Wednesday, March 19, 2003
For those who are subscribers, the Wall Street Journal has a very interesting and strongly negative bit about the Kurds (by a fellow whom I don't know, but whose name sounds Turkish to me - just FYI). His main point seems to be: the Kurds are not democrats; they are a collection of tribes who don't trust each other and are aiming mainly at personal and national aggrandizement, at the expense, likely, of minorities within their own region.
I don't know how much credit to give the story. But for that matter, I never gave much credit to claims (in places like The New Republic, or The Weekly Standard, or, for that matter, the Wall Street Journal), that the Kurds were "incipient democrats." The only thing we know for sure about the Kurds, Shiites, etc. is that Saddam Hussein has murdered them in huge numbers and with relish. Their suffering is not to be questioned. What they would do with freedom is another matter.
This is not, fundamentally, a war to make the world (or the Middle East) safe for democracy. It is a war to make the world (and the Middle East) safe from Saddam Hussein. The optimistic upside scenario is that we manage to help Iraq become a functioning, democratizing country friendly to the West. But the base-case scenario is just that one of the more dangerous individuals on earth is out of power, and that a principle has been established that dangerous enemies of America are not safe from American arms.
I like to be an optimist. But I don't think we should sell ourselves a bill of goods here. Iraq is going to be a big challenge to make into a functioning nation-state, to say nothing of a democracy, because outside of the central region around Baghdad, the various tribes that make up Iraq don't consider themselves a nation. And no one knows how to make them one.