Kurdistan Redux

I've hit the big time! My article on token sucking was linked on MetaFilter. The result was a doubling of my normal traffic.

Thanks to Artifice Eternity for thinking my post worthy of linking. And his website is very nice as well.


Back on January 28, 2002, I expressed a few concerns about the (then) upcoming invasion of Iraq, and I made a few predictions about Kurdistan. Specifically, I said "if war proceeds, in three months time, the word "Kurdistan" will be on everybody's lips"

By this I meant: however well the military campaign went, the United States would be surprised by ethnic conflict in Kurdistan. I foresaw a possible Turkish invasion, and a widening of the conflict to include Syria and Iran.

Well, three months have passed, and my doomsday predictions have not proven true. But that's the thing about doomsday predictions: if what they predicted actually took place with any regularity, there'd be far fewer predictions made, not to mention predictors to make them.

We know more about the people of Kurdistan and their troubles, but Kuridstan hasn't proved the quagmire that some people had feared. Indeed, among the ethnic groups within Iraq, the Kurds are the happiest with the results of the American/UK invasion. The Turks have not invaded, and the Kurds themselves seem happy to work towards a democratic and federal state of Iraq rather than an independent state of their own.

The rest of the war has also gone better than some people had feared. Instead of a repeat of Kuwait in the first Gulf War, only seven of the thousands of Iraqi oil wells were torched. Despite a slightly slow start to the invasion, the U.S. and the U.K. faced little resistance in their drive for Bagdhad. Civilian casualties are lighter than they could have been, and the humanitarian disaster that many expected did not materialize to the degree that people feared.

Most of all, the U.S. and U.K. militaries carried themselves with their usual general professionalism. Save for a few stumbles and friendly-fire incidents, they achieved their objectives. They were welcomed into Baghdad by cheering civilians (maybe not as much as there should have been, but they were welcomed nonetheless). There was no dirty street-to-street urban fighting. The soldiers can pat their backs on this, and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

But there have been a few nasty surprises even doomsayers such as myself didn't predict. Ancarett gets to say I told you so for predicting an archaeological disaster, what with the looting of antiquities in Baghdad. And I'm certain the Bush Administration did not expect their liberation of Iraq to produce the rumblings of a Shia-run Islamic state, very similar to what already exists in Iran. Many others didn't see this coming either.

Then there is the fact that, throughout the coalition's campaign, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. No chemical materials used in the production of weapons of mass destruction have been found. Links between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden remain tenuous, at best (although some have materialized). The Bush Administration has been forced to backtrack from "this war was about protecting the security of America" to "this war was just about liberating the Iraqi people" and they have basically admitted that their "emphasis" on the "possibility" of the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction was more about getting the American public more solidly behind the war, even at the expense of world opinion.

The bent and broken fences between the Bush Administration, Canada and Europe is one thing that still needs to be addressed following this war. Even though the war didn't go as badly as was feared, trampling over legitimate objections and leaving strained relations and hurt feelings among friends in their wake is, quite possibly, the worst mistake of the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration's policy of equating allegiance with blind obedience, and responding to legitimate objections with immature namecalling has still left open wounds on the flanks of America's friends, and it will not bode well for either the United States or the international community if this utter failure of diplomacy isn't addressed and rectified.

Now that the military conflict is over, the United States is left with dealing with the aftermath, and here the work really begins. Can a democratic Iraq rise from Saddam's ashes, or will it be yet another half-baked client state, such as what appears to have formed in Afghanistan? War is unpredictable, but sometimes peace is too, especially if the attention of the world shuts off once CNN shuts down its live coverage.

What happens next? I'll make no predictions here.

In the blogging world, one of the best things to come out of this war was the Blog Back to Iraq.com. Independent journalist Chris Albritton put together an epic over the past six months, not just with his with clearly presented, in-depth coverage of the events in and the history of northern Iraq, but his whole approach of raising money to get himself into Iraq, and his harrowing journey across the Turkish border made for fascinating reading. I'm actually sad that the story is over, but I'm pleased to see that he's back home.

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