Kurdistan

A Few Saturday Links-War, War Photography & Domestic Politics: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Michael Totten at World Affairs: ‘No, the Syrian Kurds Are Not Terrorists

There are Kurdish Communist militias, but there are still many reasons for America to promote Kurdish interests.  Additionally, there are reasons to help stamp out ISIS and navigate the other players in the region as well…leaving the Kurds to their own fate.  I think this helps explain current American policy in the region:

‘Whatever you think of the “libertarian socialism” of Syrian Kurdistan, it’s not even in the same time zone as the medieval totalitarianism of ISIS, the secular nationalist tyranny of Assad’s Arab Socialist Baath Party regime in Damascus or the Putin-esque rule of the neo-Ottoman Erdogan.

Turkey can call the Kurds terrorists all they want, but that will not make them so.’

Meanwhile, an increasingly authoritarian, populist, Islamic Erdogan has launched a campaign into Syria to battle with Kurdish forces:

and:

As previously posted:

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Two Sunday Links-Turkey, The Kurds, And Affirmative Consent

Domestic Politics And The Tendency People Have To Seek Transcendence And Naked Self-Interest At The Very Same Time:

Beware offering thoughtful critique of the sacred ‘-Isms’ these days (feminism, environmentalism, racism, sexism), even if it’s just pointing out other ways of thinking about injustice.  God forbid should you hold a conservative position on any matter. Problems come with identity politics and political idealism, after all, just as they do with religious belief and certainty and fixed conservative positions.  Generally, such criticism is not welcomed among radically activated and/or ambitious individuals.

If someone doesn’t recognize the moral legitimacy of the rules governing an institution they claim is oppressing them, maybe you want to ask which rules they recognize as morally legitimate before they go end-up controlling the institution?

Civility and a boring politics aren’t desireable for many, for various reasons, especially those people bringing presumed moral goods for everybody through radical change and radical liberation.

It might be useful to try and hold a mirror to many ambitious people in high towers and positions of authority in addition to one’s Self; a perplexing exercise during a time of The Self and a rather compromised politics of celebrity.

There are a lot of decent people out there, and a lot of good in people, of course, away from the madding crowd.

The Church Of Holy Modern Human Progress Shall Be Built!

The Old Catholic Church Shall Soon Be Rebuilt!

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

That’s attributed to Eric Hoffer, here.

On that note, Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) takes a look at war photographers to highlight an underlying truth:  Where there’s courage there is also cowardice. Where there’s moral concern there’s also boredom and self-preservation.

Everyone’s got a pet peeve (what this blog is for, really), but honest self-reflection can be much harder (to come by):

‘That people may love what they hate—or say that they hate—is illustrated in extreme form by war photographers. If you asked war photographers why they risk their lives to take pictures of the most terrible conflicts (rather than, say, of the beauties of nature), they would say that it is to inform or alert the world in the hope of bringing those conflicts to an end. But this is far from the whole truth, psychologically speaking; and as a person who has indulged in a little civil-war tourism myself, I can avow to the fact that there is nothing like a sense of danger for solving, at least temporarily, whatever little troubles are agitating one’s soul. When there might be an ambush round every corner, the minor fluctuations of one’s emotional state are of little concern.’

Some Links On The Kurds And Where Some Moderate U.S. Political Ground Might Be Found

Russia appears a post-ish Communist, revanchist, fairly corrupt petro-State run by a ex-KGB guy. Russian leadership is actively paying individuals, groups and orgs to undermine Western interests and U.S. sovereignty.

If you believe in institutions which promote various conflicting, but often shared, Western-man-on-the-street beliefs in Western secular humanism (democracy promotion, the use of U.S. military force, the use of the U.S. military to preserve liberal world order, expansion of global liberty as residing within individuals, Constitutional and/or Westphalian-style state promotion, working for human rights etc.) then you likely don’t want to see Russian leadership gaining much tactical advantage.

The terrorist-sponsoring, post-1979, expansionist deliverable nuke-seeking gang in Tehran, the clinging, chemical-weapons deploying Assad in Syria, and our ‘friends’ in Moscow all share common interests; undermining U.S. strength and inhibiting Western influence are tops on the list.

Maybe Erdogan, consolidating his power autocratically and riding a deeper wave of Islamic resurgence and sentiment, will keep looking Eastward and continue to play both ends more than he’s doing now.

