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Salient Ignorance

But on the southern borders of Russia, the salient Muslims are Shi’a. ~Marty Peretz

Perhaps this is being too picky, but I don’t think so.  The “salient Muslims are Shi’a,” are they?  What does salient mean?  It either means protruding or projecting forward, sometimes used to refer to a point in a line of fortifications, or it simply means “strikingly conspicuous or prominent.”  Scan the southern border of Russia, friends, and find me a prominent Shi’ite group anywhere along that very long border.  They are not to be found in any numbers at all–certainly not so that you could call them the “salient Muslims.”  Neither in Georgia, nor in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.  Where they are to be found, they are in the extreme minority.  Strangely, there are no prominent Shi’ite groups in Mongolia or China.  There are some more Shi’ites in Azerbaijan, but that’s it.  Presumably Peretz refers here to Iran and Iraq, which are distinguished by having no borders with Russia, or at least no borders on terra firma in the case of Iran. 

This prompts me to set down Larison’s Fourth Law of Foreign Policy Commentary: When writing on a particular region, actually knowing something about the region’s geography is mandatory.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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