Category Archives: International Politics

Biden’s Speech (Surrender)


After watching President Biden speak about the reasons for our withdrawal from Afghanistan it has taking me sometime to claim down enough to write. He took a victory lap to extol defeat. He praised the work of many to get out US citizens as well as others that had worked for us. But not all. He started this by declaring the United States has ended 20 years of war. Like the British Evacuation of Dunkirk was the end of the war in Europe. He pointed out the ISIS-K, which supposedly carried out the bombing at the airport, are sworn enemies of the Taliban. This does not make the Taliban good or our friends, they are just different terrorist groups. He said that the made the decision on April 1 to end the war and set the final date as Aug 31. He actually set the date as Sept, 11. He spoke of the 300,000 strong Afghan Army that failed to fight. To begin he has used that number, which is wrong, it was closer to 179,000. And failed to mention that by closing Bagram airbase we removed the air power that we had trained the Afghans to expect. They did have an air force, but we also removed the contractor support that allowed them to continue flying.  He spoke of the government collapse and the president fleeing, amid the corruption and malfeasance “and turning the country over to the Taliban. The building he spoke from was once burnt by the British as President Madison fled. To my knowledge there has been no turnover of government and the Taliban are occupying the capital. When the French government collapsed, and de Gaulle fled to England did that mean everyone must accept the Nazis as the legitimate government of France. As the France resistance rose so we see a resistance movement in Panjshir under the old Northern Alliance. Are there plans to support them? We had been told there where between 10 -15000 Americans in Afghanistan. The President said they had identified early 5000 who wished to stay but now wanted out. He said that more then 5500 out, that leaves, using the lower number almost 5000 left behind. But he went on to say that only about 100 – 200 remain behind. Do the math Joe. He then goes on to say Blinken is continuing diplomatic efforts and cited a UN Security Council resolution that the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on their promises, com’on man are you that stupid, or worse do you think we are.  He claimed the Aug 31 date was not an arbitrary deadline and that he original date Trump gave was May 1st. he changed it, therefore it was arbitrary and fungible. Biden then proceeded to outright lie. He said the agreement “It included no requirement that Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government.” It did. The US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has said on more than one occasion the agreement had several escape clauses. But Biden declared that because of the agreement he had no choice, it was either leave or send in more troops. Like President Obama, who said of the Iran Deal it was that deal or war, Biden put everything out as black or white.

Biden said in the beginning of the speech that he took full responsibility then proceeded to blame everyone else. He blamed US citizens for not getting out even through they had been warned as early as March. Bagram Air Base would have been the logical point to remove these citizens but was closed 1 July. The administration continued to declare that the Taliban would not be in charge until the end of the year. He has said in the past that he followed the military commander’s recommendation on leaving to include ending the airlift, “The decision to end the military airlift operations at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers.” I find it hard to believe that any decision was unanimous, as Gen Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking the same someone is not thinking.” In the end he asked the same thing he has asked in the past, what was America vital national interest in Afghanistan? The answer will likely become clear in the future. The terrorist problem will not go away because we want it to. We need to stop our current habit of only looking out 5 seconds into the future and saying I don’t see anything.

Why US Foreign Policy Continues to Fail in Afghanistan


Now that lives have been lost and we have withdrawn, this ill-conceived operation once again highlights the lack of US Foreign policy capabilities or our understanding of what is needed to protect American interests. Since the end of the Korean War the US has slowly lost the will to build influence and continue to lead the world. The Cold War was the last hoorah for what was left of US influence mostly based on the nuclear stand off with the Soviet Union. Much of the problem stems from the United States inability to adjust to a different world. Most of US foreign involvement since the cold war has been in Asia and the Middle East, cultures that most in Washington do not understand. This should not be the case as it is not in many other western countries and the US foreign service should be able to accept the different cultures but has always ended up trying to impose US values on the nations we get engaged with. 

In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia helped establish the countries we know today that make up Europe. There were tweaks along the way, but it established the customs of international relations we know today. It was established within the bounds of European customs and cultures and of course held little sway as countries pushed out of Europe to colonize the world. At the end of the First World War the victorious nations sliced and diced the world up to their economic and political advantage. Ignoring the wants and desires of the indigenous population they put in motion decades of violence.  Many countries put together by colonial powers were countries in name only. Following the Second World War and then the Cold War many of these countries broke apart or fell under ruthless regimes that held them together at gun point.     

