Realpolitik in Kurdistan

I seldom read editorials in The New York Times, but I made an exception for one about Kurdistan. RtO has always advocated a free and independent Great Kurdistan. There are 30,000,000 Kurds, the largest easily defined ethnic/cultural/historical/linguistic society in the world without a national base.

RtO would also advocate for a free and independent nation for the Tibetans, if there were the slightest possibility of moving toward that. There isn’t, and maybe — if United States policy were more controlled — there wouldn’t be in Kurdistan. But, wisely or not, the United States has assigned itself the role of agitator in the parts of the world where Kurds live. We can influence the drive toward a Great Kurdistan and so we should.

That is not the view of the Times. Taking a break from its usual sappy idealism, the Editorial Board worries that independence “would heighten tensions, make it harder to stabilize Iraq and divert attention as the United States, Iraq and their partners work to defeat ISIS and rebuild Iraqi communities.”


Oh, is that what the United States, Iraq and their partners are doing? Well, they are doing a lousy job of it. And I am pretty sure that continued American meddling in the area has already heightened tensions.

It might be that our lack of success is not due only to incompetent military leadership and shortsighted policies. It might be that the people who live in the area have noticed the complete lack of principle behind our blundering activity. It might be that taking a principled stand for once would enhance our credibility.

And even if it didn’t, well, we’d have taken a principled stand. That’s not nothing.

Believe it or not, the Times is worried that “a Kurdish breakaway is risky; without sufficient preparation, it would further marginalize Iraq’s Sunni minority, already disenfranchised by the Shiite majority and prey to Sunni extremists like ISIS.” Perhaps the United States should have factored that in before destroying the Sunni government there.

That government did not deserve our support, but now that it’s gone it is beyond absurd to wish it back.

The Times also frets that a premature free Kurdistan without “democratic institutions [that are] are functioning, [and an] economy [that] is strong” will not function well. Just so, but that has not stopped out supporting, eg, the governments of Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The real point is, though, that the Kurds qualify for independence and we should support that. I doubt the Times editorial Board would support delaying votes for disfranchised minorities in the United States on the grounds that they are not yet ready for self-government.

And, if you want to take a global view of things, it’s hard to imagine the Kurds doing a worse job than the electorate that chose a President Trump, a Congress full of rightwing economic kooks and three dozen state legislatures full of racists, gun nuts and zealots against civil rights.