I propose that a solution to the current conflict in the Middle East is to create new nation states but within a framework akin to the European Union model. My starting point is to offer two views on the condition of nation states in the Middle East that support the need for such a solution.
The first is that with so many failed states in the region the need exists to rebuild them into working viable nation states. The definition of failed states varies in literature where examples in the Middle East can be identified as Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Yemen, all who no longer have working central governments, are fragmented and have internal armed struggles. This view premises the supremacy of the international system where the main actor is the sovereign nation state.
The second view is that existing state borders in the Middle East don’t represent their populations and are now past their sell by date given they were imposed externally 100 years ago by the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot agreement and the British Balfour Declaration.
I propose that a solution for these two views is to press forward premising the European Union model. This accepts and recognizes that the nation state is a noble cause for nationalism and all associated with identity and self determination. However closed borders between states caused Europe centuries of wars. Open borders for individuals, while still retaining territorial sovereignty, but with a sharing of resources was a means of resolving conflict in Europe.
The European Union model introduced into the Middle East would redraw state borders and open them between each other for the free movement of people, goods and services. This would also resolve the aspiration of the Palestinians and the Kurd’s, for example, who seek a nation state, but at the expense of existing borders.
To justify my proposal I turn to international relations as a field of study that popularizes the sovereign nation state as the main actor within the Westphalia international system that also premises the Charter of the United Nations. I recognize that traditional religious and tribal leaders around the world don’t always favor the nation state as some of them have closed borders between their supporters.
I rest my case against these opponents that a central government is essential to providing such services as health, transport, communication and education. Opponents can further be placated through open states but with borders akin to the European Union model, respecting human rights and the freedom for individual beliefs and practices.
Thus the problem in the state system found in the Middle East is not identity, self determination, nationalism or even the concept of the sovereign nation state but rather the closed borders between states and states that no longer have a working central government. The existing physical borders of states within the Middle East that determine its resources and access to the sea for example and the limitations that might be imposed on the activities of its citizens be it in travel, trade or transit, for example, continue to be the main causes of conflict and war.
It is because of this that radical non state groups with extremist ideological and religious views have sprung up attempting to assert power in the vacuum of any other authority. For example Hezbollah took control of the southern part of a fragmented Lebanon after decades of on that territory between Israel, Syria and the PLO. In Iraq and Syria Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Mahdi Army and more than 300 other groups via for control territory and resources. Such civil strife between many groups with anarchy and chaos is also found in Libya and Yemen.
I propose that a solution to such current conflicts and strife in the Middle East is to create new nation states but within a framework akin to the European Union model. Similar issues now facing the Middle East were experienced in Europe after World War II. Promising has been the ability of the European Union model to successful handle failed and disintegrated states, ethnic conflicts and civil wars. This is with reference to the Balkans in the 1990s.
The basic principles adhered to in the European Union since its formal inception in the Treaty of Rome (1957) and subsequent Treaties aim to resolve such conflicts and strife by placing the individual above that of the state. The Treaties agree to the sharing of resources with citizens of its member states permitted the right of residence, travel, trade or transit between and within all member states. All citizens have the right to express their religion, and other beliefs including economic and politics in all member states.
In my view emulating the model of the European Union in the Middle East would enable the creation of viable working nation states with stable governments within a transnational framework. There would be open borders agreeing to the sharing of resources with citizens of its member states permitted the right of residence, travel, trade or transit between and within all member states. All citizens have the right to express their religion, and other beliefs including economic and politics in all member states. Such a step would permit an independent homeland for the Kurd’s and the Palestinians.
The way forward to compromise and not only retain but to increase authority, power and sovereignty in the Middle East is the European Union model which is typified by win-win negotiating. In the win-win negotiating process all the European Union member states aim to achieve more through a collective arrangement over a larger territory with all its resources by relinquishing sole authority, power and sovereignty over a small part of that larger territory. The true winner is the individual who is placed above that of the state in having rights and benefits in all the larger territory.
The first steps of a win-win process in the Middle East are no different from those taken in Europe decades ago. This is treaties to share resources, to open borders, to grant individuals security, justice and opportunity across the Middle East and a process whereby disputes and conflict are resolved without resort to military force. A starting point has been the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Arab League has a role and responsibility to take this beyond the Persian Gulf. Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan and can do so with other states. Win-win can be achieved if there is motivation and self-control.
I accept that the notion of a Middle East Union akin to a European Union might be mocked by skeptics given current conflicts, and religious aspirations that don’t recognize nation states and entrenched monarchies. But then again no one in 1957 expected the European Union to be what it is to day except in the dreams of its founders. Who would ever imagine France and Germany not at war with each other over disputed land and resources? The moral is that if there is a wish and a will then there is a way to reach compromise and to resolve conflict while still retaining authority, power and sovereignty.