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.
Kurdish leaders view the sudden collapse of the Iraqi state across the north of with barely concealed glee, regarding this as a unique opportunity to strengthen their own hand.
There is historically only 1 way that has proven effective in alleviating hostilities between populations. Don't make me spell out this one way. Don't make me…..
OK. I will expound. Let the populations at war finish the war. The winner will then spell out the rules for it's control of the territory it just won. That's it. It's inarguable.
Ghenghis Khan had this truism mastered. Either fit into his empire, or he marginalized you. And when you were marginalized by Ghenghis Khan, you STAYED marginalized. Don't make me explain this to you, don't make me….
OK. If you didn't play by Ghenghis' rules, he killed you. And by 'you,' if that meant a population of a million or two, then a million or two of 'you' would die. And then, no hostilities remained. Works like a charm every time it's tried. Ghenghis wins, you lose. Deal with it.
Now, on to the Kurd/Sunni/Shiite squabble. Apply the Ghenghis solution, and see who is still breathing after all the shooting stops. Pretty dang simple. And effective…
They're trying to make it into the capital of Kurdistan, but there is still significant threat of invasion from Turkey to dampen that ardor. I am not suggesting that the Turks would hold Iraqi territory. It would be more like two armored divisions killing everyone and then leaving.
What about the Kurds? They are no business of the US government or responsibility of the American tax payer. Bring all our troops home and use them to guard our borders. Nothing in the Middle East is worth one drop of American blood or one ounce of American gold.
The Mongol model works. There was a Pax Mongolia that extended out from Karakoram for two hundred years. And while I'm not arguing that it worked and works, the situation that the Kurds find themselves in by not holding territory "officially" is more challenging.
That the Kurds have not been totally wiped out by Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey is mute testimony to their staying power. But without us loaning them/giving them armor and a vast logistic train, their capacity to march to Baghdad, for example, is limited.
There are advantages to be had by keeping them alive (on the cheap) that exceed the disadvantages of having them wiped out in my opinion. That doesn't include sending them US troops. However as the map above shows, the US had placed its base in Syria in the center of a Kurdish controlled area.
I admit to not being able any longer to sort out what the heck is going on. There seems to be so many players they have become one big muddle in my mind (what's left of it.) I'm sort of with Fredd. Let them sort it out.
Thanks for the Friday briefing. If Hillary manages to avoid prison and becomes President, would that make Huma the princess bride?
My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
I agree, with the caveat that doing what we can to help the Kurds will really anger the Turks, Iranians and Syrians and sometimes I'm one who likes to stir the pot.
It's entirely possible that Huma could serve that role, though since her family are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, she'd have to wear a burka…which is a type of Muslim pantsuit isn't it?
Fredd's solution is the only viable one I can see. History!
I anticipated that response from you, and you would have put the poison in your own cup, knowing that I would select that cup!
Can't I tinker, just a little, with the outcome?
You're catching on!
Kurds? Oh. Kurds – I thought you said Nerds. Never mind.
I vote for funding/equipping the Kurds! Anybody that puts a burr in Iran's ass is good for me! 🙂
Arming the nerds?
Not a great idea…unless people consider us nerds. In that case, it's a great idea.
Yeah, it's a good idea to make Iran as uncomfortable as possible.
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