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Friday, June 13, 2014

David Brooks, "The Big Burn": A Kurdish State on the Rise

Remarkably, it has taken almost a century to redraw the artificial borders imposed upon the Middle East by France and Britain following the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire at the conclusion of World War I . Moreover, from the looks of it, some 30 million Kurds, who have suffered endlessly at the hands of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, might finally be on their way to long-deserved statehood.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Big Burn" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/opinion/david-brooks-the-sunni-shiite-conflict-explodes-in-iraq.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), David Brooks at long last comes down to earth and writes in real terms concerning the destruction of Iraq by ISIS. Chastising Obama for his overly cautious foreign policy and warning of a massive Sunni-Shiite conflict that could engulf the Muslim world, Brooks declares:

"President Obama adopted a cautious posture, arguing that the biggest harm to the nation comes when the U.S. overreaches. American power retrenched. The American people, on both left and right, decided they could hide from the world.

And now the fears of one really big war seem to be coming true. The ISIS serves as a de facto government in growing areas of Syria and Iraq. Extremist armies are routing the official Iraqi Army, even though they are outmanned by as many as 15 to 1. Iraq is in danger of becoming a non-nation."

In fact, Iraq has long been a non-nation, held together by band aids. With the departure of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds in the north of Iraq established a semi-autonomous zone, largely independent of the central government.

Hinting at Kurdish regional self-government in Iraq, Brooks concludes:

"It is not too late to help Syrian moderates. In Iraq, the answer is not to send troops back in. It is to provide Maliki help in exchange for concrete measures to reduce sectarian tensions. The Iraqi government could empower regional governments, acknowledging the nation’s diversity. Maliki could re-professionalize the Army. The Constitution could impose term limits on prime ministers.

But these provisions would require a more forward-leaning American posture around the world, an awareness that sometimes a U.S.-created vacuum can be ruinous. The president says his doctrine is don’t do stupid stuff. Sometimes withdrawal is the stupidest thing of all."

I am not calling for boots on the ground; however, I agree with Brooks that Obama's complacency and neo-isolationist policies have created a vacuum which Russia, China and Iran are exploring.

With regard to the pandemonium in Iraq, opportunities also are presenting themselves. The Kurds have long been friendly to American interests in the region, and more important, they deserve their own state. An independent Kurdistan, countering Sunni and Shiite militancy, should be embraced by the United States, notwithstanding opposition from Turkey.

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