After the creation of Israel, the US seems to have locked out any further changes, no new countries. This of course left the made-up countries like Iraq to fend for themselves. We refused to acknowledge the different ethnic, religious, and even linguistic differences. The United States has the distinct advantage/disadvantage of being one of the most heterogeneous nations in the world. Regardless of all our knowledge we refuse to accept that not all countries and people will accept our values or adhere to our customs. We are seeing this play out today in Afghanistan. A tribal nation that many have tried to forge into a single country. It will not work. We needed to arm and train tribal forces not a national army. If it was ever to change it would take generations a century or more to make it whole. The United States unfortunately maintains a five second view of the world and has no idea of second and third order effect of its decisions. We look to deal with problems on a country-by-country basis while the countries we are dealing with are acting in regional or overarching religious aspects. In the case of the Taliban, they see their version of Islam as the only correct interpretation.

Biden said that after 20 years it was time for the Afghans to take charge, but who are the Afghans? As a single entity they do not exist. Our presence did begin to push a lot of the country forward. At a minimum woman were being educated. We are now talking to a group that holds a world view front he 7th century and act as if they have changed in 20 years and are now willing to become a part of the world. But all that will end simple because our foreign policy professional has failed once more.    

Is it time to abandon Afghanistan?


In his January 20th, 1961, inaugural address President Kennedy said, “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” Over the years these words have rung hollow for our friends and allies. Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, and others, now Afghanistan.  A saying I heard long ago says, “Insurgents don’t have to win they only have to wait.” Today we once again see the truth of this statement. We have been in Afghanistan for 20 years and have in fact done good things. An entire generation of woman have grown up in a society that has allowed for growth. It is not complete, but we had a start. We are now hearing stories of girls being given to Taliban fighters as war prizes. The people know what is coming as evidenced by them hanging on the wheels of departing aircraft and handing their children over to waiting Marines, so they have a chance to escape. People are bring dragged out of their homes and executed. There will be more horror stories, but we will not hear them as we withdraw and there is no information or press coverage.

The new narrative is that most people wanted us out of Afghanistan but are opposed to the way it is being handled. I am willing to bet that most people did not know or care that we were still there. But we were and had set expectations of many Afghans. This went beyond the early mission of defeating Al Qaida and removing the Taliban from power. Was that the end of it? Where we expected to then just pack up and leave, as many have said? The question of whether we should have done nation building is now being asked and the answer is clearly yes. We had a moral obligation to replace what we broke, their government. What happened is, as is often the case with the west, we tried to impose western style democracy in a non-western culture.  

As we have seen in Iraq, tribal and regional loyalties out strip the concept of national identity. We had a good plan in place in Iraq that armed and trained the Sunni tribes call the Sons of Iraq. When the Shia dominated government pulled the plug on that we saw the rise of ISIS. Instead of trying to build a national army in Afghanistan, a country of little to no national identity, we should have trained and armed the tribes and worked on regional ethnic pride.

Was it time to leave Afghanistan, no it was time to reassess and change our tactics. Biden has said there was no longer a national security threat in Afghanistan, he is wrong. The Taliban control will give terrorist a safe area to grow and plot and attack the west. Make no mistake we will have to return in one way or another.  

