Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 5, 2006
By: Jonathan Dworkin

Thank You.

This will be my last post for the Washington Monthly. I want to thank Kevin Drum for taking interest in my trip to Iraqi Kurdistan and offering me a forum to discuss some of the issues it has raised. I also want to thank the readers of this blog, whose comments and e-mails preserve me from the feeling that when I write I'm merely dating myself.


KURDS AS LIBERALS....In Halabja we ended our work March 3rd, having interviewed three hundred patients about their experiences of the chemical weapons attacks in 1988. We have yet to do a statistical analysis, but my sense from an initial glance is that we may have underestimated the extent to which psychiatric and physical ailments continue to plague the community. One final excursion took me to a region called Howraman, which towers amongst the mountains bordering Iran. In her travels through Kurdistan in 2002, Christiane Bird, the author of A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts, was unable to visit the area. This is because until 2003 the mountains were occupied by the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, which consisted of Kurdish, Arab, and Afghan radicals, and the region was cut off from the secular Kurdish government in Sulaimania. Despite this the Howramis have a reputation amongst Kurds for cleverness, and after the American air force and Kurdish peshmerga pushed the terrorists out, many people returned to their villages to rebuild. Howramis are talented in medicine, and I am told there are more doctors in Tarwela, a small town we visited during our drive, than in much-larger Halabja. The region is also a visual feast, with small towns built into the sides of mountains, terraced hillsides that turn bright green even in early March, and deep gorges where springs support the growth of pomegranate and walnut trees.

What relevance does Howraman have for Americans? In his recent essay titled "After Neoconservatism," Francis Fukuyama takes issue with the notion that Americans can "'impose' democracy on a country that doesn't want it." Instead he defines democracy promotion as "a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective." Sensible enough, but I am surprised that Fukuyama finds no place in his seven pages to discuss Kurdistan. One thing that impresses me during my visit to Howraman is that it is an example of US policy actually working in the region. Unlike other parts of Iraq, the Kurds in Howraman were not fundamentalist by inclination, and a limited action by the American and Kurdish governments was able to restore their land and rid the area of terrorism. This is important specifically because it is not the case in most of Iraq, and yet it draws little attention in the West.

After two months in Kurdistan I am convinced that what applied to Howraman in 2003 can apply to the Kurdish region in general. The people here have many problems a meddling and opaque government being one of them but they also have many of the core qualities neccessary for liberalism to take root. Most importantly, they are not chauvinists. There is no theory of Islamic or Kurdish exceptionalism that is spread through the media or popular culture; on the contrary there is a great curiosity about outsiders and a desire to form personal and professional links with visitors. There is also the widespread expectation that the government must answer to the people and that delays to improve civic society represent genuine failures of leadership.

There is an argument pursued by some in the United States that Iraq consists only of factions, not citizens. This is true enough for much of the country, but in this argument the Kurds are inevitably presented as no more than the faction obsessed with seizing Kirkuk. The fact that they have built a university system, allowed a free press, begun to embrace feminism, and held successful elections makes no impression on proponents of this thinking. The Kurds' eagerness to work with UN agencies, NGOs, and private investors also leaves them cold. And the fact that the Kurds have done all of this while upholding minority rights and inviting displaced Arabs to settle in their territory, even after suffering a genocide conducted by an Arab government, produces only an icy shrug.

This thinking, which often masquerades as realism, is no less petty than claiming that Lebanese are responding only to clan politics, or that Ukrainians are motivated only by their phobia and hatred of Russians. In each of these instances there is an element of truth the Kurds do want Kirkuk, the Lebanese are fractured, the Ukrainians do fear the Russians but to reduce these groups only to their visceral motivations is to lie and do so cynically.

The future of Kurdistan is all the more important because of America's inability to stabilize Iraq. The people I am living amongst, whose friends and family members are fighting alongside American troops, wonder what will happen after a US withdrawal. The signs are not reassuring: Iranian meddling in Iraq's south is already a reality, and Ibrahim Jafari's recent visit to Turkey created panic that a deal is in the works to curtail Kurdish autonomy after America draws down its forces. What is certainly clear is that the Kurds face hostile neighbors on all sides, and the failure of American policy in Baghdad runs the risk of leaving them at the mercy of governments with no interest in their welfare and development.

