May 21, 2024

A Speech for the New Year

Senator Gordon Smith (who?) recently gave an excellent speech on the Iraq situation. has a transcript here.

Many of the posts on this topic focus on the fact that Smith is Republican, that he’s broken ranks with Bush, that Ted Kennedy congratulated him on his speech, and other armchair gamesmanship. The preening, masturbatory nature of the media and the blogosphere is both inevitable and irritating. Why focus on what was said when analyzing the effects on the “great game” of politics is so much more (self) gratifying?

I find this statment interesting:

Iraq is a European creation. At the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious powers put together Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia tribes that had been killing each other for time immemorial. I would like to think there is an Iraqi identity. I would like to remember the purple fingers raised high. But we can not want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. And what I find now is that our tactics there have failed.

In particular, this, “we can not want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves”, sums up the situation succinctly. That insufficient numbers of Iraqis care is self-evident: the results have been in the newspapers and blogs every day of the past year.

Now Saddam Hussein is dead, hanged for one of his many crimes. Few seem to care, in or out of Iraq, for the fight has moved on, or backward, to the issue of forced multi-culturalism. In this Iraq is an interesting parallel to Israel in that both nations are creations of western powers and exist in unnatural forms that could never have come into being in the absence of foreign influence.

Israel has, of course, been fighting since its inception 58 years ago and is barely more secure today that she was then. Will Iraq follow a similar pattern? Why is it that American leaders are so focused on the artificial borders of Iraq? Consideration has been given to the creation of seperate states for the various cultural/religious groups that exist within the present boundaries, but has it been given its due? What logic dictates that Shia and Sunni must co-exist in the same nation? Would an India/Pakistan model make more sense?

I think so. I don’t see the importance of maintaining the status quo when the existing situation is unsustainable. Kurds should be governed by Kurds and Sunni likewise; their cultures should have a place in the region to live and prosper in peace, if they wish peace, just as Shia should have its place. Governments and borders exist, or should exist, for the protection of people of like minds, not for their own ends.

Governments are mere tools. They exist to serve us. They are not the end but a means to an end – prosperity. Each culture defines prosperity in its own way. America regards posession of property and money as its ultimate measure of success. Other cultures might value spirituality or good breeding or artistic creativity more than we do. That these differences exist is as it should be. From a purpose of government perspective we ought to be pursuing an agenda that optimizes the creation of like-minded spaces and places rather than demanding strict adherence to the status quo.

Given a chance, George Bush might argue that this was his aim with the Iraq war (for it surely had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction). But I find this highly unlikely. If true, the effort was botched in part by failing to embrace the model more fully; i.e., by insisting on a single, united Iraq. Can one unite oil and water, after all? Should the attempt even be made? It is an expensive, difficult, and ultimately futile effort, as we’ve seen.

Consider: Why should the Kurds in Iraq be governed by Shia in Baghdad? Because the Brits said so back in 1918? Because Saddam said so in 2002? No. Because the Turks say so now? Well, maybe. Turkey is afraid of in independent Kurdistan or equivalent because of the population of its southern region. But why should Turkey demand the allegiance of a people who long to govern themselves? They shouldn’t. Not if their leaders are rational, thinking people.

This realization, I believe, was part of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev epiphany regarding the Soviet Union. Not only was it a failing social and political system, it was a nation made up of disparate, non-integrated parts that would be better off operating on their own. One can argue the amount of success that Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, et al, have had during their brief existence but I don’t think that many people in these countries would care for a taste of Vlad Putin’s government today.

Sounds pretty good, right? Maybe. The flies in the ointment are our flawed human natures and the tendency of the most unfit to assume leadership roles, usually by force, in national governments. I wonder, though, if this common failure wouldn’t be mitigated in nations whose populations and religious and cultural norms were more heterogenous?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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