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August 17, 2005

Steven Den Beste On The Turkish Complication

Heck, if he's going to comment on my site, might as well steal his stuff for a post:

The problem here is to make sure that we don't sow the seeds of the next war in how we settle this one. That's the lesson of the Treaty of Versailles, probably the most misbegotten "peace" treaty in history. It virtually guaranteed another war by its terms.

Creation of an independent Kurdistan would certainly be popular with the Kurds, and we must be cognizant of the fact that they were the only Iraqis who actively joined us to fight against Saddam when we invaded. (For reasons of self-interest, of course, but the fact remains.)

However, if an independent Kurdistan comes into existence, it's only a matter of time before it ends up fighting a border war with Turkey and/or with Iran. I think even the Kurds know that, which is why they aren't really working as hard to demand tripartition as they might be. Their best case is for a strongly federal Constitution which permits the Kurdish region a great deal of independence while at the same time retaining Kurdish membership in a united Iraq, which would guarantee Kurdish security against Turkey and Iran.

By the same token, if the nation were split into three, with the Sunnis in their own oil-poor segment, it would only be a matter of time before it ended up in open warfare with the Shiite fragment.

Prudence suggests it's better to look for an arrangement now that will prevent both of those situations, and the people in Iraq know it.

Wise... but I can't help noticing we're in a war right now. And there are reasons beyond cowardice to want this war ended as quickly as possible.

For example: Iran pretty much knows we can't take on-the-ground military action against them for at least a year after the war in Iraq ends. That gives them more latitude than they otherwise might have.

I don't know if there's such a thing as a permanent solution to a fundamental problem.

I would also note that a Turkish-Kurdistan border skirmish isn't necessarily our problem;

military action against Iran by a third party isn't necessarily something that's against our interests;

and the decimation of the Sunnis by the much-larger (and oil-possessing) Shi'ite populace isn't the sort of thing that makes me wake up screaming at night.

More From Den Beste:

By the way, partition also wouldn't be all that straightforward, because the three populations aren't quite as segregated as all of that. Saddam actively worked to move Sunnis into other regions of the nation, and cities like Baghdad and Mosul have large numbers of them mixed in with the Shiites and Kurds (respectively). Tripartition would have all the attraction of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, what with orphan populations being stranded in the "wrong" parts and becoming downtrodden minorities.

Not only would tripartition virtually guarantee future border wars, it would guarantee future terrorist revolutionary movements. Think "Northern Ireland" multiplied by 50. Or think about the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia.

Ethnically cleansing each of the three parts would be controversial (to say the least) and painful and horrendously difficult, especially since there are now quite a few mixed marriages out there.

I'm going to say something controversial: In many situations, I'm strongly beginning to doubt the peaceful multiethnic state as a viable goal; it's the perfect solution that's the enemy of the good one.

A lot of these people can't or won't live peaceably as neighbors. Would it be so bad for the UN to come in and supervise a land-swap which removes most of the minority populations in one area and replaces them with the minority populations in another? I.e., ethnically cleansing the regions to the extent possible, but peaceably?

An awful lot of wars begin when one minority is persecuted or treated unfairly by its larger host population, and a neighboring state in which that minority is actually the majority intercedes on their behalf.

Civil wars, wars between sovereigns... this problem keeps coming up, and we keep hoping that One Day All Men Will Live Together With Amity And Goodwill. And 90% of the time we're very disappointed.

Would it be so terrible to swap out the Indian and Pakistani populations in the Kashmir so as to create one almost entirely Indian/Hindu region and another almost entirely Pakistani/Muslim region?

The symbolism is itself awful, sure. But the reality of populations engaging in ages-old blood feuds, running hot and cold in cycles, seems worse than clinging to this idea that we can all live together happily.

Some of us, it would seem, actually cannot.

I would note that something like this is actually going on in Israel and Gaza, and many (including myself) think it's the least worst option.

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posted by Ace at 12:24 AM

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