A People Without a Country: The Kurds Against The World
Disclaimer: this piece of writing in no way represents policy stances of the The Regents of the University of California, and the Department of Defense/Department of State of the United States Federal Government
In President George Washington’s 1796 farewell address, he advised the fledgling nation to stay out of international affairs, believing that at any overseas intervention would be detrimental not only to the prestige and the reputation of the United States, but would also cause problems to the political/social/economic integrity of the entire world.
However in the twenty-first century, it is almost impossible for an international superpower such as ourselves to adopt an isolationist foreign policy while malicious organizations and countries such as ISIS rampage throughout the Middle East, spreading their message of bigotry, religious violence and systematic genocide to any indigenous community that stands in their way. In light of such terrible atrocities, an ethnic group of minorities in the Levant known as the Kurds are making a defiant stand against these groups of extremists.
With instability and sectarian violence quickly becoming the norm in the regions of Iraq and Syria, the Kurds have used the chaos in order establish themselves as an autonomous community, fully in control of the political/economic/ and social aspects of their dominion.Having proving themselves as supporters of human rights and civil liberties not only for their kin but also for other ethnic refugees, it is imperative to understand that America’s logistical support of Kurdistan in their fight against the Islamic State, according to an article by The Economist (2/2015) not only serve as an effective deterrent to terrorism in the regions of Iraq and Syria, but will also help ensure stability and security for the Kurds: a people without a country to call home.
Self-determination is often a talked about issue on the international stage, as communities of ethnic minorities have often been oppressed in their native lands by a superior governmental body, something which has often occurred for generations.A detailed report on the autonomous status of the Kurds, compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations, explains the turbulent history of the Kurdish people dating back to the Middle Ages, and shows how they have been constantly discriminated and persecuted against by more powerful sovereign nations such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
Stripped of their legal status and civil rights as citizens of a certain state and outright slaughtered as in the case of the Al-Anfal Campaign, which culminated in the deaths of almost 350,000 Kurds by poison gas at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, the Kurds have had a rough time. Now faced with the radicalism of the Islamic State, the brutality of the Assad government, and the political/religious divide amongst the Iraqi junta, it is time for the United States to take a step forward and support the state of Kurdistan in their quest for self-determination, so that the Kurdish people can finally have a land to call home, and govern themselves with their own rules and traditions befitting to their lifestyle.
It is simply illogical for the Kurds to not have their own country for all these years, because not only are their language and customs so different in comparison to their neighbors, but that these nations simply do not recognize and tolerate the unique culture and way of life that the Kurds bring to the table. It would be in the best of interests for the United States to support a free Kurdistan, because not only would it improve relations between America and the Middle East, but it would also show our commitment to preserving human rights and supporting the autonomy of downtrodden peoples. To summarize, it would be a double V: victory for America and victory for the Kurds.
Since the 1950’s, America’s track record for global military interventions has been noted by foreign-policy experts such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as being abysmal, iterating how our commitments in Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan could be seen as “applying valid principles to unsuitable conditions.” Although we intended to bring about democracy and free-market enterprise to certain nations of interest, our methods of doing so have not only alienated the local populace, but have also turned the natives against us, aligning themselves with our very enemies.
Instead of trying to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous, we decided to greet them with bombs, napalm, and bullets. So much for the United States being the leader of the “free world.” However, the status quo is malleable and ever-changing, as new extremist groups in the form of the Islamic State threaten the integrity of civil rights and human decency in the region. With the Kurdish Peshmerga acting as a sturdy bulwark against the militant extremists, federal executives and American citizens can sleep at night, knowing that their planning/negotiations and tax dollars are being well spent so that ISIS is confined and dealt with accordingly.
In the status quo, the United States and the West has no dependable allies in the Middle East (with the exception of Israel, who is almost universally hated by the Arab world) and nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, though mutual enemies of the Islamic State, would instantly turn on each other due to religious and political differences, (Sunni/Shiite, monarchy/theocratic republic, respectively) as proven by Tamara Cofman Wittes of The Brookings Institute, who explains how “the weakness and illegitimacy of state institutions and the upwelling of societal conflicts in the Arab world is making the process of reforming politics both lengthy and painful.” The so-called “Middle East Friendship Chart” published by Slate shows the status of diplomatic relations are between each single faction that plays a part in the Iraq-Syria conflict.
The convolutedness of the whole situation only strengthens the case that it would be in the best interests of the United States to recognize the sovereignty of the Kurds, and to show our solidarity through the shipment of military arms and equipment. An article from the March issue of the New York Times demonstrates how desperate the situation is for the Kurds, who are accumulating over 18 billion dollars in debt due to the changes in oil prices, and cannot financially support their own people and their defense forces in fighting the Islamic State.
To reverse this trend, it would be wise that the United States up its ante in support of the Kurds; by recognizing the sovereignty of Kurdistan and allowing for the steady supply of American arms and equipment to the Kurdish people, not only will we have gained a powerful ally in the region, but we would have given a once oppressed people the leverage to defend their life and their liberty against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
It is unfortunate that Arab/Middle Eastern nations have conjured the stereotype of a desolate third-world place with little regard for human rights and civil liberties, but the situation in Kurdish-occupied territory seeks to destroy this standard.
Another article by The Economist published on October of 2014 goes on to reveal how the Kurds, a once nomadic people with a defined language and culture, have now willingly allowed for assimilation between sects of its people with neighboring tribes, even accepting Christian refugees into their communities, treating the Gentiles as one of their own. Furthermore, their plurality and tolerance allows for level-headed political mediums to take place, with elections and representative government a tangible reality in Kurdish territory, proving that they are truly deserving of full autonomy within their lands, due to their respect for others beliefs and their progressive attitudes to societal values.
The United States has had a bad reputation in the Middle East, due to our constant military interventions with justifiable pretenses, but under terrible circumstances(WMDs’ in Iraq.) However, if we support the Kurdish people in their fight for sovereignty and to defeat the Islamic State, the very people without a country would willingly join hands with the world in the unified struggle against terrorism and despotism, and maybe one day the Kurds would sing the praises of Uncle Sam, the man who gave them freedom.