Drawing lines across maps and then pocketing whole regions as their property; they were very good at it and, while the “they” being referred to is the British, it could also be the French or any of the other colonial powers. Today it is the United States and its allies. Those allies are called “the international community”, and surprise, surprise, the “international community” includes …..yes, bingo, the British, and the French, and other erstwhile colonial powers
However, for the purposes of this piece, back to the “they” being refered to in the first sentence and have you ever wondered why the continent of Africa has all those straight border lines? Or, have you heard about the agreement signed by British India’s Sir Mortimer Durand, who we are told, was a Persian scholar and spoke the language fluently, but failed to impress his superiors in London, and Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman Khan back in 1893? The Durand Line as it came to be known established the border between what was then British India and Afghanistan, it ran cuts through the Pashtun tribal areas and, in the south, through Balochistan, and it divided Pashtuns, Balochs, and other ethnic groups. It was inherited by Pakistan in 1947 and …….. well it is a right old mess, isn’t it? Yes, they were good at laying the foundations for a right old mess.im
In his book ‘A Line in The Sand'(2012) James Barr contends that, unlike Sir Mortimar Durand, Mark Sykes did create a favorable impression on his superiors and that he left Downing Street after a meeting on the 16 December 1915 “he left the prime minister and his colleagues under the impression that he was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish”, when in fact, “he could speak neither.”(ibid: 8). Of course, that favourable impression was to lead to his being instrumental, along with his equally inept French counterpart, “a diplomat with a grudge” (ibid) Francois Georges-Picot, in the carving up of the Ottoman empire back in 1916. Furthermore, the manner in which they did so, was, according to Taki Theododoracopulus to show them (and by implication their governments): “as ignorant as George W. Bush was to be 87 years later.” He continues, by pointing out that “the 1990 wars over Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, the Gulf War of 1991 and the disastrous Iraq war of 2003, as well as the Israeli–Palestinian tragedy can all be traced directly to the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1920 and those two fools carving up the Middle East.”
Sykes might have had stupidity as his excuse. At least, that is suggested when Barr compares him to the “brilliantly clever” T.E.Lawrence, writing that the man who “left the prime minister and his colleagues under the impression that he was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish” (ibid), also “left Cambridge without completing his degree, but found a job through contacts as an honorary attaché at the British Embassy in Constantinople” (ibid: 38). There you have it! At best a person of the very crudest half education, at worse a veritable buffoon …… and the idiots causing chaos in the region today?
However, Taki Theododoracopulus, sees Sykes as ignorant, rather than stupid and there is even some hedging in that assessment when he suggests that, when they (Sykes and Picot) were drawing up the agreement “their minds were obviously elsewhere,” before adding in parenthesis, “most likely trying to figure out whose family was older and richer.” That is probably hitting the nail on the head and the “they”, the British, or the British establishment, while generally not very bright, are not particularly stupid. At the end of the day it really is all about “the family” and “getting richer” …. and, while millions continue to die in the Middle East, there is most certainly no cunning plan apart from the one where they get richer and stay richer. However, we should not take it too personally, after all its only business.