As my post-finals treat, I’ve been watching Season 3 of the West Wing. One of that season’s major themes involves the Arab, Islamic state of Qumar whose Defense Minister funds terrorism. To the left is a map of the Middle East with Qumar.
Those familiar with the region will immediately see the problem: Qumar is a big chunk of Iran made into an Arab country. For those who are less wonkish, please look to the right for a map of the actual Gulf.
With only a semester of history on the region, my mind boggles to imagine what it would mean for the UAE to not be across the water from a Persian state, but from another Arab one. So much of the anxiety of Gulf states comes from the historic stare-down that is the Gulf.
For the fictional Qumar to exist, what Arab army would have had to make the rush across that narrow straight between UAE and Iran? Perhaps, in the world of the West Wing, the great migration from Yemen in the sixth century which populated the coast of Oman could expanded to include that farther shore? Or perhaps the pearl fishers of Dubai and Doha militarized in the 19th century in response to early British excursions and took over the nearby coast? Most excitingly, Bushehr (of the nuclear reactor) is closely threatened not by a nautical invasion, but by a close, land-based invasion from an Arab state.
Playing with these maps isn’t just an exercise for TV designers–to the left is a vision of the Middle East split along religious/ethnic lines. Here’s the description:
“This map accompanies American military author Ralph Peters’s article “Blood Borders” in the June 2006 issue of Armed Forces Journal, purporting to show a greater Middle East with frontiers redrawn on ethnic/religious/political lines.”
Fascinating mental games with broad real-world consequences.
“Are we the same people I wonder when all our surroundings, associations, and acquaintances are changed? Here that which is me, which womanlike is an empty jar that the passer by fills at pleasure, is filled with such wine as in England I had never heard of, now the wine is more important than the jar when one is thirsty, therefore I conclude, cousin mine, that it is not the person who danced with you at Mansfield St. that writes to you to-day from Persia-Yet there are dregs, English sediments at the bottom of my sherbet, and perhaps they flavour it more than I think.”–Gertrude Bell