Category Archives: Opinion

MESA: No Longer Non-Political?

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is North America’s leading venue for academic discussions related to the modern Middle East across a range of disciplines, from history to sociology, anthropology to literature.  Since the Middle East obviously matters to the world today, the forum where the experts discuss everything related to the Middle East is important, not just to academics, but to the broader public.  And since, as academics have increasingly pointed out, the rules of the forum shape what can or cannot be discussed in that forum, then a proposed change in the bylaws of MESA’s constitution are of public interest.  MESA members are debating and voting upon whether to strike the word “non-political” from the organization’s self-characterization, adding to the end of the academic society’s objectives the phrase “in accordance with its status as a 501(c)(3) scientific, educational, literary, and charitable organization.”  This post presents my understanding of the issues and evaluation of the options; of course, I welcome discussion or correction. Continue reading

The Perils of Partitions: Iraq & Syria

I just published an opinion piece on entitled “The Perils of Partitions: Iraq & Syria” which begins:

The idea has been suggested repeatedly that Iraq, and now Syria, need to be partitioned.  As the argument goes, the region’s post-World War I boundaries, which were drawn by the British and French with little regard to local realities, should not be defended.  Both Syria and Iraq are socially divided along sectarian lines. According to this reasoning, once each sect has its own state, the conflicts engendered by these divisions will disappear or at least be minimized.  As the argument goes, Iraq is already partitioned, to a degree, given the legal autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is the most peaceful and secure portion of the country.

Proposals to divide Iraq and Syria along different boundary lines make a lot of sense and are very attractive.  The only problem is they will lead to massive population displacement, the impoverishment of minorities, and genocide.

(Read the article…)