Arms and influence, Trump and Biden


1 THE DIPLOMACY OF VIOLENCE

The usual distinction between diplomacy and force is not merely in the instruments, words or bullets, but in the relation between adversaries—in the interplay of motives and the role of communication, understandings, compromise, and restraint. Diplomacy is bargaining; it seeks outcomes that, though not ideal for either party, are better for both than some of the alternatives. In diplomacy each party somewhat controls what the other wants, and can get more by compromise, exchange, or collaboration than by taking things in his own hands and ignoring the other’s wishes. The bargaining can be polite or rude, entail threats as well as offers, assume a status quo or ignore all rights and privileges, and assume mistrust rather than trust. But whether polite or impolite, constructive or aggressive, respectful or vicious, whether it occurs among friends or antagonists and whether or not there is a basis for trust and goodwill, there must be some common interest, if only in the avoidance of mutual damage, and an awareness of the need to make the other party prefer an outcome acceptable to oneself. With enough military force a country may not need to bargain. Some things a country wants it can take, and some things it has it can keep, by sheer strength, skill and ingenuity. It can do this forcibly, accommodating only to opposing strength, skill, and ingenuity and without trying to appeal to an enemy’s wishes. Forcibly a country can repel and expel, penetrate and occupy, seize, exterminate, disarm and disable, confine, deny access, and directly frustrate intrusion or attack. It can, that is, if it has enough strength. “Enough” depends on how much an opponent has. There is something else, though, that force can do. It is less military, less heroic, less impersonal, and less unilateral; it is uglier, and has received less attention in Western military strategy. In addition to seizing and holding, disarming and confining, penetrating and obstructing, and all that, military force can be used to hurt. In addition to taking and protecting things of value it can destroy value. In addition to weakening an enemy militarily it can cause an enemy plain suffering.

Schelling, Thomas C.. Arms and Influence (The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series) (pp. 1-2). Yale University Press.

It has been asked many times in the last few days, weeks, and months, why are we in Afghanistan and what is the American National Interest. The Presidents last news conference touched on this as have some of his last announcements on his decision to withdrew and news outlets have stated that polls on the American people stated that they wanted to get out of Afghanistan. Biden has also on several occasions said that our goals have been met and we should not continue to put US forces in harm’s way. I started off with the opening paragraph from Thomas Shelling’s book “Arms and Influence.” It is interesting to note that the first chapter is titled “The Diplomacy of Violence.”  I could have as easily quoted George Santayana “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Afghanistan is a wild and virtually ungovernable country. It was used by Al Qaeda to plan and launch the 9/11 attacks. Would we ever be able to work with the Taliban to bring them into the government, no. President Biden seemed to think so, as did President Trump. Both were determined to end US military presence in Afghanistan. Trump understood how difficult it would be to corral the Taliban so he placed conditions on our exit and while using diplomacy added the threat of military intervention should the Taliban not meet the conditions. Biden on the other hand Using the deal Trump hammed out as the excuse that we had to get out, regardless of conditions. As we have learned from Schelling, diplomacy with out the threat of force is useless. Carl von Clausewitz in his work “On War” declared that “war is a continuation of policy by other means.” Does all this mean that the US or any other country must engage in “Forever Wars’ of course not. What we need to understand is that when dealing with foreign adversaries diplomatically there is always going to be the knowledge of a military in the background. This is not a horrible, brutal, bulling way of existence, but a matter of human nature. Without such a threat Hitler went on a rampage that nearly destroyed the world. With the threat of “Mutually Assured Destruction” the US and the Soviet Union existed side by side in peace. Biden and his government are living in a world of Ideology not reality. With Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban terrorist once again have a base of operations. Why did this not happen before as we wound down our force commitment? Trumps threats were believed. Currently Biden is seen as weak and ineffectual. Why is Afghanistan important? To keep the knowledge alive that the US will support its allies. What now will keep Turkey from attacking Iraq and eliminating the Kurds. What will keep Israel safe? What is going to keep China from attacking Taiwan. Second and Third order of effect must be considered in any decision that is made, not just feel good ideological rea

BIden response to Iranian attack on U.s. bases


Is it to little to late

Yesterday President Biden finally acted regarding the recent attacks on US interests in Iraq by Iranian backed militias in SYRIA. While I congratulate the President for acting, I question the what and wherefore of the attack. According to reports there were several options presented to the president and the one chosen was the smallest target. This would not be a problem provided there was a political or military reason for the target selection. The only political reason seems to be domestic consumption. The other reason for target selection is the impact it will make and the message it will send.

The stated purpose was to launch a measured and proportional attack that would send a message but not lead to any escalation. This explanation shows that the new administration knows nothing about the politics or culture of the region. The hatred for the west is deep and profound.  There are conflicting reports as to the results of the attack. They go from only infrastructure was attacked up to 17 people killed. In any case attacking these militias will always result in retaliation and escalation.

