Sykes-Picot is not just a river in Egypt

Robin Wright’s New Yorker article about Sykes-Picot asks if the U.S. is fighting for middle eastern borders that will only continue to risk more fighting.

The Sykes-Picot agreement burdened people in middle eastern regions with a map that “ignored local identities and political preferences,” arbitrary borders and untold hardships.

“Yet the premise of American policy (and of every other outside power) today—in stabilizing fractious Iraq, ending Syria’s gruesome civil war, and confronting the Islamic State—is to preserve the borders associated with Sykes-Picot.”

The costs have been almost unimaginable. “Since August, 2014, the United States has invested more than eleven million dollars a day in military operations, including almost nine thousand airstrikes on Iraq and more than five thousand on Syria.”

What’s the right role for outsiders, if any, when people living in middle eastern countries try to change the maps based on Sykes-Picot?


Unfortunately the article follows the bog standard trope of everything is the fault of the West and magically absolves the combatants of any and all responsibility for themselves.

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How so? By not losing WW1? Rejecting the made up boundaries sooner?

Do you think the bit quoted in the OP isn’t a valid point?

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Starts out ok but bends the truth regarding American policy. There’s hasn’t been an actual policy on Iraq or Syria. See also the recent The Atlantic article on the Obama Doctrine

The key fact is that unlike pretty much everywhere that has stable borders, these borders in question were imposed by foreigners without reference to many of the sorts of factors that normally determine borders.

The West has consistently told the folks lumped with said borders to suck it up and play nice… I’m not aware of any moves to admit mistakes and revisit the matter by those ostensibly trying to fix the problem.

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Most of the New World and large chunks of Asia have foreign imposed borders, some of which are also unstable.

Same as above but again the regions referenced do not have as much history of constant tribal warfare.

I’m not seeing which language in the article that you’re referencing … where specifically you think there’s an inaccuracy.

I hear you don’t like aspects of the article which is fine … interesting even. I can’t understand why exactly though.

And at least one political assassination, right?

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In plain language, it’s absolves the local combatants of all responsibility.

Furthermore it takes the typical blind to history view that the region in question has cycled from chaos to strongmen for hundreds of years before Sykes Pikot.

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I respect your conclusion. I don’t follow the steps from premise to conclusion. And I would understand if you weren’t inclined to type those steps into a bbs on a Monday morning.

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