2004 July 01 Thursday
Carroll Andrew Morse Addresses Objections To Iraq Partition

Carroll Andrew Morse, whose Tech Central Station article arguing for a partition of Iraq I've previously linked to comes back to Tech Central Station with a new essay addressing objections to a partition of Iraq into multiple smaller states.

The argument in favor of starting with mini-democracies is rooted in an intuitive understanding of organizational dynamics. It is easier to organize 10 people to work together towards a common goal than it is to organize 100; it is to organize 100 than it is 1,000, etc. An important facet of this is the element of leadership. There are many people capable of managing their own lives, a group of one. Some subset from that group is capable of managing a group of 10. From that subset, a smaller subset is capable of managing a group of 100. There are probably very few people capable of managing a group of 25 million. The best way to find qualified leaders is to pick from people who have had success in managing smaller groups.

Morse points out that violence is just as possible within states as between them.

The past 10 years of history -- Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and now the Sudan, to name the most obvious cases -- is full of examples demonstrating that intrastate violence is neither intrinsically better nor worse than its interstate counterpart. Intrastate violence can be sadistically efficient when one side uses its control of the government to gain terrible advantage. This dynamic is a large part of the story of the Rwandan massacre, where the Hutus carefully used state machinery to plan and implement the massacre of 800,000 of their Tutsi countrymen. The Tutsi cry for help was ignored, in large part, because the Tutsis had no government to speak through (while the Hutus held a seat on the United Nations Security Council). Is the world comfortable with placing certain groups in Iraq in the same disadvantaged position as Rwanda's Tutsis?

I'd go out on a limb here and guess that more people have died in the last 10 years from intra-state political violence between factions than from inter-state wars.

Morse acknowledges that Turkey's reaction poses a problem but he questions whether Turkey's government will see intervention against an independent Kurdistan as worth the harm it would do to Turkish ambitions to join the EU.

Turkey, neither a dictatorship nor a true liberal democracy, does present a challenge to this scenario. Turkey fears that the formation of a Kurd-dominated state from the remains of Iraq might encourage the 12 million Kurds living within Turkish borders to seek their own state. Turkey, according to the armchair realists, can be expected to do whatever is necessary to stop any breakup of Iraq. The armchair realists, however, too quickly ignore realist constraints on Turkish action. The long-standing goal of Turkey's foreign policy is membership in the European Union. Is Turkey prepared to effectively kill that effort by becoming the non-democratic occupier of another democracy? Furthermore, is the Turkish government confident that the 12 million Kurds will sit quietly on the sidelines during an invasion? An invasion is just as likely to exacerbate Kurdish nationalism as it is to quell it.

Morse argues that if either Syria or Iran invaded the Iraqi Kurdish zone that allies (obviously the United States) of the Kurds could help the Kurds retaliate by seizing the Kurdish territories of either of those countries. Though the US would most likely be very unwillingto help the Kurds seize and annex a chunk of what is not part of sovereign Turkish territory.

The Turks might feel compelled to intervene anyway if their own 12 million Kurds started rebelling to secede from Turkey. But what does it say about the West that the Western powers have been willing to collude with the governments of 4 different states to deny the national aspirations of a distinct linguistic and ethnic group?

My own guess is that Iraq may well descend into civil war and the issue of whether to partition will, at that point, have to be taken far more seriously than it has so far. As soon as the body count from the civil war gets high enough the interests of neighboring states will begin to weigh less heavily and the need to pull the combating factions in Iraq apart will become so compelling that partition will become probable. How the Turks and Turkish Kurds will respond is hard to guess. But NATO (or at least its current make-up) may well become a casualty of an Iraqi civil war.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 July 01 05:01 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition

John S Bolton said at July 1, 2004 9:17 PM:

Considering the relative ease of intervention in Afghanistan versus Iraq; why not incite the Kurds to revolt and invade Iran and Syria, and send our troops in also? If this led to the partitioning of Turkey, don't they deserve it? The punishment of allies who desert at the moment of need is an important discipline for keeping alliances in a functional state. Iran has appointed itself the world's censor, which is alone sufficient to justify war, and they are trying to go nuclear. In greater Kurdistan, we may have a motivated army of millions, in prime position to aid in the overthrow of the assasin kingdoms.

Fly said at July 2, 2004 11:25 AM:

“why not incite the Kurds to revolt and invade Iran and Syria, and send our troops in also?”

In Turkey the backlash wouldn’t be worth it. The US supports Turkey, not because it has been a good ally recently, but because the US needs a strong secular Muslim ally in the ME. Bush supporting Turkey’s entrance into the EU is a good step. It doesn’t hurt the US. It tweaks France’s nose. It encourages Turkey to follow a secular path.

(Given the worldwide media reporting of the Iraq war, the Turkish fear of a Kurdish state, the religious obligation for a Muslim country to support fellow Muslims, Turkey has done well to be as friendly as it has. Compare Turkey to France, Germany, or even Canada. I fear that the situation is making Turkey more Islamic.)

Iran is a tougher call. If the US stirs up Kurdish rebellion and invades, the populace will likely support the Mullahs. The US could wreak havoc but the country would be hard to rebuild. I’m hoping the US (or more likely Britain) with Kurdish help (and Israeli help?) is infiltrating Iran. Sabotage their nuclear program and set the conditions for a popular rebellion. (I hope the train explosion in Iran is an example. If the US really was reading Iranian coded messages, our government presumably knows what is going on in Iran and has covert plans.) If that doesn’t work, the US will have to invade and the Kurds could be used.

I don’t have a good feel for Syria. The non-Kurdish Syrian populace doesn’t seem ripe for rebellion. Perhaps after Iraq improves, Syria will change directions. I think Iran is the key to Syria. Knock out Iran and Syria will change its ways. (Syria has no oil and few resources. It is economically dependent on its neighbors.)

My preference is to support and encourage moderate Islamic countries that are actively working to eradicate terrorists and clamp down on extremists clerics. Show how the US helps its friends and how the US punishes its enemies. I believe the alternative is total war against all Muslim countries. Total war might then engulf the whole world. (Once the nukes start flying things get hairy.)

John S Bolton said at July 3, 2004 2:26 AM:

Wouldn't it be more likely that nuclear attacks would be started by Iran, if they got even a few of them? In that case, it would be safer to nip their plans in the bud. Yet if these enemies are left unpunished; terrorists will be as emboldened as they are today.

Fly said at July 3, 2004 3:36 PM:

John, I don’t think the US can allow the Iranian Mullahs to have nuclear weapons. They would supply them to terrorists, to other US enemies, use them to blackmail neighbors and Europe (see N. Korea), or directly attack Israel. I don’t believe MAD will deter them.

What can be done?

Covert ops and internal revolution. This is what I hope will happen.

Israeli attacks nuclear sites. Hard to get all the sites. Could get messy.

US invasion. This is what I expect to see if Bush is re-elected.

Some other possibility. (Nobody knows the future.)

They aren’t stopped. This could happen if the US doesn’t have a workable plan and is only reacting to events and the US political situation. (The US didn’t stop N. Korea from acquiring nukes.)

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