Let the Kurds Mind Their Own Business So We Can Mind Ours
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.