By Zachary Yost
US interventionists may have good intentions, but it is extreme hubris to believe that our government can redraw the world map on a whim.
In his August 4 article for Rare, Tyler Koteskey highlights the Turkish government’s recent offensive against Kurdish militia groups, who have been our strongest allies in the fight against ISIS.
Unfortunately, Koteskey seems to buy wholesale into the idea that the United States should be the almighty arbiter of justice in the world. As a result, his analysis is off track.
Right from the beginning, the portrayal of the Kurds is incorrect. There is no doubt that as a whole the Kurds are friendly to the United States and have had a large amount of success fighting ISIS. But the Kurds are not a monolithic political entity.
Kurds, like almost every other group, have different ambitions and interests, which often conflict. In the 1990s, rival groups of Kurds fought a civil war. These divisions continue today, and affect their fight against ISIS. Unfortunately, because of the romanticized view journalists present of the region, there is little scrutiny and understanding of what goes on behind the facade of the potemkin village.
While condemning the Turkish government, Koteskey failed to mention the recent suicide bombings carried out by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) inside Turkey. And trying to paint the Turks in a negative light for violating Iraqi airspace is laughable, given frequent violations of Syrian airspace by the United States.
Idealization of the United States’ current and potential allies is not limited to the Kurds, as the catastrophic Libyan intervention demonstrated.
The belief that US support for the Libyan rebels would help create a friendlier state in the Middle East turned out to be completely false. It only destabilized the region further. Similarly, calls for a Kurdish state would likely result in even more region-wide chaos and bloodshed.
This unrealistic view of US capabilities exists throughout Koteskey’s article. His frequent use of the word “let” — as in “letting them bomb Kurds” (or more accurately the PKK terrorist group), agreeing to “let Turkey go ahead with its plan to create” a buffer zone in Syria, and Obama’s “willingness to let Erdogan throw our most reliable allies against ISIS under the bus” — assumes an almost limitless US role in the region.
Contrary to popular belief, the world, and in particular the Middle East, is not a vassal full of people to be commanded and ordered about at the whim of the US government.
This perfectly exemplifies the hubris underlying interventionist thinking. Assuming the United States is on the side of good implies it has a moral duty to crusade around the world vanquishing evil.
Supposedly, the Kurds have “fought and died against ISIS, supported women’s rights, and shown the rest of the Middle East a vision of a more just future.” This aligns with US values. It is why Koteskey assumes we should support them, and because of this supposed alignment, those who oppose the Kurds are assumed to be on the side of evil.
But the PKK have also engaged in suicide bombing. Last time I checked this was not an US value. Clearly, this is more complex than a simple good-versus-evil dichotomy.
Rather than crusading around the world interfering with cultures and peoples we obviously do not fully understand, US leaders should realize that we are incapable of molding complex societies to our will, especially through the use of force. To believe otherwise is the height of hubris.
A return to a more humble foreign policy will not only help to cultivate more international peace, understanding, and goodwill, it will give us more time and resources to combat our own problems at home.
Zachary Yost is a Young Voices Advocate who works in Washington, DC. Follow @ZacharyYost.
EspañolThose of us who love the world of ideas and enjoy spending an afternoon debating philosophy tend to naively believe that once people grasp a basic concept, the implications will come easily to them. However, after establishing a basic premise, a waterfall of questions inevitably ensues. Consider the following example: "The human body's temperature ranges between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius." But what about Roger Federer? He's Swiss. What about people who live in tropical climates, or those "warm-natured" philosophy professors? Does Pope Francis count? It's enough to make one question something we all know to be true. Is Francis really human? Are the Swiss colder than the rest of us? It can become quite frustrating. Can't we please just grasp the basic premise and move on? Apparently, countless people cannot think in terms of general principles, or simply do not know how to do it. They believe debating big ideas is only for impractical philosophers living in ivory towers. However, without an established set of basic principles, our everyday conversations can turn into a string of circumstantial claims. When you tell these people that "the only legitimate role for government is to uphold individual rights" is a fundamental premise, it's as if you haven't said anything at all. The responses I get are not very different than with my first example. "But what will the government do about education? What about gay rights? Will it be allowed to keep taxing citizens for the common good? What industries should the government protect to maintain jobs?" When I restate the basic premise of government's only legitimate role, and define some basic concepts, I get only frustration in return. "It's all very nice in theory," they say, "but what would you actually do if you were president?" [adrotate group="8"] It was from this question that this article was born. I posed this same question to a group of libertarians and got some interesting replies, even though it turned out that some of them were not so libertarian after all. Nevertheless, I did receive hundreds of proposals that if carried out would lead to a hopeful new beginning for a country that is literally under water. Of those proposals, here are the top 10 concrete ways Argentina can begin to reclaim its 19-century status as global economic powerhouse: Privatize every government-run company, beginning with those generating greater losses, such Aerolíneas Argentinas, and free all markets. Remove all controls on local and foreign currency. Lift import and export tariffs. Gradually eliminate welfare programs. Allow schools to design their own curricula. Eliminate income and sales taxes. Wipe out any subsidy or privilege awarded to private firms. Decriminalize the production, sale, and use of drugs. Relax prohibitions on gun ownership and possession. Repeal labor laws and allow people to draw up their own contracts. I want to thank those who where part of this experiment, for their time, their contributions, and above all, for their motivation to be a part of the solution. This is not an exhaustive list and the success of the measures depends on a government that really understands its underlying principles, besides a good amount of courage and honesty. For many, these proposals sound too radical. For libertarians, these are just a few of countless examples that can be reduced to a simple premise: every human being has a right to life, liberty, and property. Translated by Adam Dubove.