As difficult as this situation is, America could easily consolidate liberalism's gains in Kurdistan, and in all likelihood it could do so without further violence. The most important thing we could do is simply keep Turkey and Iran out. In the longer run we could facilitate the democratic transition by working with nascent Kurdish institutions the universities, the press, the courts to ensure their relative independence from the political parties. This would be a greater challenge than merely preventing foreign interference, but a walk through Sulaimania would convince most visitors that even minimal investments in the region have made a positive difference.

Most importantly liberals in America should understand that to toss Kurdistan out the window alongside the rest of Iraq would be to waste a prescious opportunity, as well as to disgrace any notion of internationalism within our party. Kurdistan is not yet a full member of the free world, but you will not find a people more favorably inclined to America and its aspirations. That's worth remembering the next time you go to vote.


Jonathan Dworkin, a medical student in his final year at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is travelling in Iraqi Kurdistan from January to March of 2006. Other posts in this series:

March 5: Kurds as Liberals
February 18: In The Pediatrics Hospital
February 5: Halabja
January 25: Kurds and Jews
January 18: At Home in the New Kurdistan
January 14: City of Refugees
January 11: First Impressions

Jonathan Dworkin 3:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

"America could easily consolidate liberalism's gains in Kurdistan...."


This guy is loopy. "Consolidate liberalism's gains" ?? Does he really think the Kurds want a big national government to provide health care and day care and AID clinics and senior citizen homes?

Posted by: BigRiver on March 5, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

KURDS AS LIBERALS

This guy is loopy. "Consolidate liberalism's gains" ?? Does he really think the Kurds want a big national government to provide health care and day care and AID clinics and senior citizen homes?

Good question BigRiver. Also I didn't know Kurds supported gay marriage and abortion. *Snicker*

Posted by: Al on March 5, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

This guy has a medical degree and has traveled the world, but has zero common sense.

Posted by: Paddy Whack on March 5, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a daily reader here and very infrequent poster, but I just wanted to say congratulations on your excellent series of articles. And thank you for writing them. They have added greatly to what is already one of the best political blogs in the world.

Posted by: ppGaz on March 5, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Idiots. If you've been alive for the last 4 years you've read liberal and conservative pundits' articles about whether or not we can create a liberal democracy in the Middle East. I would be embarassed to post if I were as stupid as you, Al-bot.

Posted by: Matt on March 5, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan:

Do you have a statistician on your project? If not, indicate so, and I will get in touch with you.

Posted by: dataguy on March 5, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care about Kurdistan. I just don't. Toss it out the window or not. means nothing to me.

Posted by: CypherSpot on March 5, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

The Kurds are working on being stable, self-coherent and democratic, things Republicans, and all social conservatives, don't like in others.

Posted by: cld on March 5, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

The most important thing we could do is simply keep Turkey and Iran out.

Simply said, not so simply done. Especially unlikely to be done if all American forces withdraw on a predetermined schedule. It would also require an effort of lobbying carried out by those people who actively want the US to win the war, and some kind of passive acceptance by people who want American forces withdrawn.

Posted by: republicrat on March 5, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Another great poece, Jonathan. Ignore the snickering idiots above. But I'm not quite sure what we're supposed to do with exhortation to remember the Kurds next time we vote. How often is Iraqi Kurdistan mentioned, or even thought of, by notable Democrats or Republicans?

Posted by: Kenji on March 5, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I have always had an admiration for the Kurds because they have demonstrated the willingness to change. Reading Jonathan's post -- they have built a university system, allowed a free press, begun to embrace feminism, and held successful elections... ...eagerness to work with UN agencies, NGOs, and private investors... ...upholding minority rights and inviting displaced Arabs to settle in their territory... -- makes me admire them all the more.

Excellent work, Jonathan Dworkin!

I'm ignorant about why Turks hate the Kurds. Can someone point me to some cites or books?