In 1993 then President Clinton ordered retaliatory attacks into Baghdad aimed at punishing Iraqi intelligence for their part in a plot to assassinate former President Bush, and Afghanistan and Sudan in response to the bombing if US Embassies in Africa. For the most part the buildings attacked in Baghdad were damaged but since it was done in the early morning. In Afghanistan and Sudan mush the same, in Afghanistan the camps targeted were empty. The reasons given were once again, to send a message. The effect of these messages was stepped up terror attacks in Europe and the US with the 9/11 grand finally.

Internally prominent republicans have applauded the move while several democrat law makers called it an illegal move. Internationally the Russians complained they were not informed in time to deconflict the battle space, Syria called it a violation of their sovereignty. Iraq was informed as well prior to the mission and likely informed the militias in time for them to vacate the area, at least most.

It is unlikely that this attack will do more than heighten tensions in the region and Iran will likely put Biden on notice that this will only delay the process to reestablishing the Iran deal. As said, I am happy Biden did something and hope it is successful but feel it will not be. It was the wrong action in the wrong area. Biden will learn it will take more force to impact terrorist.

The Iran Deal and social justise


While the nation is consumed by the Impeachment trial, we have not heard much on Biden’s moves to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran deal. Since President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran deal there has been a massive hue and cry from certain segments of the political spectrum that Iran is going to go Nuclear and the people will starve with any return to sanctions. Iran has never stopped its nuclear program and its people were starving before the deal.

The US as well as the EU has requested re-negotiating the deal to allow for the addition of missile development, more stringent inspections and, very important, inclusion of human rights. In two on-air interviews/debates I have had recently with Iranian foreign policy people it was made clear that there would be no re-negotiation and the US must first recommit to full compliance before going any further.

The US and other allies went too fast and gave up too much in the original agreement. Those calling for a return to the original have never addressed what the problems are. I am not naive enough to believe that Iran will ever be in full compliance or that any attempt at reducing missile development or getting meaningful access to all sites will be successful. What can be hoped for is that the level of human rights abuses can be exposed to the world. The daily killing of Kurds and others as well as the destruction of any religion other then their version of Islam must be exposed and would-be during negotiations.

When so many call out for social justice to ignore the abuses in Iran for political means is disgusting. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the world including facilitating al-Qaeda and ISIS supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and the killing and destruction of Kurdish culture and the Baha’i religion.  These things must be addressed before any return to any negotiation,

Kurds, Clintons and the “Daughters of KobanI.”


By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis

In the past few of days, we have been treated to the news that Hilary Clinton and daughter Chelsea will be making a film based on a book about the female Peshmerga in Syria. Lots of comments on Twitter about this new book, to be published on 16th Feb 2021. Called Daughters of Kobani, it claims to detail the Women’s Protection Unit of the Syrian Democratic Forces known as the YPJ, and the YPJ’s struggle in Kobani against ISIS. Early reviews of the book indicate it looks promising and comes at a very timely moment in the struggle of Kurds, with Erdogan attacks in Rojava (NE Syria) on a nightly basis and threatening full-scale invasion.

We are both happy and disgusted by this. Happy that these fighters will get the exposure they need but disgusted that the person doing so spent the latter years of public service calling them terrorist and making every effort to deny the Kurds their rights and the country that should have been theirs to begin with. To make profit off the suffering she was a part of is hypocrisy in the highest.

We can understand the screams of frustration coming from women Kurdish filmmakers and accusations of hypocrisy and cultural appropriation but frankly, at this point of the Kurdish struggle, we warmly welcome this book as pro-Kurdish rights campaigners and hope that it will strengthen some people’s resolve to stand up to Erdogan’s attacks against NE Syria in the coming weeks and months. And to be honest, it is on that basis that Kurds welcome such policies, but at the same time, can disagree and want to ask where Hillary Clinton was when her husband, the then President of the US, were funding the Turkish government when it was at the height of the village depopulations in the 90s. It is a valid question and I’m sure we will face disappointment and anger in the coming months, but at least it gives some sort of hope that those around the President and Democrat circles will give recognition to the role the Kurdish people played in the defeat of ISIS and that they have sacrificed so much, that they have more than  earned the inalienable right to be able to determine their own future and build the progressive society they fought for as a beacon of light, not only for women for who Rojava has been a revolution but for the future of the Middle East and beyond! We can only live-in hope and continue to defend the Democratic Nation through all its troubled times ahead. We hope this film can shine a light on the brave fighters of the YPJ. We hope however that the double dealing and hypocrisy of the Clintons is also brought to light. 