A lot of moderate political ground is now occupied in the U.S. by people lamenting the major rifts within both U.S. political parties, the celebrification of high office, and the lack of institutional stability, social trust and decently functioning politics. I suspect Trump has become a symptom of, and a lightning rod for, the changes occurring within and without our Republic.

As for the Kurds, well, they have some potential to reflect more of what most Americans would generally like to see out in the world (conveniently found in Israel and in many States having emerged from the Eastern Bloc).

Totten:

‘The Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis is poised to emerge victorious in the Syria war, stronger than ever, thanks to military assistance from Russia. Assad is surviving the biggest threat to his family’s rule since it seized power four decades ago. Short of political revolutions in Tehran and Moscow, he’s likely to die an old man in office. And he’ll have no incentive whatsoever to change his ways. He’ll continue exporting terrorism all over the region, and the next war between Israel and a now far-stronger Hezbollah will likely make the last one look like a peace process. The Kurds in Syria—our only true friends in that country—are likely to lose everything they have gained without American backing.’

I suppose we’ll see what happens, as the wise Kurdish position appears to be lobbying the hell out of anyone for support while recognizing they’re still on their own, scrambling to survive…

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap
As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Some Links On The Move Towards Kurdish Independence

Via Mick Hartley via the NY Times: ‘Israel Endorsed Kurdish Independence. Saladin Would Be Proud

‘Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds — both minorities in an inhospitable region and ever in need of international allies — have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. The Kurds have long patterned their lobbying efforts in Washington on those of Israel’s supporters.’

On the realist vision, there are no true friends, rather alliances, common interests and threats; vectors of forces.  There’s situational logic, and there are very real abstractions which matter (the character of a people, the ideas and core principles which guide them, the leaders that rise to power which can’t be too far in front of the coalitions which got them there…should they be elected).

There are also shared experiences, suffering, sentiment and sacrifices.

Relationships matter.

When the cold winds blow, however, you just may find yourself standing alone.

When survival is at stake, and war a necessity, urgency and expediency come to the fore, as does courage in battle, and cool under fire.

Not only does the Cold War and the backdrop of Russian/American power games still influence this region heavily, but the very split deep within the West itself does as well:  There are Communist Kurdish militias, and there are Kurdish nationalist militias appealing to American patriotism, Constitutional Republicanism, and the liberation of peoples oppressed under unwanted authority.

As posted:

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Race Incorporated & The Kurds-Some Links

Carving the world into ‘-Isms’, doesn’t necessarily require thought beyond the ideological framework in which it often arrives to new adherents, but it does usually require an emotional commitment and solidarity with others who find common cause.  This requires common enemies.

Ira Stoll at Newsmax: ‘Cries Of Racism Still How Left Counters Dissent

Should you make Civil Rights the highest bar in your moral universe, you’re bound to miss other points of view, much other moral reasoning, and eventually, if you’re intellectually honest, the shortcomings and consequences of activist politics.   Are you building things in your life (skills, relationships?) or are you drifting down the river of supposed liberation, justified in your anger, blame, political radicalism and idealism?

Why would you defer so much of what is in your power to make better, step by step, day by day, to a politician you’ve probably never even met?

To a bunch of people who have all the incentives to treat you as a means to an end?

Michael Totten at World Affairs:

The Kurds Are About To Blow Up Iraq:

‘Next month, on September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil will hold a binding referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq. It will almost certainly pass.’

We nearly overthrew Saddam the first time, encouraged the Kurds to rise up only to leave them to suffer horribly as he regained power.  We went in and removed Saddam, broke the nation of Iraq as drawn, and encouraged them again. Now they’re pretty much left to fend for themselves, except for tactical, some arms, and anti-IS support.

With the recent announcement in Afghanistan, it’s almost enough to make one think there are tactical, practical and deeper reasons to engage with the radical and violent people willing to do us harm at home (aside from the ‘world community concept and with actual allies with skin in the game):

Hmmm…so far restoring old alliances seems high on Trump’s list, at least on the surface:

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap
As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

On this site, see:Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Repost-From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Michael Totten At The Tower: ‘Why Arming The Kurds Is Worth Angering The Turks’

Full piece here.