Posted by: Apollo 13 on March 5, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Great post, Jonathan. I hope that you may write again here. I was so against invading Iraq, but always hoped that at least it would help the Kurds. These posts show that the real world is more complicated than what we think it is on blogs, in invasion plans, and in political posturing. We can't forget them, just like we can't forget the Afghans. We only have so many resources--financial, diplomatic, political. I think the Bush administration has squandered most of these resources which won't help the Kurds one bit.

Posted by: vaughan on March 5, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Jonathan, for your posts and for that great photo from Anab!

Posted by: PW on March 5, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that they have built a university system, allowed a free press, begun to embrace feminism, and held successful elections makes no impression on proponents of this thinking.

Dunno about proponents of other views, but as a librul, there's no question in my mind but that we want to support this sort of thing. Especially in this region.

The most important thing we could do is simply keep Turkey and Iran out.

Even before reading this post, I believed this was one of the things we could and should continue to do, even if Arab Iraq goes to hell in a handbasket. We can retreat to our 'enduring bases,' and use air power to bomb the crap out of any invading troop columns, whether on foot or in transport vehicles.

I also don't see why republicrat sees this as being a political problem. On the left side of things, this is part of what people like Juan Cole have advocated. On the right, I would hope that abandoning the Kurds would be regarded as a betrayal on top of a failure.

Posted by: RT on March 5, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Very nice post.

Posted by: cdj on March 5, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

A big thanks & tip of the hat to Jonathan & all members of the Kurdish tribe

Don`t give up, EVER !

Great stuff

"The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices." - James Carter

Posted by: daCascadian on March 5, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

I would also like to commend Jonathan for his work. I have learned a lot from people reporting on the ground over there. I suggest that Kevin put a permanent link to these articles somewhere in the sidebars.

RT:

"The most important thing we could do is simply keep Turkey and Iran out."

Even before reading this post, I believed this was one of the things we could and should continue to do, even if Arab Iraq goes to hell in a handbasket. We can retreat to our 'enduring bases,' and use air power to bomb the crap out of any invading troop columns, whether on foot or in transport vehicles.

The main problem our military is having today is that most of our enemies don't attack in columns and transport vehicles. We beat that part of Saddam's forces in two weeks. It's the people in civilian clothes who work inside the borders among innocent civilians, building car bombs and IEDs, that are the problem. No "over the horizon" air force can deal effectively with that unless we're willing to go back to WWII and Vietnam methods of indiscriminate destruction.

If Iran goes after Kurdistan, an insurgency and terror movement will be how they do it. Same as the rest of Iraq.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 5, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

So now you are trying to conflate liberalism with the successful reforms of Kurdistan.

Actually, all of Iraq is becoming a democracy and capitalistic, but those are REPUBLICAN values. Take a tour of Kurdistan, and I doubt you'll see any posters of Hillary, or Kurds getting married on roadsides and the women there carrying out late term abortions.

Nice try, Kev.

Posted by: egbert on March 5, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

This guy is loopy. "Consolidate liberalism's gains" ?? Does he really think the Kurds want a big national government to provide health care and day care and AID clinics and senior citizen homes?

I assume he is using the term "liberal" in the classical sense -- pro-democracy and a more or less regulated version of the free market.

However, seeing as how every developed country in the world besides the United States has a national health system, and so do many of the developing ones, my guess is the Kurds want one too. Ditto AIDS clinics, if needed. Day care and senior homes I am not so sure about.

Posted by: Les Brunswick on March 5, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

"...the government must answer to the people and that delays to improve civic society represent genuine failures of leadership"

OMG. As soon as the Bushmen hear that the Kurds are doomed.

The bombing campaign begins in... 5,4,3,2....

Posted by: Buford on March 5, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'd also like to add my thanks to Jonathan for sharing his experiences "on the ground" with his well-written, thoughtful articles.

Posted by: Keev on March 5, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

It's been quite clear for a couple of decades that Kurdistan has what it takes to make a strong democracy (albeit a bit of police state with respect to minorities). The question has always been whether Iraq or the greater region will be content alongside a strong Kurdistan.

