western Sahara. In blue the area around Israel. In both areas, the world and maps have not reflected the reality on the ground.

Western Sahara

Despite maps to the contrary, there is no (functioning) country of the Western Sahara. The area itself had been a colony of Spain from the 1800s through 1975. The UN finally got Spain to withdraw from the area after the death of Franco and the end of Fascist Spain. Spain promised a referendum on local rule, but the forces of Morocco and Mauritania immediately went in a took over the country. Mauritania quit the conflict and Algeria supported the independence movement of the locals. Since the late 1970s, Morocco has ruled 75% of the country along the coast, and the Polsario Front controls the inland area along the Mauritanian border, supported by Algeria. But the world refused to reward Morocco's attacks.

President Trump acknowledged Morocco's claim to the Western Sahara, and therefore rewarded war.


Israel controls more land than the map shows. The map shows the legal boundary of Israel from about 1967. In reality, Israel controls the West Bank, the Golan Heights and parts of Lebanon. 

President Trump acknowledged the Israel rule over the Golan Heights (from Syria), the West Bank and all of Jerusalem (from any possible Palestinian State). This action probably has a much smaller effect, since it is (generally) assumed Israel was (originally) responding to aggression. Furthermore, Israel - and the United States - have been more successful argueing the new borders reduce rather than expand conflict.

Why This Matters (if it matters)

This recognition of the "spoils of war" matters because, since the end of World War II, the major powers have ben very insistent that countries cannot change borders by war. This is one of the key international norms that maintain the world balance. The United States (and the UN) has gone to war for this principal repeatedly. It was the legal basis for the First Gulf War (Iraq tried to take over Kuwait), for the Korean War (North Korea tried to take over South Korea) and the Vietnamese War.

Even in the case of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, the new nations followed the borders of provinces within those countries. The idea has always been that IF the world allows aggression to be rewarded with land or resources,  THEN more war follows. 

Military aggression, and the world's acceptance of the results, ultimately made the League of Nations irrelevant and toothless. The United Nations (at the United States' insistence) has not followed that same rule book. It was the US basis to stop the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. It was Australia's basis to stop the East Timor war. Tis international law / norm is what makes war and exception, not an option.

The fear is that if aggression is allowed to create wins for a country, more aggression follows. You can see this reality right now on the ground on Russia's borders. President Bush 2, and the world, allowed Russia's President Putin to absorb some small areas from the Republic of Georgia in 2008. This. lead to Russia annexing Crimea (from Ukraine) in 2014. Strong push-back to THAT attack coupled with some pretty critical sanctions stopped Putin from going farther.

President Trump, however, came to age in a time when "might makes right" was the result, if not the acceptable norm. And he internalized that reasoning. One saw this in his comments that we should have "taken the oil, when we invaded Iraq" and "no reason to attack Afghanistan, they have nothing we want". His view was common through-out most of history. But the Untied States has spent at least 100 years trying to stop wars of aggression from rewarding the warring parties (pretty much since we took all Spain possessions in 1898).

And this policy has been coincident with a huge drop in warfare between nations since the creation of the UN. Before this policy, wars to redraw boundaries occurred with regularity. Forget about the World Wars, these boundary wars were fought between: Peru and Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, Peru and Chile, Chile and Argentina, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Japan and China, Japan and Russia, Siam and England, Siam and France, Russia and Finland, Jordan and Palestine, India and Pakistan, China and Formosa, even the United States and Canada.

As decolonization occurred after WWII, most people believed Africa would fall into major conflict, because the colonial border had not taken tribal population or natural resources into consideration. But the UN and member states stepped into support these new nations as long as there were no wars to change borders.

Will Trump's actions change a lot? Not really. While American Republicans may be stupid enough to follow the pied piper of racism, most countries did not approve of his antics. American and world policies have converged in trying to reward conflict. Trump's policies were decried in both these international instances where he pressed the might makes right solutions. The world is even pulling back from the Yemeni war, hoping that the old border between North and South Yemen might be reintroduced, but not redrawn. 

This is because going back to old power dynamics MASSIVELY increases the benefits of war. The way the world is structured now, wars don't lead to good outcomes if you can't take over the new areas. Wars are, now, primarily fought inside a singular country as a civil war.

Both before and post World War I, the hope to prevent war was to ban weapons. That didn't work. Post World War II, the hope to prevent war was to force international conflict to a political solution. That hasn't been 100% successful, but has been SO much more successful than previously solutions that we would be asinine to return to the old system.

And so ends today's episode of "What Else Did He Fuck Up?"

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I am pretty sure this has been paraphrased