The US Presidential Election and its Impact On the US And the Middle East


By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis

Currently the outcome of the upcoming Presidential election in the United States is far from clear.  Polling for this election has shown no consistency and seems to depend more on political bias of the pollsters then on an honest attempt to discern the true feelings and atmosphere of the electorate. The polls are mixed, so it is difficult to say for sure. Looking at the overall national trends it would appear that Trump is going to be reelected, but trends could change overnight. There are many reasons to anticipate a Trump reelection, the greatest reason looks to come from private polls in battleground states that show the top concerns are economic and law and order. The Biden campaign continues to lean toward health issues and a perceived incompetence of Trump which is being rejected by the undecided voters. He also leans heavily on the assumption that the nation is consumed by the problems of racial injustice. There has also been a recent study that indicated that many of the undecided voters are caught between a dislike for Trump and a distrust of Biden and his policies. The economic issue resonates as the number one issue that people state will drive their vote. The impact on the economy, as the results of Covid-19 shutdowns, have affected many of the traditional Democrat base as well as, in many “Blue States,” attempts at draconian rules and regulations are anathema to many Americans. The left has attempted to blame Trump for all problems based on his perceived lack of leadership in fighting Covid-19. Many Americans accept the fact that this is a pandemic that hit the world with speed and lethality. On the other hand they also know that prior to the pandemic Trump had advanced the economy and working conditions across the board, White, Black and Hispanics were shown to have the lowest unemployment in history as well as growth in Black and Hispanic business.  America watched as violence has erupted across the country in cities that then took little to no action to restore order. Law and order are a main concern to most and Trump has established a strong position on this issue.

As we said above Biden has locked himself into the position that health care is a major concern for most American. A recent Pew Research poll showed that while 68% of the respondents showed health care to be a major factor in their voting decision 79% indicated the economy.  Another indicator of Democrat party candidate missing the tempo of the country is that in the same report, which came out in August, Racial issues and immigration came at the lower end.

In regard to foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular the question comes to how the two candidates will impact policy. With a Trump victory there will likely be little change. Trump has made no secret of the fact that US domestic policy is his number one issue. He feels that regional issues are best left to regional players. While he has recently made headlines by brokering historic treaties between Israel and Arab nations UAE and Bahrain were the first two Arab nations to recognize Israel in over 25 years and it was recently announced that Sudan will join this group. Peace in the Middle East is good for America. Biden on the other hand has talked a great deal about wanting peace yet is heavily tied to Iran and under the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) where Iran sanctions were lifted, and Billions of dollars released to Iran. This money has been used not to benefit Iranian people but to increase Iranian hegemony. Biden is invested in reestablishing the Iran deal and lifting sanctions that have been in place since Trump pulled out. Recently the UN, over the objections of the US, lifted the restraint on selling Iran military hardware.  A rearmed and strengthened Iran is a danger to Kurds in the entire region. The Obama administration was no friend of an independent Kurdistan and those people that were in the Obama administration will likely return in a Biden administration

As we have said we do not see a major change in administration policy for the region, there are however things that can force a change. One of the biggest problems the next administration will face is the increased belligerency of Turkey, not only in Syria and the Iraqi Kurdish region but also in the Mediterranean and with Greece. Should Turkey keep this up, actions which have drawn the attention of US allies Brittan and France, the US will be forced to engage. Additionally, should Iran increase its activities a Trump administration will need to show the flag. This again is only a Trump administration; Biden will likely do nothing to halt Iranian aggression.