Personally I think self determination almost always leads to improved human rights and peace. Whether it's breaking up Hitler's conquests, Yugoslavia, the British Empire, or the Soviet Union, it's generally a good thing. The UN is a much more effective at keeping armies from crossing borders than at stopping genocides within countries.

Posted by: toast on March 5, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Bush stepped in it this time. go here unless you regularly read the Hindustan Times.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1642376,001302100000.htm

Posted by: slanted tom on March 5, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

I should have made this more clear during my previous post, but when I complain about the Kurdish government as "meddling" I am NOT proposing that they adopt American-style free market healthcare. Most of them would laugh at the notion anyway. The problem is more a matter of who is making decisions - the ministries are all-powerful and local administrators and disempowered. This means, for example, that research becomes a matter for the ministries and the university is limited to a secondary role.

Socialist, capitalist, or inbetween, the real issue is getting the parties to stop micromanaging institutions that ought to be more independent as the country develops.

Thanks for all the comments. For the "loopy" crowd, please just come and visit. It's really the best antidote to cynicism. You don't have to take my word for it.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on March 5, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

The author didn't use the word "Democracy" anywhere in his article, except to repeat the claim that democracy can't be 'imposed.'

(Can't impose democracy? Tell that to post-WW 2 Japan and post-WW 2 Germany.)

Look at the title - he is talking about "Liberalism." He even says the Kurds have started to 'embrace feminism' - but doesn't bother to give the evidence. (Does he mean Kurdish girls can go to school, or does he mean the government pays for abortion on demand? Big difference, but we don't know what the author means.)

You can decide for yourself why he avoided the "D" word. (My own hunch is that he didn't want to give the impression he supported "democracy" because somebody might conclude he supported GW Bush. Wouldn't want that.

Posted by: Monkey See on March 5, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

RT: I also don't see why republicrat sees this as being a political problem. On the left side of things, this is part of what people like Juan Cole have advocated. On the right, I would hope that abandoning the Kurds would be regarded as a betrayal on top of a failure.

I agree with your points.

I have on previous occasions expressed the view that keeping troops there to prevent the reconquest of Kurdistan would be a good idea, and I think that it is likely. On these threads, some people have expressed the idea that it would be better to withdraw all American troops. I do not know which view (including other views that I didn't list) will dominate American politics.

I also think it likely that a majority of Democratic candidates will face challenges from people who want American soldiers removed right away, and as you know Representative Murtha did not say anything about leaving behind a sufficient force to guarantee peaceful Kurdish development.

Posted by: republicrat on March 5, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan Dworkin, thanks for the series of posts. I have on other occasions praised them. On another thread today I recommended that people read them all. Good work.

Posted by: republicrat on March 5, 2006 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Most importantly liberals in America should understand that to toss Kurdistan out the window alongside the rest of Iraq

Jonathan Dworkin 3:54 PM Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (27)

Yup, but to not toss involves shedding some blood and being the target of info-war/propaganda/bad press. Can liberalism do that?

Especially when it means you might be on the same side as Bushitler?

Posted by: McA on March 5, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

hey what do you know

monkey see is full of monkey doo(doo)

Posted by: almostinfamous on March 5, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still scratching my head at the bizarre sentence in the last paragraph, where Dworkin says Libs shouldn't "toss Kurdistan out the window alongside the rest of Iraq."

I think he unconsciously admitted Libs have tossed Iraq out the window. "Can't give Bushitler any credit, you know!"

Posted by: BigRiver on March 5, 2006 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

cld writes, The Kurds are working on being stable, self-coherent and democratic, things Republicans, and all social conservatives, don't like in others.

Oh goodness. If you were to take a look at the mainstream conservative blogs, you'd find that the Iraqi Kurds are very much admired for their grit, their decency, their willingness to fight for themselves and at the same time treat others decently, and their willingness to go forward. They're an open, tolerant, decent people. All Americans, Repub or Dem, conservative or liberal, should admire that and support the Kurds as they try to build a decent society.

