Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When has Partition Ever Been a Good Idea ?

The material for the next two posts comes from an article “Plan B in Afghanistan: Why a De Facto Partition is the Least Bad Option” by Robert D. Blackwell, which appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Blackwell argues that a De-Facto partition with Taliban forces controlling the Southern and Eastern parts of Afghanistan, while the central government in Kabul backed by the Afghan National Army and a force of up to fifty thousand U.S. troops controls the rest of the country at least until the national army is strong enough to take back the south and east is the least bad U.S. policy option.

 In the second post, I will discuss the problems with Mr. Blackwell’s partition idea in relation to Afghanistan. For the moment though, I’d like to take a few paragraphs and discuss the problems created by partition: real or de-facto.

In the post World War II era, there have been several noted instances of partitions or dividing lines. Most of these divisions occurred as a result of war and conflicting ideological stances like East and West Germany, North and South Korea, North and South Vietnam, and the partition of Kashmir in 1947. Has partition ever been a good idea?

If we are looking at partition in terms of the Cold War policy of containment, where the goal was to prevent the spread of communism than many of these results (two Germanys and two Koreas) did their jobs, while Vietnam fell into Communist hands because the war effort was bungled and the North Vietnamese overran the South. If we look at partition through the clouded lens of Cold War good and evil than partition was the right idea, but partition produced a perverse human reality that renders the cost of partition too high, in my opinion.

Lets begin with the 1947 partition of the disputed region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan that serves as the exercise of how not to execute a partition. Thousands of people where crushed to death or otherwise injured in the insuring title wave of humanity that was scrambling to get to either the India (Hindu) side of Kashmir or the Pakistani (Muslim) side of Kashmir.

 These things happen when you manage a partition in the middle of the night because the British where bidding to make a hasty retreat. Furthermore, partition was seen as a way to avoid all out India-Pakistan war…we all know what a brilliant success that’s been. Partition was hastily drawn mess that India received several Muslim areas and Pakistan ended up with Hindu majority areas, giving military minds all the reason they need to draw up war plans and incite incursions beyond the dividing line. Each side can claim they are liberating Pakistani or Indian citizens to justify such incursions. Three wars, several skirmishes, and two nuclear weapons arsenals give world leaders sleepless nights.

North and South Korea following their partition following the Korean War have engaged in similar behaviors to India-Pakistan with a series of gun battles, bomber plans flying provocatively close to South Korea, etc. More disheartening, thousands of Koreans where separated from their families on both sides of dividing line.  That is the true cost of partition, for whatever altruistic reason we give it, partition has forcibly broken apart families, separating them for forty years or more at a time through a restrictive dividing line or in the case of Germany, a large wall surrounded by barbed wire that was tenuously defended.

 I was only two in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was brought down, but the images of people streaming through the gap where the wall had stood have been seared into the human mind permanently as families once again became unified. What purposes do partitions serve? They bottle up dictators who brutalize their own peopl, they break families, and they don’t do a damn thing to prevent bloody conflict unless you erect a Berlin Wall  because the people in charge of the partition find a way to screw it up creating a laundry list of rationale for war.

 I guess one could claim victory in that we contained Communism, great we contained communism and it only cost millions of people their families, I call that a fair trade.

No comments:

Post a Comment