Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why not Kurdistan?

What should we do about Iraq? Though many are asking the question, few have answers. Today, our man in Baghdad, General William Caldwell IV, flatly announced that our current attempts to secure that city are, simply put, not working. The death count is skyrocketing for civilians, and U.S. soldiers are dying at numbers that are approaching -- and may even exceed -- the fatalities suffered during combat operations. Clearly, something needs to be done, but what? Pulling out rapidly would be disasterous for everyone, but in particular the U.S.; we aren't ready to stomach another Vietnam-like failure. Committing more troops might help -- emphasis on the might -- but we aren't ready to stomach escalation, either. What to do?

Let me propose one possibility: Kurdistan. The Kurds have been our greatest allies in this fight. They also happen to be the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country. As an added bonus, they happen to live in (a) the only relatively safe region in Iraq and (b) a region that has lots of oil. They also embraced democracy, and they happen to sit right on the border with Iran.

At this point, the U.S. needs to think about saving face. If the U.S. were to suddenly present a resolution to the U.N., calling for the creation of a Kurdish state, we could salvage some modicum of our huminatarian mission, and one day hopefully we could point to the successful creation of a democratic state in the Middle East. To be sure, Turkey will go bananas, but so what? We nail them with allegations of genocide and besides, we'll no longer need military bases in their country anyway (those would be moved to, you guessed it, Kurdistan).

What would happen in the rest of Iraq? Sadly, probably war, and murder, and terrorism. But that's happening already, and unless we're ready to permanently station 150,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, it will continue to happen. We need a pivot in policy, and I say we pivot around the Kurds.


Anonymous Nic said...

I really like the idea. My concern is that this plan hasn’t played out so well in Israel and I think it is very unlikely that countries are not going to just give up territory. I wouldn’t mind watching Turkey would also go apeshit.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Major difference is that Israel was layered in over another ethnic group that wasn't too eager to see Israel arrive. Kurdish region of Iraq has relatively few other minorties, though Saddam did try to funnel Sunnis into Kirkuk, in order to cleanse the Kurds of owning the oil.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One problem: Iraq is a sovereign state now. We have no legal standing for going to the UN to split up Iraq. Last week the Iraq government set up a procedure for Iraqis to vote on “federalism” in 18 months. And then there’s Kirkuk. If the US tries to split Iraq, it must decide who gets Kirkuk and no good will come of that. -- Big Daddy

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This strikes me as sort of a controlled-burn idea. We're letting the rest of Iraq go up in flames to keep a small portion of it safe and secure? And what's more, completely piss off a number of other countries at the same time? Turkey's the big one on that, but there are substantial Kurdish populations in a number of other countries, too. In a region where relocated populations are already such a huge problem (see Palestinian refugees in Jordan), creating a new state just seems as though it could make a bad situation worse.
I'm not saying I have a better idea, though. I think it might be time to save what can be saved (some Kurds), and otherwise give up the ghost. --Little Bro

3:55 PM  
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Anonymous Ben said...

Big Daddy: This administration doesn't strike me as one that's too concerned about legal niceties. The UN is my preferred route, but you could just as easily find some flimsy argument for defending the Kurds -- "They asked for our protection, and we have decided they deserve it" -- and move in.

Lil' Bro: The Kurdish populations in Turkey, Armenia and other areas strike me as an argument for, not against -- Kurdistan. There's no forced relocation, just the potential for voluntary relocation to Iraqi Kurdistan. I'm sure other countries will be pissed -- but they seem pretty pissed already with the current strategy.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps partition is the way to go, perhaps not, but my guess is that we’re going to find out if partition works; the winds are blowing in that direction. There’s been a (meaningless, imo) debate about “is Iraq in a ‘civil war’” – meaningless in the sense that the phrase is a matter of definition rather than specific criteria and I’ve avoided the term up until now. That, however, may have changed. The seizure of Amarah by Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia is, by any reasonable definition of the phrase, civil war. If it is the start of a new phase rather than an idiosyncratic act and is allowed to stand, Iraq is, for all practical purposes, lost from the US point of view. There will be no support for US troops to get involved in that sort of mess.

If Iraq descends into a classic civil war (organized forces fighting for control of territory and instruments of authority), your suggestions about supporting an independent Kurdistan make a lot of sense. And it may be the only way for the US to gain anything in the region. The Kurds don’t hate us yet and, given logistical support, the Peshmerga can probably handle things without direct combat support from US troops.

If this comes to pass, it’s probably in our interest to help the Kurds seize as much as possible (Kirkuk and the oil fields in the north).

I’m sure the Kurds would be delighted to establish an independent Kurdistan (duh) and can largely take care of things on their own, but after the thrill is gone, you still have two major Kurdish factions that have scores to settle.

-- Big Daddy

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a point that Kurdistan wouldn't be the same deal, that's certainly true. But disregarding international opinion is what got us where we are in the first place. I'm not saying necessarily don't do it, I'm just saying that we should think carefully before we go that route. I'm not sure there are any better options, though.


4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we talk about how badly the Seahawks sucked this week now. Can we ponder the mistakes made in settling factional differences between the Hawks and the Vikings and about how we should establish an independent Stevehutchistan? Or about how Nateburrelstan was a terrible mistake and we're all paying the price for revenge tactics.
-Adopted big brother

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