If you want to see more of the Kurds, try Michael Totten's blog.

Posted by: Steve White on March 5, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan, thanks for your posts. Their enlightening and superbly written. Best of luck to you.

Posted by: Steve White on March 5, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

...and as you know Representative Murtha did not say anything about leaving behind a sufficient force to guarantee peaceful Kurdish development.

The discussion here in the States follows the lead of the president. Bush has made essentially no effort to go into detail. You're satisfied with his approach to informing the public?

Eventually, probably in spite of Bush and the GOP, the discussion will get more nuanced.

But GWB has already told us, "I don't do nuance."

***Thank you, Jonathan. Particularly your wise advice that the best cure for know-it-all armchair cynicism is to get off your ass and get out into the world and talk to people whose worlds are very different than our own.

Posted by: poot Smootley on March 5, 2006 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

I missed most of this series, so I went back and read parts of it. The "Kurds and Jews" entry was a little disturbing. Jonathan hears a Kurd say something racist about Arabs They've got 25 countries already, so what are they complaining about? (So it would be okay to ethnically cleanse Canada since there are so many other countries where English is spoken.)

Based on the keen ethical and historical insight displayed by his Kurdish friend, Jonathan concludes that Kurds and Israelis are a liberal match made in heaven. I suppose by some Paleolithic definition of the term, where two tribes can bond over their common hatred of a third, he's probably right.

Posted by: Donald Johnson on March 5, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Amusing, delusional and typical of what happens when someone who has to rely on translated spin comments on something.

Liberal (in the US or any sense) Kurds? Rewind 5 years and you had tribal warefare between the Talabani and Barzanis, mate, and despite the Kurdish spin, there are clear signs of less-than-Disney-like behaviour towards Arabs and Turcomans in Kurdish territory.

Donald Johnson has it right supra, re our dear Dr's observations.

And for poot, I ain't no armchair observer, old Mid East hand actually.

Posted by: collounsbury on March 6, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

As always, fantastic post Jon. I am in awe of your work and your words.

Posted by: Andrew Slack on March 6, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Nice try, Kev."

Um, nice try, Mr. Doesn't-notice-who-posts-what.

Posted by: Kenji on March 6, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding Kurdish bad behavior: Not all Kurds are warm and fuzzy. The civil war here in the '90s was a disaster, but hardly makes the case for my opponents because it was also resolved with simple US diplomatic pressure. In addition since when is saintliness a criteria for support? Common interests and mutual aspirations aught to be enough.

Regarding: "I ain't no armchair observer, old Mid East hand actually."

I'm simply dieing to know what that entailed.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on March 6, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

there are clear signs of less-than-Disney-like behaviour towards Arabs and Turcomans in Kurdish territory.

Posted by: collounsbury on March 6, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

there are less-than-Disney-like behaviour of Americans towards native Americans,blacks and Latinos....

Posted by: McA on March 6, 2006 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, but we didn't have Jon Dworkin claiming that there is absolutely no chauvinism on the part of white Americans towards others, as he does w/regards to the Kurds.

I agree w/the general thrust of Dworkin's post, but let's go into this with eyes wide open. Kurdistan is not going to develop into liberal democracy. It is still a clan-based society with a very conservative rural base, plenty of honor killings, and dominated by clan headmen who still own all the guns. That a more liberal urbanized elite is beginning to form is great and should be encouraged, but let's be honest, Iran and Iraq looked this way not so long ago.

Posted by: tequila on March 6, 2006 at 5:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's quite obvious that Kurdistan will not be part of Iraq in any meaningful way. It's also obvious that some kind of US force will be in Kurdistan for quite a while, because the Kurds want them to stay to protect them from their neighbors.

Now, obviously the Kurds may be able to take care of themselves to some respect. After all, they kept Saddam's troops at bay all throughout the nineties with only the aid of the no-fly zone. So I'm not sure that we're talking about ground troops here.

