“Take the Iraq example, isn’t it likely that if a Kurdish enclave would have been created by the British, that the Kurds would have suffered much less and perhaps even had succeeded in building a well functioning state? For the Kurds it is quite clear that the issue of borders was and is THE problem.”
I agree, but here we are dealing with apples and oranges. The Kurds speak a different language. To use the nomenclature of the European case, they constitute a different “nation”, a different “ethnic group”, etc. The other Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Jews of Iraq spoke the same language. This difference cannot be obviated, as it is one of the defining features of ethno-nationalism.
“We don’t have much data to work with but clearly, the more homogeneous a state is in our region the more it is likely to succeed or the more it is likely to avoid civil strife.”
What I’m suggesting to you is that it’s very difficult to measure homogeneity when the element that is being isolated for comparison is changing. For the Iraqi dissidents and revolutionaries agitating for a state before WWI, the important binary was Arab-vs-Turk, not Sunni-vs-Shiite. Different tokens of identity take on political salience at different times. Things that are not politically salient today may be tremendously disruptive in a society 20 years from now.
To become a great basketball center you need to be tall but you also need to practice a lot. Both are necessary conditions. Yes, you can argue that you just need to practice and that there were a few smaller centers that made it into the NBA. But you should agree, that your chances of making it, no matter how much you practice are much, much smaller. The Sykes-Picot borders made the Arab states “short” as per this analogy. It made developing an open and trust based society very, very difficult. You are telling them they just didn’t “practice” enough.”
Ethnic/linguistic/religious diversity is the norm among countries in the world, not the exception. The average Arab country — when compared with India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, and countless other countries — has far less linguistic, religious, and ethnic diversity. To understand why many Arab states have failed on many indexes of human development, we have to look at something other than the ethnicity issue.
Look, to me, having a sustainable political and economic basis is both the “being tall” part of your analogy and the “training hard”. Having a homogenous population, however that is defined, is something else, like maybe having a cautious personality that makes you averse to risk taking. In most cases, that’s a good thing, because it means that you’re not going to get into a motorcycle accident and ruin your career. But sometimes, especially if the game itself begins to change because of external factors (new players, new rules, new economic pressures new markets, etc) being averse to risk-taking might not be such a great thing. Maybe it means that you can’t land a big endorsement deal, you’re viewed as having no personality, you won’t try some radical new training plan that all the other players are experimenting with. You get the idea…
This is an amusing conversation.