Expanding the Iraq War

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A situation has arisen in Iraq that may lead to the war widening to a neighboring country.

Somebody is supplying insurgents with arms, making things more dangerous for the troops. The goal of whoever is supplying these arms seems to be, ultimately, to destabilize the duly elected, established government. The U.S. State Department has been in contact, trying to prevent the war from widening, but others are talking about the open use of cross-border troops to put a stop to this aid to the insurgents.

Oh. Did I mention that the arms are American? That the neighboring country is Turkey? That the insurgents are members of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that wants to split Kurdistan off from both Iraq and Turkey?

We’re not talking about Iran “apparently” supplying Russian arms to Shia militias, with whom they are very cozy, to kill American troops and bring down the Iraqi government. We’re talking about America “apparently” supplying American arms to Kurdish militias, with whom we are very cozy, to kill Turkish troops and bring down Turkish rule over northern Kurdistan.

Turkey has the American arms, which they took off the Kurdish terrorists now in their custody. They’re not best pleased.

My point isn’t that we’re doing the same thing to Turkey that Iran is doing to us. I don’t think we’re supplying the PKK with American arms, or any other kind. I don’t think the Turks do. My point is that things aren’t always what they seem. What sometimes seems obviously true, based on all available facts on the ground, turns out to be false when additional facts are discovered.

The question is: what if, before there’s time for those additional facts to be found, war has already been started?

UPDATE (9/4/07): According to one report, the Bush admin. will roll out a new public opinion offensive over the next couple of weeks, aimed at building support for war with Iran.

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11 Responses to “Expanding the Iraq War”

  1. Capt. Midknight Says:

    JU
    I heard the story about the PKK using American arms to raid into Turkey. Don’t doubt it for a minute. I’m not too impressed by the fact that they were American arms, though. That area is awash in arms of every description. Actually I’m a little surprised since most of those folks usually prefer the AK and its derivatives to the more delicate M-16s. Whatever arms they are using and wherever they got them, it’s just the latest chapter in a conflict that has been going on a long time.

    Saddam and his sons and relatives and cronies were thugs and murders and sadists and basically a waste of gravity, but at least they kept all the parties under control, even if it was by brutal methods. Everybody hated Saddam, but once he was gone, especially the way it was done, by destroying the power structure along with him, anybody who knew anything about the region could guess that the lid would come off all those old feuds – and it did.

    Personally, I never thought the Iraq War was a good idea, though probably for different reasons than JU and some others here. Although the goal of a free democratic Iraq sounded good, I think everybody involved was fooling themselves about what it would take to get that done. It will probably be a generation at least before we have anything resembling stability there – assuming it doesn’t simply collapse into factions before then.

    Recently there have been a few hints that things may be getting a little better on the military and even on the political front. I certainly hope so, but as JUs question ask;

    What if, before there’s time for those additional facts to be found, war has already been started?

    That would be tragic, but then all wars are tragic. Besides, most wars or regional conflicts are not started based on a dispassionate review of the “facts.” Al Queda and other such groups would like nothing better.

    It’s probably impossible for the US or anybody else to stop the PKK raids altogether, just like it’s probably impossible to stop all the infiltration of men and arms in from Iran. I just hope they can be controlled enough so that Turkey can resist the urge for a military strike into Iraq and the US can do the same towards Iran. I doubt that either action could accomplish much militarily, but either would be diplomatic disasters.

  2. urbino Says:

    Good stuff, Cap’n. What is it you’re saying I shouldn’t doubt? I can’t quite tell. I don’t doubt the PKK was raiding across the Turkish border using American weapons. I just doubt that we supplied them — directly, at least.

    I’m not sure what you think my reasons were/are for opposing the Iraq War, but they’re pretty much the same as what yours seem to be: all the chaos that has ensued was 100% predictable (and predicted by many, including the State Dept.). Add that to the fact that Iraq wasn’t involved in 9/11 and presented no threat to us, our national interests, or even their neighbors, given the US and UN presence and restrictions, and it’s pretty difficult to make an argument for invading Iraq on any grounds other than oil or that they offend one’s ideology.

    Yes, Saddam was a monster and a dictator. But frankly, we prop those up when it suits us (and in fact have aided Saddam in the past), and, as you point out, the notion of democracy flowering in a post-Saddam Iraq could only be described as . . . well, let’s say “faith-based.”

    I’ve said before — somewhere around here, I think — that I think Iraq will continue to be the theater where Islamic sectarian hatreds are played out — which is what we made it — until a brutal enough authoritarian comes along to suppress it like Saddam did.

    I also agree that spread of the war to Turkey or Iran would accomplish little and destroy much.

    I disagree, though, that groups like al-Qaeda “would like nothing better” than for policy to be determined based on a dispassionate review of the facts. That’s exactly what they don’t want. They want us, in particular, reacting out of vengeance, rage, and narrow ideological fervor. When we do, we serve their ends. They wanted us to react to 9/11 by invading and getting bogged down in an oil-rich Muslim country. (That isn’t my speculation. We know this for a fact.) It’s the best possible thing we could’ve done for them.