And exactly who are we going to be defending Kurdistan from? Turkey? Maybe I'm just cynical but I doubt that any US government is going to sacrifice our relationship with Ankara to help the Kurds. Iran? Look, Iran is not very likely to invade Kurdistan. Iraqi Arabs? Well, OK, maybe, but such a conflict would almost surely be merely a part of a larger civil war involving Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, etc. Thus I am not sure that the US will be able to cleanly divide their role into "protecting Kurds". All in all, I think it's rather unlikely that there is going to be a serious threat to Kurdistan's independence in the near future, anyway, so all this talk is a little overblown. Yes, Kurdistan has a lot of enemies. But all its enemies also hate each other more than they covet Kurdistan.

Posted by: kokblok on March 6, 2006 at 7:31 AM | PERMALINK

>The most important thing we could do is simply keep Turkey and Iran out.

Oh, ok that's easy then. Not. Read the following knowing I'm very, very sympathetic to what Jonathan wants (unlike the neo-trolls who just want to play Great White Father from a safe distance, oh, and not pay any taxes either).

Actually, if Bush wasn't such a moron (although compared to his lapdogs above he looks at least sentient) this would have been a good place to start. I'm certainly for a country called "Kurdistan", but we can't just impose another set of borders in the region and say "Like it or Lump It".

Number 1, Turkey. When Turks spit out the Right's most beloved characterization of The Other, "Terrorists" they mean Kurds. And they have a lot of Kurds within their borders.

Imagine - ignoring for a moment whether their are actual grievences behind it - if we had Canadians behaving in the US the way Kurds behave in Turkey. And most of the ringleaders, the financiers and plotters, just directed things from Canada. And most every Canuck-Terrorist we flushed out escaped across the border, where he was not only protected by the Canadian army but by the UN.

How do you pick your way thru this minefied? Well, the first answer would have been to elect somebody with a brain like Al Gore or John Kerry, but that didn't happen. So the best we can hope for is to point a lot of American guns at Turkey and tell them to live with what they consider state-sponsored terrorism. Well, they aren't gonna.

Number 2, Iran. Or more correctly, the aggressive fundie sects of Iran. Jonathan went on and on about how interested the Kurds were in apparently becoming a mid-east Sweden, but he kinda blew right by the part about "the mountains were occupied by the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, which consisted of Kurdish, Arab, and Afghan radicals."

Oh, so we can't just keep Turkey and Iran out, we have to police Kurdistan against people that *we* decided are some tiny minority. Some tiny minority that managed to control an entire region. Hmmmmm, where have I heard assertions like that before.... We can't just kill these people like the Right thinks solves everything, we gotta talk them out of the whole Superhero In The Sky philosophy. Your religion is fine, just keep it in your own house. Oh, and if your daughter doesn't like it, when she turns 18 she can walk and you can't do shit about it.

Unfortunately, we can't put it that bluntly. Hell, we can't even manage to get people to see it that way within our borders. See Dakota, South.

Kurdistan is a tough nut to crack and would have been a real good learning ground for how to deal with the Middle East... but Bush has fucked the region up beyond belief and they are probably one of the groups who are going to pay hard for his stupidity.

Posted by: doesn't matter on March 6, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

When the US military is forced to leave Moslem Iraq, the logical shift should be to the Kurdish region as an interm move to withdraw from Iraq.

Posted by: Avenger on March 6, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

This is precisely why Bush 41 and other American conservatives abandoned the Kurds while Saddam was in power.

American onservatives hate liberal societies.

They hate democracies they can't control and coopt to their particular brand of tyranny and turn into democracy-by-appearance-only.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 6, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Reading through it all again, it just seems so obvious that you went in with preconcieved ideas, and found what you wanted to justify it. Reporting "but my sense from an initial glance is that we may have underestimated the extent to which psychiatric and physical ailments continue to plague the community." as if it was some amazing new insight really reinforced it to me - there is some dishonesty in the presentation. You went there to find exactly that.

I'm glad the kurds have found a moment of peace and tolerance, assuming your views are really accurate. But that can change in an instant, especially in a country still essentially run by clans and warlords. There have been no real steps towards democracy that I've read about, unless you count people going to vote for national representatives for parties they were told to vote for by their clan heads. For a constitutional process that was already a forgone conclusion because of the rules imposed by the occupying forces.