‘Two years ago, Eli Lake published a quickly-forgotten Bloomberg View column about a U.S. weapons airdrop in Syria supposedly intended for the Syrian Arab Coalition. The problem is, the Syrian Arab Coalition isn’t real. It’s a made-up front group that exists solely on paper so the Obama administration could say it was arming Arabs when it was really arming Kurds. An unnamed U.S. official admitted to Lake that the group is a “ploy,” and Syrian Kurds confirmed that they received weapons and ammunition.’

Hmmm…so far restoring old alliances seems high on Trump’s list, at least on the surface:

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap
As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

The Fights Against ISIS & Further Left Illiberalism

Michael Totten as of 10/19/16- ‘The Battle For Mosul Is On:’

‘Even if ISIS were forced out of every last stronghold in both Syria and Iraq, it would still exist in some form, for sure, but the whole point of denying it territory, especially urban territory, is so it can’t amass military strength like a conventional state.’

Via Twitter, the fight goes on:

Via a reader, Dr Tino Sanandaji, a Kurdish-Swede discusses Kurds, Kurds in Europe, European immigration and Swedish immigration in particular, via the Rubin Report, which pursues a new form of anti-Left liberalism:

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As previously posted

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

VICE Via Youtube: ‘Peshmerga Vs. The Islamic State’

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As of June 2015, some of the tactics of IS, and a ridealong with the Pershmerga.

As previously posted:

Michael Totten: ‘What Just Happened In Syria:’

‘Look. Running guns and ammo under the radar to legitimate proxies in a fight against a terrorist army is entirely reasonable behavior on the part of the United States government. We’ve been doing that sort of thing for decades. Pretty much everyone else in the Middle East does it, too, but they almost always run guns and ammo to terrorist organizations rather than to groups fighting terrorist organizations.

Regardless, it’s high time we come out and say exactly what we’re doing and why. Everyone already knows we’re backing the Kurds against ISIS, and everyone already knows the Turks would rather see an ISIS victory than a Kurdish victory. None of this is even remotely a secret. It’s all right out in the open. Official denials aren’t fooling anybody.’

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Dexter Filkins At The New Yorker-‘ISIS Vs. The Kurds: The Fight Of Their Lives’

Full piece here.

Arguably, there isn’t an American journalist observing Iraq like Filkins. This is writing that ought to be awarded.

The Kurds are clearly our strongest allies against ISIS, and have been the best of an Iraq/Syria situation that may see a long-term redrawing of boundaries. Independent Kurdistan would threaten the interests of what’s left of the idea of unified Iraq, as well as Turkish and Iranian interests among others (Obama’s still pinning hopes on that tentative p5 + 1 deal with Rouhani).

Filkins does a deeper dive on the Kurds:

‘Obama has spoken carefully in public, but it is plain that the Administration wants the Kurds to do two potentially incompatible things. The first is to serve as a crucial ally in the campaign to destroy ISIS, with all the military funding and equipment that such a role entails. The second is to resist seceding from the Iraqi state.’

The Obama administration went so far as to block the sale of Kurdish oil against what’s left of Baghdad’s control of oil resources. Check-out this New Republic piece of a few months ago.

As to ISIS, these are clearly people with whom we can’t do business:

‘Alhashimi estimated that Baghdadi has about ten thousand fighters under his command in Iraq and twelve thousand in Syria, with tens of thousands of active supporters in both countries. In Iraq, the advance force, called the House of Islam, is dominated by foreigners, including several hundred Europeans, Australians, and Americans. Many of them are suicide bombers. Alhashimi says that the group is increasingly well funded; he estimated that it takes in ten million dollars a month from kidnapping, and more than a hundred and fifty million dollars a month from smuggling oil into Turkey and other neighboring countries, often selling it at the bargain price of about a dollar a gallon.’

Previous VICE coverage of the Islamic State, which highlights just some of what we’re dealing with:

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Filkins finishes with:

‘At a lectern draped with a Kurdish flag, Barzani apologized for the heat and urged the fighters to hold on a little longer. “Be patient,” he said. “Our day is near.” 

There aren’t friends, only alliances, as they say, and this alliance would be based on the past mutual interest against Saddam and his Sunni Ba’ath thuggery, and now ISIS aligning with some of those disgruntled Sunnis, and a new, broad platform for terrorism.

A few Kurdish fighting families could become oligarchic petro-leaders should they achieve independence, but nowhere in the region do we have such alignment of interests at the moment, and do we find people who might align with our longer-term interests.