    Our invasion of Afghanistan, however, which was based on a dispassionate review of the facts, actually and severely injured them. That kind of policymaking is what they don’t want.

  3. Capt. Midknight Says:

    JU,
    I should know better than to do these things after 10:00pm.

    The “Al-Qaeda would like nothing better” sentence got shifted around during my last minute editing so that it gave exactly the wrong meaning. I was actually trying to say what you said – that Al-Qaeda would like nothing better than for us or Turkey to act on emotion instead of reason and launch into some sort of military action against the Kurds or Iran. They would thrive in resulting chaos, and would have a propaganda field day, while we would accomplish little or nothing.

    The only positive outcome I can see in the near future would be if, against the odds and recent history, the major groups in Iraq could actually reach some workable agreement that would provide enough security to get the place and the economy back on it’s feet. They’ve had four years of war. If they could be given the next four years of relative peace and stability and efficient use of the aid money coming from the West, I’ll bet they would amaze a lot of folks. Say whatever you want about the people over there, they know how to do business. Give them 4 or 5 years of peace to get their oil industry back up to speed and let the small businessmen and entrepreneurs and developers loose with some foreign capital, and they will show you something.

    Ironically, if that were to happen, some of the groups and governments who are lamenting the current destruction and humanitarian crisis the loudest will be the most threatened by a new, democratic, prosperous (and therefor powerful) Iraq.

    That part, at least, I think Bush got right.

  4. urbino Says:

    For me, the magic hour is 10 a.m. Anything I say before 10 a.m. should be read as a limerick, possibly in German.

    I think everybody probably agrees that a stable, democratic, prosperous Iraq would be a great thing for the Iraqis, for the region, and for U.S. interests. (Unless it were a fundamentalist theocratic democracy, which it likely would be.) The difference of opinion is on whether that can be accomplished at the barrel of an American gun. (Or, IMHO, any other way except from the ground up, by the Iraqis themselves, in their own good time.)

    Based on a report by the U.S. embassy in Iraq that was leaked to NPR today, it doesn’t sound like the odds of stability and oil revenue, if they were somehow restored, leading to entrepreneurship, etc., are very good. According to the embassy report, corruption is overwhelmingly, pervasively the rule in the Iraqi gov’t, not the exception. The Iraqi special agency that’s supposed to prevent that (I can’t remember the name of it) can’t do its job because — and I think the word choice is telling — it “lacks the firepower” to gain access to the offices of the various agencies it’s supposed to monitor.

    I suppose that’s entrepreneurship of a kind, but not exactly the kind likely to lead to the blossoming of a sturdy middle-class democracy.

  5. urbino Says:

    I should add that although I use the term “Iraqis,” it’s not at all clear to me that there’s any such thing anymore. There are Sunnis and Shia. Kurds and Arabs. But it doesn’t seem like there’s any such thing as an “Iraqi” anymore, or even an “Iraq.”

    That’s the problem we face there, and I don’t see how it could be solved by military means.

  6. Capt. Midknight Says:

    “According to the embassy report, corruption is overwhelmingly, pervasively the rule in the Iraqi gov’t, not the exception.”

    JU,
    You’re right. Corruption at pretty much all levels is a long standing feature of that part of the world, going back as far as you care to look. My wife and I spent almost two weeks with a group in Egypt, Jordan, and Southern Israel about three months ago. Our guide in Egypt was a smooth operator, Anything you needed, Hani could get it. He even bribed a security guard to get us in to see St. Catherine’s monastery at Mt. Sinai on a Sunday when is was supposed to be closed.

    I can just imagine some well meaning American diplomat passing out suitcases of aid money and then being shocked that so much of it got diverted into Iraqi political and military pockets. You almost want to say “Well DUH! What did you expect?”

    Since modern Iraq was created by the British after WWI, with arbitrary borders, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it eventually revert back into several separate smaller states. Unfortunately, it would probably be a fairly long and bloody process, but it would please many of the players in the region who fear a strong united Iraq – for good reason. The other possibility, as you said, is a takeover by a strong central authority – either a personality like Saddam or a religious party. Unfortunately, either of those scenarios is probably more likely than the emergence of an American style democracy.

    From a diplomatic perspective, at least, I’m afraid our Iraqi experience can be described a lot like some cynic described second marriages: “A triumph of hope over experience.”

    Ironically, there is a large and growing underground Christian movement in that area – especially in Iran. As you would expect, they are severely persecuted. Sort of reminds you of the early church.

  7. urbino Says:

    Corruption at pretty much all levels is a long standing feature of that part of the world, going back as far as you care to look.

    True. If I understood the news report correctly, though, the embassy report says the current Iraqi government is bad even by those standards.

  8. michaellasley Says:

    Good stuff, Capt. and JU. I don’t have anything to offer to the conversation. I’m a consumer on this topic. Not much to add, but I’m learning lots from the twos of you.

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