Kurdistan should be independent. Iraq will never offer it anything. Nearly all Kurds want that, especially at the political level of their society. They have oil wealth to live off of and bargain with. The've been kicked around by the other players in the region and the west for long enough.

The US protects them for now. But with the current administration, the second the kurdish leadership tries to exert authority and independence over their oil, they will become the enemy to the US. Right now, it is serving everyone's interest to pretend there is no difference in goals, and ignore the fuzziness of the boundaries. That isn't going to last. The US didn't go to war to let the Kurds pump their own oil. The Iranian Shia nominally leading the country aren't going to let that oil wealth go. The kurds have been given a bit of space to resolve their internal conflicts (are they really resolved?), but unless they strike a deal to let Exxon or Shell run their oil fields, the US will not support their independence. And if those companies do run their fields, they will find the wealth they supposedly had to build a country is being siphoned out for a pitance of its value, and the people working the fields will get none of it, just like in every other poor country Exxon and Shell operate in.

The US needs to get out, and blue helmets need to go in. It only a matter of time before the US policy for the Kurdish area and Kurdish desire for autonomy diverge, at least with this administration. In three years, it is very likely their will be a peshmerga insurgency against either the US occupation or the Iranian Shia central government solidifying their power and authority over the country.

The Kurds need international protection, and a real nation building effort from the outside, but utilizing and respecting the local populace (as opposed to the KBR nonsense happening all across Iraq). Neocons want to point to Germany and Japan - they got huge sums of money and effort towards building something the people in their country could care about and covet the stability of. They were given jobs, the power to make their own businesses that could partake in the reconstruction.

The neocon fantasy about building democracies is a smokescreen - neocons don't believe in democracy. They believe in markets opened to US domination. In their mind, democracy is an econmic system, not a a political one. Or, perhaps more precisely, they don't see a difference. "One person, one vote" is not democracy to a Neocon. "Sellable to any highest bidder" is.

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 6, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

A few points for the sake of clarification:

1) I organized a trip to Kurdistan in part because, having read about the country, it seemed worthwhile to try a collaboration. To that extent I am guilty of a "preconceived notion" - i.e. the notion that Kurds would make good partners.

During my time here I've been disappointed by some aspects of life in Kurdistan (e.g. the political parties, which are a big problem). I've been as honest about this as I could be and devoted most of an entire post to it.

On the other hand some notions proved accurate, most importantly the thought that Kurds are logical partners. I can't see how I could possibly conclude otherwise based on my experiences here, and I've tried to explain why as I've gone along.

2) Someone earlier asked me to provide an example of feminism in Kurdistan. It's more in public life than domestic arrangements (e.g. I'm always a little uncomfortable when all the women in the house clean up after me). But in public life it's real - there's now women ministers, lots of women graduating the professional schools, even women soldiers. Ofcourse it hasn't gone nearly far enough, but it is changing.

3) Regarding predictions of Kurdistan's future: The thing that irritates me the most is when people discuss what will happen as if they don't have a say in the outcome. It's not inevitable that Iran or Turkey will meddle in Kurdish affairs any more than it's inevitable that the Yankees will win the World Series. As Americans, and as liberals (for those such as myself who define themselves such) we have a significant role to play in the future of this region. Discussing it as if we're passive observers concedes far too much.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on March 6, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

The world wants stable oil supplies. The Kirkuk and other nearby fields (recently estimated by a Canadian run oil consulting firm to contain 40 and 45 bil barrels respectively), managed by the Kurds, run through the already established pipeline into Turkey, is quite a hand that the Kurds can play.

While it's true the Kurds haven't yet managed to re-establish their border so that Kirkuk is brought back into their border, they have a very good claim for doing so. It hasn't been that long since Saddam pushed their border to just north of Kirkuk. But, they have signed a contract with a Norwegian firm to help extract from the oil fields that they do control. This firm has already brought in a big, Chinese manufactured rig. It seems clear that regardless of whether the US stays or goes, oil production in southern Iraq is not going to be a stable proposition for many years.

