sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, April 15, 2016

What About the Kurds?

President G. W. Bush refused to partition Iraq based on its ethnic components (Kurds in the North, Sunni Muslims in Baghdad and Shiites in the South) because that would have been an admission that these tribal peoples, with different faiths (different sects of Islam), couldn't get along. Historically, they haven't been able to get along for roughly 1,200 years, but Bush and crew felt that inside every Iraqi, there was an American screaming to get out. Not hardly, but that's how American leadership felt at the time. And it all went to pot.

The second round of Syrian peace talks began in Geneva yesterday. One thing that is clear from the past five years of civil wars is that Western ideas about how Middle Eastern populations should govern themselves don’t work. The latest cumulative death toll for the Syrian civil war is 470,000 dead since 2011. The Iraqi numbers are far more grim than that, and I don't think that anyone is running the abacus on that.

It might be time to allow the people directly effected to try and figure out what will work and then run with that scenario.  I realize that's a revolutionary concept and as such it may take a lot of persuading to get the US to buy off on it.

The Syrian Kurds are moving ahead with their federal autonomy referendum and hope to finalize plans in six months. A Kurdish official leading the effort said it is time the West gave its full backing to the Kurdish plan. "We don't expect hostile parties to support this project, but we hope Western states that have lived the experience of unions and federalism to support this type of project." 

The official’s admonishment to Western leaders for opposing self-determination and federal solutions is well directed. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Western leaders invariably opposed federalism solutions that would alleviate ethnic suppression. They reflexively supported unitary structures that served mostly the interests of the ruling political and economic elites. Even the present Kurdish autonomous region in Northern Iraq faced heavy Western opposition until the Kurds persisted and proved they could defend it and make it work...and the shiites running Iraq didn't want to fight them.

Allowing for ethnic divisions within Middle Eastern nations adds a default 'safe zone' for refugees in Europe who need to be shipped back. I realize that it's not politically correct to assume that everyone won't get along -- but they won't. That's why reading history is useful. Many of the problems that western nations including the US have had in the Middle East and on the Asian Subcontinent could have been avoided if American decision makers took the effort to read history.
Advice from art (The Princess Bride) that you should NEVER fight a ground war in Asia is sound, even if it comes from a movie turned cult classic.
And, moving on, I keep hearing mostly conservatives saying that the answer to the civil war in Syria and Iraq involves arming the Kurds. In and of itself, not a bad plan but they will confine themselves to a defensive war of "Kurdistan". No, Kurdistan doesn't really exist. The Kurds have no actual homeland and wherever they are, the political machines work hard to kill them off, most notably in Iraq, Turkey and Iran. So no, they're not suited to be mercenaries, sweeping out of the hills to cleanse the upper Euphrates Valley of the ISIL plague. But helping them and arming them puts a weed up the ass of the Iranians and Turks and I'm all for that.