Borderlands, Midlands or Whatever

azerbaijan photoReading articles of George Friedman is always entertaining. Recently he traveled to Azerbaijan to reflect on the geopolitics of that particular region around the Caspian sea. From there he wrote an article, Borderlands: The View From Azerbaijan. There are quite a few interesting things in this article that I would like to reflect upon.
I have envied to be in the position of George Friedman for quite some time now. I have been reading Stratfor for almost the past thirteen years now. I started reading it in the wake of spetember 11. At that time I was only a passive reader and I presume that even being that was a great accomplishment for me. Now I feel like becoming a writer of that class, and perhaps I being over ambitious. Nonetheless, the idea that George Friedman has took the pain to travel all the way to Azerbaijan to understand the region by assimilating in it to some extent is enticing in its own right. The fact that he reflected on the region so comprehensively form there is also quite commendable. While reading this article I wondered so many times that he must have roamed around on the roads, talked to people and must have sat in a park to eventually write his thoughts. Literally, it reminded me of my trip to Austria once where I read Simon SIngh’s book, Big Bang, in various parks of Graz. And when I was reading about Johannes Kepler, I was sitting in a park in which his statue was just in front me. I can imagine how one can feel while being so well connected in this way.
The article is very profound. The truth is that how George Friedman has reflected on Azerbaijan is very informative. I never knew so many things about that place that I know now. And I am sure plenty of the Muslims would not know many things as well. For instance, not only that plenty of the Muslims would not know that the majority of the people in Azerbaijan are Azeris, I suspect that most people would not even know what it really means to be an Azeri. It would not be an exaggeration on my part to say that most Shia people would also not know about such things.
The other thing we learn from this article is that the government of Azerbaijan is secular. I wonder if it is a good thing or a bad thing. However, if you are a western person, or a westernized person, you might be a little bit shocked at my previous sentence. In saying that the government is secular, George Friedman also points at the social status jews enjoy in Azerbaijan, and also Iran. Learning that jews can enjoy a decent social status in both countries and can even rise to the ranks of ministers and higher officials is only pleasing. But it appears that George Friedman likes the secularity of Azerbaijan more than religiosity of Iran. This is somewhat concerning.I look at this as a problem. I look at it from a unique vantage point. And my vantage point ensues from my interaction with Europe and my readings about atheism. The fact is that I get a feeling that George Friedman finds it rather better for a country to be implementing human rights when it is secular as opposed to when it is religious. I find it evident from his tone. I wonder about this from a theological point of view. In awareness that one of the reasons that people abandon religion is because it is supposed to create rifts in the society, at the very least, and bellicose conflicts in the worst case. Islam is particularly framed as a terroristic religion in Western countries. It is not uncommon to find a poster in Copenhagen featuring a bearded man with a turban on his head, possibly with a bomb in it. It is a pity that Islam has earned this reputation. People tend to abandon religion for these reasons. I was in Copenhagen last winter when I read an advertisement on facebook that was about a cemetery free of religious symbols for atheists in Copenhagen, Odensea and other parts of the country. It appears that there are people who do not want to buy in to religion even on their deathbeds. This is a pity.

But my question is profound. Why would someone be opposed to religion while it is actually practicing humane values. This is understandable. The truth is that in classical Islam there is a lot of room for other religions. Jews and christians are revered for being the people of the book. Specially concerning jews, who have had a really nasty history, one can find that their golden age was those seven hundred years in which Muslims ruled in Spain. They could become ministers in courts and they assumed dignified official positions in offices. Classical Islam is a lot more than that. We have heard about prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that he was a very just man. People used to come to him to settle their disputes. And when jews and christians used to come to him to settle their disputes, he used to settle their disputes according to Torah and bible respectively, as opposed to the Holy Quran, that was revealed on him, just like Torah and Bible were revealed on prophet Moses (PBUH) and Jesus (respectively).

Given this, one wonders that why people prefer secularity over religiosity. Obviously from a rational point of view it is possible that there is no God, although given the massive evidence chances are slim. But for sake of an argument, let’s say that God exists, then what is the harm in accepting this reality. I hope I have conveyed a part of my thought process comprehensively, although I feel that I need to refine my argument.

The last thing is very interesting. George Friedman goes a long way to discuss how Azerbaijan has been a subject of continuous criticism of the US state department for a long time for human rights concerns. It has been denied weapon sales due to such issues as well. George Friedman tries to play them down partly in wake of the need of Azerbaijan as a potential fixer of regional affairs particularly uprooted by Russia.

George Friedman is an opinion maker. He is also not any ordinary opinion maker. He does not do this directly. Neither is there any need for him to do it directly. The truth is that StratFor is such an enlightening institution that it keeps on informing its readers about geopolitical developments on a weekly basis in a way that no other think tank in the whole world does. Add on top of this cake the icing of objectivity and non-partisanship and what you get is a perfect way to bias yourself with its prophecies.

In as much as it is a good thing for countries to get closer, the truth is that their intentions need to be straightened up before they do that. Instead of liaising with Azerbaijan to counter Russia, would it not be a lot more wiser for the US to sit down with their diplomats and to try to resolve all the human right violations that the US thinks that Azerbaijan is guilty of, and to address some of the concerns of Azerbaijan has about the US. Making liaisons is obviously a good thing, as they can help us in winning wars. Intentions behind such liaisons matter to a great extent, as they can lead to lasting relationships and help in winning hearts.

The US made a similar liaison in the past with Afghanistan and Pakistan to counter the Soviet Union. Indeed, the Soviet Union was collapsed as a result of that. But some results of that relationship of geopolitical necessity were rather grave. And we have seen them manifest in the form of terrorism and war on terror.

Barrack Hussain Obama has been a good US president. He has been philosophical in choosing not to intervene in Syria in wake of use of chemical weapon. Moreover, he imposed some sanctions on Russia as a result of its intrusion in Ukraine. This has been a tremendous change in the attitude of the US foreign policy possibly for the first time in recent history. He and his administration needs to be commended for this. Would he make further liaisons that are genuinely candid or that fulfill geopolitical demands needs to be seen.

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