Some issues for the Turks to consider: their application for the EU, the world's huge thirst for oil, having a buffer between their southern border and the chaos that is central Iraq. The way the Kurds have conducted themselves overall since the start of the war has enhanced their standing. Their reputation has morphed from a potentially dangerous separatist group to the only sane actors in Iraq. It is just possible I think that the Turks could enter into an agreement with an independent Kurdistan rather than going in and attacking.

Posted by: stanley on March 6, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I meant to include a thank you to Mr. Dworkin for taking the time to post here.

Posted by: Stanley on March 6, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathon, it's been a pleasure reading your work. Hope you sit in again sometime!

Posted by: zak822 on March 6, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

As a liberal, I want to specifically acknowledge that our use of our military force has helped Kurdistan enormously.
I had always heard that the Kurds were highly fractious, that this was why there neighbors had been able to carve up their territory.
Was that untrue or have they learned to do better?
We really should do what we can to support their hard work.
And thank you so much to Jonathan Dworkin

Posted by: kevin on March 6, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

poot Smootly: The discussion here in the States follows the lead of the president. Bush has made essentially no effort to go into detail. You're satisfied with his approach to informing the public?

I merely noted it was no simple thing for American forces to remain in Iraq to protect Kurds.

And for others, Israel has sent teams to train the Kurdish security forces, so some cooperation is in fact happening.

Posted by: republicrat on March 6, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Of all the things Jonathan has written, this is possibly the stupidest, most ignorant, naive piece idiocy yet:
3) Regarding predictions of Kurdistan's future: The thing that irritates me the most is when people discuss what will happen as if they don't have a say in the outcome. It's not inevitable that Iran or Turkey will meddle in Kurdish affairs any more than it's inevitable that the Yankees will win the World Series. .... Discussing it as if we're passive observers concedes far too much.

Iran, Turkey and Syria all have direct state interests in the Kurdish north of Iraq. Interests that are not merely naive center-left hankering for "good things" to happen to the nice Kurds who so charmingly lied to you during your visit.

They will intervene, and with better human intel,c closer forces and longer term interests, are likely over the longer term to do better than the ignorant American wooley headed Left (as as well its messianic Right Bolshy interventionist Right) in doing so.

Now, as to this, Regarding: "I ain't no armchair observer, old Mid East hand actually."

I'm simply dieing to know what that entailed.
Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on March 6, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure. Lived in the reigon, learned the languages, decided to do businss. Direct investments, and similar sorts of things. Even tried to put a steel factory of some sort into Suleymane before it became clear all was well and truly fucked into a cocked hat.

Now this response amused me:
I said
there are clear signs of less-than-Disney-like behaviour towards Arabs and Turcomans in Kurdish territory.

Posted by: collounsbury on March 6, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

there are less-than-Disney-like behaviour of Americans towards native Americans,blacks and Latinos....
Posted by: McA on March 6, 2006 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, comparable a bit of descrimination towards latinos and the like, and Kurdish secret prisons, disappearances of Turcoman and Arab community leaders in disputed areas, etc.

Iraq is well into a Lebanese war kind of logic, dpuing oneself that one side is really in fact "liberal" when in fact it is tribal and particularist is a great way to do truly stupid things.


Posted by: collounsbury on March 6, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Reading through it all again, it just seems so obvious that you went in with preconcieved ideas, and found what you wanted to justify it. Reporting "but my sense from an initial glance is that we may have underestimated the extent to which psychiatric and physical ailments continue to plague the community." as if it was some amazing new insight really reinforced it to me - there is some dishonesty in the presentation. You went there to find exactly that.

WOW!! What a totally ignorant and totally idiotic statement.

EVERYONE EVERYWHERE DOES EVERYTHING WITH PRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS!! It's called "intelligence." Using intelligence means you make predictions, you form pre-conceived ideas, you guess ahead of time.

If you didn't do this, you would be an idiot. Like the author.

Posted by: POed Liberal on March 7, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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