American policy will continue to support Baghdad. American policy remains locked in the belief of “One Iraq.” This has been true since the Bush administration and will continue through any American administration. While many in the congress give lip service to the concept of an independent Kurdistan it is unlikely that support will rise to the point that policy will change.  Trumps support to Turkey’s President Erdogan is well established, however many in congress and in both the State and Defense departments are counselling a different approach including Sec. State Pompeo.    

The biggest impact this election will have will be in the United States. While it is true that all elections impact the country in which they are held, the difference in the two candidates and their respective parties as well as the increasing division within the US will likely cause a seismic tremor regardless of outcome.  The American media has made much about their claim that Trump will not accept the outcome if he loses, something that has never come from Trump, but considering the way the election is being conducted it is doubtful that Biden and his team will readily concede.

From an international perspective should the election not be decided at the ballot box it will have a severe impact on the world economy. Wall Street and other major markets abhor uncertainty, and this will reflect in any problem with the election.   This will not be the same as the 2000 Bush-Gore election toss up since at this time both sides have staked a claim of voter fraud against the other. There is also a very good possibility that there will be a repeat of 2016 where Trump will win the electoral collage but lose the popular vote. Should this happen there is a great likelihood of violence in the streets of America by extreme left-wing radicals. At this point Turkey, Iran and Russia could take advantage of a perceived power vacuum and move to consolidate power in what they consider their rightful territories.

In conclusion we must anticipate a longer then usual period before results are released. Trump is trended toward re-election, but the race is in fact at this point tied. A Trump victory will result in a status quo while a Biden victory will result in a return to a weakened US position in the world.               

Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish-American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.


Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army and was a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.

Corona Virus and Monday morning quarterback


How do we figure out the best way to handle the current crisis of the Corona virus? Let’s look at two extreme options. The first is to close everything except critical business until we are 100% sure the virus has exhausted itself. The second is to reopen everything and let nature take its course. Neither is an acceptable answer. In the first case, while sounding plausible, does not consider 2d,3d or .4th order effects of an economic and social downturn. These range from an increase in spousal abuse, increased alcoholism or just a large segment of the population dropping into poverty which increase the problem of malnutrition and other problems too numerous to mention. In the second case we are condemning a portion of the population to sickness and in some cases death. For transparencies sake I will let you know I am in at least three of the high-risk categories.

Admittedly there are several other choices, but the question is how you arrive at the correct answer if you are in charge, and keep in mind we are speaking of the person who must make the decision. We must separate the emotional charges that are being made that it is strictly economics over elderly. We must also understand that we are nowhere close to having to make this decision.

While over the years several books and publications have come out on how decisions are or should be made, there does not seem to be one single answer. One commonality is that for every action or decision there will be some form of consequence. To begin I will look at the classic thought experiment in ethics known as the Trolley problem. To save you from looking it up the Google version is:

The trolley problem: should you pull the lever to divert the runaway trolley onto the sidetrack?

The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. It is generally considered to represent a classic clash between two schools of moral thought, utilitarianism and deontological ethics. The general form of the problem is this:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the sidetrack. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the sidetrack where it will kill one person.

Which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?

To make this more complicated there is a version were the lone person is your son (daughter, parent or spouse).

If the question was simply between economics and life it would be an easier answer. As we have said above there are other consequences in an economic downturn that weigh in.

A more real-life consideration is to look at the concept of triage, we’re in  a crisis and with limited resources decisions must be made based on:

  • Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
  • Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
  • Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.

We can always look to history to see what other have done. It is being said that we have never faced a crisis of this magnitude in recent history. This is only true if you confine recent history to the last 3½ years. Getting past the hyperbole we can come up with several examples, none exactly match today but since we are looking to make a decision they act as a guide.

The US has seen a number of epidemics and pandemics is recent years and has reacted to each with degrees of difference and similarity. One thing that appears to be consistent in our reaction is isolation. The next was rushed vaccine development and of course constant updates to the public. In the days of widespread smallpox, we also saw quarantines of houses and families. Today we are self quarantining. In other words what is happening today is what has been done in the past.