Now that missile strikes and American involvement are ramping-up against ISIS, it’s worth examining. The Iraq invasion achieved certain objectives, but at great cost, and upon many failed assumptions of what could be achieved. Now we’re cleaning-up from an ineptly managed withdrawal based on failing and I believe, a deeply flawed and oft failed set of assumptions.

Islamism, and this particularly radical brand of Islam, with its patchwork of local politics and guerilla ideological warriors, united under global and universalist claims to supremacy, will be around for a while.

It’s thriving amidst such chaos and anarchy, and if you were President, you’d be dealing with it too.

See Also:  Dexter Filkins ‘From Kurdistan To New York’

During Christopher Hitchens’ 2009 appearance on Australia’s Q & A, he wore a Kurdish flag pin in solidarity and fielded a question from a Kurd (starts at minute 1:30…mentioned as the rest of the debate may be worth your time):

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Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

From The New Republic: ‘The U.S. Is Accidentally Pushing Kurdistan Toward Independence From Iraq’

Full piece here.

Things are getting interesting:

 The Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to export its own oil, against the wishes of the Iraqi and U.S. governments, saw a significant achievement last week: Reuters reported Thursday that a tanker carrying more that $100 million of crude oil was headed for Galveston, Texas.  But just days later, on Monday night, a U.S. judge sided with an Iraqi Oil Ministry complaint that the KRG had ‘misappropriated’ the one million barrels, and she ordered their seizure.’

If you’re Kurdish, I imagine after taking Erbil, you want to take further steps one at a time. America has a big stake in a stable enough Iraq to limit ISIS/ISIL, and coalitions that can keep the peace, as well as obligations to the Turkish government and others. Kurdish independence relies upon the continued disintegration of the nation-state of Iraq as we know it (it may be too late), and the disruption of Kurdish populations in highly militarized southeastern Turkey, chaotic Syria, and in Northwestern Iran.

Any reasonably interested observer wants to ensure that Kurdish fighting forces and Kurdish authorities are people we can do business with, not engaging in the kinds of sectarianism, tribalism and retribution so common in Iraq should they gain more autonomy, oil revenue and power.  As of now, the Kurdish portions of Iraq tend to be the most safe, taking in those fleeing the chaos unleashed.

See Also:  Dexter Filkins ‘From Kurdistan To New York’

During Christopher Hitchens’ 2009 appearance on Australia’s Q & A, he wore a Kurdish flag pin in solidarity and fielded a question from a Kurd (starts at minute 1:30…mentioned as the rest of the debate may be worth your time):

————————

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Two Thursday Links-Michael Totten On Western Sahara & A Possible Kurdistan?

Full piece here.

Totten visits Western Sahara, ‘administered’ by Morocco, parts of it run by the renegade communist Polisario. The region’s become a sort-of proxy for tension between Morocco and the deeply repressive, authoritarian regime in Algeria and various conflicting interests:

“The Polisario wanted to impose a communist structure on nomadic populations,” she said. “I don’t believe that has changed. The same people are the leaders today as when I was young. There are still Sahrawi children in Cuba right now.”

Imagine going to Cuba for ‘education’…

.The entire Sahara-Sahel region is unstable. Egypt is ruled again by a military dictatorship. Libya is on the verge of total disintegration a la Somalia. Algeria is mired in a Soviet time warp. Northern Mali was recently taken over by Taliban-style terrorists so vicious they prompted the French to invade. At the time of this writing, US troops are hunting Nigeria’s Al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram across the border in Chad.

This blog thinks Totten’s at his best while travel-writing, weaving observation, journalism, politics and his experiences together.

Has the spread of Western liberal democracy involved socialist, communist, ‘social democratic,’ and even broadly humanist influences within a larger Western spectrum? You bet, and some of these influences have produced repressive and totalitarian hybrids still hanging-on.

On This Site See: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …The End Of History?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

In other news…

If you’re the Kurds, you defend your turf, play it cool, gain valuable territory and bide your time:

From The Daily Beast: ‘Iraqi Kurds Declare Plans For Breakaway State:’

‘But it isn’t clear that Washington can rely on either the Turkish or Israeli governments to rebuff the Kurds. Officials from both countries argue that events are fast overtaking the Obama administration.’

Vice is embedding a reporter with the Kurds, because that’s probably the only semi-safe option amidst such instability:

————-

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’