Well colour me surprised.  Separating people into homogeneous enclaves isn’t really an effective solution for creating a stable state.

The State, at its best, exists to serve its’ citizens.  We are on the verge of forgetting that conception here in the West.  Providing security so people feel safe day to day is what creates the initial conditions for harmonious existence together.  Alice Su, writing in Aeon Magazine,  makes a strong case for prioritizing a state that provides security for its citizens, and that the rest of the benefits of living in a stable society flow from that one key tenet.

“Overall, more recent scholarship suggests that ethnic partition does not protect minorities better. Nicholas Sambanis and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl at Yale University have used empirical geopolitical data to show that partition does not increase stability after a conflict. That is, states that are partitioned following civil war are no less likely to break out into war again than states that are not partitioned. Even in a fantasy case where conflict was driven by ethnic diversity alone, and all states were divided into ethnically homogenous nations, a decrease in intrastate violence would be transformed only into an increase in interstate conflict, the scholars note.

The inverse assumption, that ethnic diversity drives conflict, has also been challenged. In a 2003 study of ethnicity, insurgency and civil war, James Fearon and David Laitin at Stanford University found that more ethnically and religiously diverse countries are no more likely to experience civil war than others. Instead, conditions such as poverty, slow growth and weak states are the factors that create conditions for insurgency and make civil conflict more likely. Another study by Lars-Erik Cederman in Zurich, and Andreas Wimmer and Brian Min at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that ethnic groups are more likely to rebel when they are deliberately excluded from state power, especially if they experienced a recent loss of power, when they have higher capacity to mobilise, and if they’ve experienced past conflict. Clearly, the logic of sectarian conflict goes far beyond ancient tribal or religious divisions.

Instead of taking minorities out of the Iraqi system and returning to the paternalistic interwar model, there’s a longer-term, more effective way of protecting minorities: address the problems of power imbalance, corruption, security and the rule of law. Iraq’s sectarianism is not an inherent, ancient tribal problem, and addressing Iraq’s minorities through that lens is likely to worsen their situation.

It’s a fundamentally colonialist approach to deem that Christians, Muslims and Yazidis should live in separate communities. The more nuanced, sustainable solutions are the same as what would be done in Western democracies: protect minorities through integration, not separation; address rights violations by upholding equal individual citizenship; respond to a broken system by fixing its structural problems, not by taking people out of it altogether. As the Yazidi community leader Murad Ismael said to me: ‘If people were safe, there would be no sectarianism.’”