Increased requirements for protective gear such as masks and gloves have caused a strain on the system as has the need for ventilators. What sort of decisions should have been made for these. In the 2009 H1N1 pandemic 100,000,000 N95 masks were used but never replaced. Had they been we may or may not have solved the current crisis since there is an expiration date on them. Ventilators are needed. The government did indeed see a need and had over the years placed orders for up to 40000 units. While the contracts were canceled by the manufactures for different reasons the numbers, had they been delivered, would have been insufficient. New Your alone has called for 30000 units, leaving 10000 for the rest of the country had the government stockpiled them.

How then should the decision-making process work? We can look to history and try to decide based on what was done in the past, which was done today but based on the differences and extent of this pandemic from those in the immediate past actions were missed. We could have insured resources were available, but we see that there is a shelf-life on items so how many to buy and when to replace becomes problematic. Without a crystal ball the number of items to purchase and store becomes an imposable task. Based than on limited resources who gets what and when comes down to what? Is it a medical decision of who is most likely to survive and just make the rest comfortable? This last brings us to the ethics of decision, how do you decide where the trolley goes.

In the end someone must decide and it is not always easy or straight forward. It is easy to criticize the person who must make it and to say they are wrong, if you are not the person making the decision. Monday morning quarterbacking is a time-honored tradition in America, but for now let’s stop and hope/pray that we get through this soon.    

Who are the Kurds Without Googling? By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis


