Monday, October 22, 2007

Simple Policy, Hard Decisions

It all seemed so logical and simple. We, and the rest of the civilized world, would root out terrorists, would fight them, would fight those countries who gave them haven, and those countries which supported them. This makes sense – if terrorists are the problem, those who help them are part of the problem. As time has gone by, the enforcement of this doctrine has been more and more difficult. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. King George surely had a different attitude toward the Sons of Liberty than we do now. Trying to define Hamas is nearly impossible. When the Russians tried to crush Chechnia, the Chechin rebels were either freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on whose side you were on. It left us paralyzed, between those who seemed to be fighting for independence and a nation-state under attack by rebels using tools which could be described as terroristic.
As bad as those are, the latest problems involving Turkey and the Kurds are far worse. It is very clear that Turkey is being attacked by a terrorist group, the PKK, trying to undermine their government and trying to “liberate” the Kurdish areas of Turkey. They are doing this by crossing the border from Iraq into Turkey and killing Turkish soldiers. It is clear and unequivocal terrorism. The Turks have given parliamentary approval to pursue these people into Iraq. This is where it all gets quite messy for the U. S.
The Kurds are our best friends in Iraq. The Turks are our best friends in the Islamic world – the only stable, secular democracy among Islamic countries. They are a member of NATO and have a government which wants to be part of the western world. In fact, one could say that we are obligated, as a NATO ally, to help defend Turkey against these attacks. Unfortunately, this would cause us to attack Iraq, which means attacking ourselves, which...okay, we’re getting more than a little messed up here. The government of Iraq has little control over Kurdistan. The dirty little secret is that the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region has little control over that region. The PKK has effective control over much of the area and stopping them from their goals will be very difficult. Most likely, their first choice would be Turkey attacking the Kurds, which, they probably feel, would unite the Kurds in opposition to the Turks. Yet what choice does Turkey have? The longer they do nothing, the longer they allow incursions by terrorists to result in the death of their soldiers, the worse they look. And if the secular government of Turkey looks weak, a religious party could well look to seize the opportunity. You can hear the speeches now: “See what allying with the West gets us? See how being friends with the U.S. Is worthless?” Thousands are in the streets now, following the killing of 12 Turkish soldiers and the injuring of 17 civilians in a wedding party with a roadside bomb. Meanwhile, the Kurds have made it clear they won’t tolerate any Turkish invasion to get PKK rebels. Iraq has reacted angrily to the threat of a Turkish invasion of the north.
For many months, experts have been warning that the north of Iraq was going to be the biggest problem there. Those warnings are coming true now. The Turks, justifiably, based on our stated policy and their alliance with us, are demanding we help them against the PKK. The Iraqi government is adamantly opposed to that and our best friends in Iraq, the Kurds, are particularly against it. What’s a superpower to do? The best we can hope for is that faced with such an immensely complex decision, Bush and Cheney’s heads explode. More likely, given their previous performance in the region, they’ll attempt to solve the problem by attacking Iran.

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