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The current crises in Washington is the decision by the president to pull US forces out of Syria and thereby ending the protection we have afforded to our Kurdish allies. In the middle of the arguments the president daughter in law, Lara Trump, made a statement in support of the president that said the average American had to Google the Kurds to find out who they were. This set off a firestorm of criticism justified or not. The main problem with the statement for many is that it is basically true. Even those who know the Kurds do not fully understand who or what they are. In order to educate we think it time to produce a Kurdish primer, or at least one about the current Kurds.
To begin the Kurds are an ethnic group not a race and have occupied the area commonly referred to as Kurdistan for over a millennium. They share no common history or culture with those surrounding them other than through interactions with their neighbors. As the region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, they became subjects of the Caliph but, like most throughout the empire, maintained their identity. Like many groups there were fissures and differences which can be seen today most glaringly in the different dialects of spoken Kurdish, some argue different languages. Throughout this time Kurdish culture remained intact. Following the end of the First World War the Kurds were divided up amongst three separate countries, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, while a portion remained in Persia or todays Iran. The Kurds have fought for a separate country ever since. As the Kurds became more independent, they began to develop separate political philosophies and parties.
To put into context the Kurds are not a monolithic group but like all other people in the world hold different political views and opinions. They have shown however they are different then their neighbors by allowing for different philosophies and different ethnicities to coexist in the Kurdish region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the oldest of the modern Kurdish political movements. Founded in 1946 as a Pan-Kurdish party in Iran it was instrumental in the creation of an independent but short-lived Kurdistan known as the Mahabad Republic. When the Soviet Union removed its backing the tow leaders Qazi Muhammad and Mustafa Barzani had a final falling out and Barzani established the Iraqi brand of the KDP.
The KDP was mostly operated as a tribal entity and existed by the strong will and stronger hand of Barzani. The back and forth relationship between the KDP and the various governments in Baghdad led to a revolt in 1974 in which the Kurds did not fare well. Results of the revolt on the Kurds led to the establishment of a second party in 1975, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Despite personal difference between Barzani and the leader of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, another difference was philosophical. The KDP was more tribal and center right while the PUK held a more socialist left drift. This split was so severe that it led to a brief but violent civil war between the two parties with the KDP looking to Baghdad for help and the PUK turning to Iran.
While the KDP and PUK never fully reconciled the actions of Saddam Hussain in his attacks of the Kurds killing hundreds of thousands did push the two sides together in the face of a common enemy. The Persian Gulf war allowed for a greater sense of autonomy until once again Saddam launched attacks on the Kurds as well as Sunni Arabs. After the US led invasion in which the Kurds play an important role an autonomous Kurdish region was set up and then enshrined into the Iraqi constitution.
The newly established Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) now sits in its capitol Erbil and is the acknowledge government for the Kurdish Region of Iraq. There are a dozen different political parties represented in the Kurdish parliament for the KDP and PUK to Gorran (Change), New Generation, as well as the Communist party and the Kurdistan Islamic Group as well as others.
We have spent some time on the Iraqi Kurds since they are the best known to the American audience. We now turn to the Turkish Kurds who as a population represent the largest group of Kurds in the Region.
While Iraq treated its Kurdish population as second class citizens the Turks refused to even admit that the Kurds were a separate ethnic group. Denying the use of the Kurdish language or celebration of Kurdish culture the Turk went so far as to rename them Mountain Turks. While the Iraqi Kurds evolved the Turkish Kurds responded to their oppression by the formation of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. The PKK grow from the revolutionary youth movement begun in the 1960 and was organized in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist student movement. Moving through clashes with both police and right-wing organization it became a full-blown armed insurrection based on Kurdish nationalism and desiring a Pan-Kurdish nation. The PKK has gone through some evolutionary changes but remains basically an armed revolutionary group based in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq moving between attacking Turkish outpost and working for a peace agreement. This has been on going for 30 years. On the political side there have been a number of parties that have been associated with the PKK. The current party is the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). HDP has had success in elections even winning a large number of seats in the Parliament in the 2015 general election. The ruling party under the current President Erdogan canceled the results and held new elections which reduced the win. Following which leaders of HDP in parliament were striped of their seats and some imprisoned under the claim of being or supporting terrorist. Most recently several mayors of towns in the Kurdish region were removed and replaced with Turks.
The PKK was chased around the region and at one time were in Syria until Turkey forced the Syrian government to get them to leave. Before leaving they establish a Syrian branch of the PKK which became the Democratic Union Party or PYD. This has allowed Turkey to claim the PYD as a terrorist organization and part of the PKK. While calling for autonomy of the Kurdish regions in Syria the PYD has learned the Lesions of the PKK and have mostly cooperated with the Syrian government until the time of the Syrian civil war. The PYD used the disarray in Syria to establish an autonomous government but did not engage in the war against the Assad regime itself. It has rejected Kurdish nationalism and maintains a Kurdish-Syrian identity. Like many parties in the region it maintains an armed force called the Peoples Protection Unit of YPG and an affiliated Women’s Protection Unit or YPJ. Today the Turkish government is unable to separate the PYD from the PKK in its operations which has led to the current violence. It is difficult also for some in the west to make the distinction because of a similar socialist ideology.
Another which Turkey claim’s is affiliated with PKK, is the Iranian Kurdish group the Kurdistan Free Life Party or PJAK. PJAK started out as a civil rights movement in the Kurdish region of Iran and moved to a violence when attacked by Iranian forces. Pushed out of Iran they set up in the Qandil mountains in Iraq and came under the influence there of the PKK. While adopting socialist ideology it is not known has much the PKK can influence PJAK away from its desire to maintain Persian roots.
Most Kurdish parties in Iran are outright communist or very left. Also, most are breakaways form other parties with the oldest being the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran.
Not all parties are mentioned is this article and much of the history has been severely modified, but as Lara Trump said it can be Googled. This brought us to a conclusion that the average is not up to date on geography, or the Middle East. We can point out so many television shows interviews where the average American on the street when asked about the past and present US presidents are clueless so we are not shocked about Lara’s statement as so many Kurds are. Education plays a big part in this case. The only thing that unites most Kurds is a call for a homeland. We are speaking of upwards of 40 million people without a nation. To dismiss any attempt to achieve autonomy is to ignore history. Regardless of what happens the Kurds, will continue to fight for independence within their respective regions. While it is unlikely that a united Kurdistan can be achieved it is possible to create separate Kurdish states that can work in confederation with each other. Giving in to Turkey will not stop the desire of the Kurds to be free. It is time that the United State, Unite Kingdom and other countries stand up for Kurds, those who claimed Kurds are their allies, those who used Kurds to push the Islamic State (ISIS) out of Iraq, and defeated them in Syria. Kurds shed blood for the world, it is time for everyone to step in and support the establishment of an Independent Kurdistan. President Trump made many harsh statements in the past a few days about the Kurds, first he mentioned that they are no angels, and then he said they got paid a lot of money. This angered Kurds tremendously. As president Masud Barzani replied to his statment, “Kurdish Blood is more valuable than money and weapons.

Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.
Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army as well as a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.