The Kurds, Independence and Why the US Should Care

Kurdish american flag

 

In northern Iraq there is an area known as the Kurdistan Region, a self-governing area comprised officially of three governorates, Dohuk, Erbil and Soleimani, four unofficially with the addition of Kirkuk. The Kurdish people are a separate population with their own language, customs and culture. As was most of the Middle East they were part of the Ottoman Empire for 600 years, until the end of the First World War. Following Turkey’s defeat, the allies, France and England, divided the Middle East into separate countries. The division was not intended to right any past wrongs or concerned with cultural or linguistic differences, but to serve as new colonies for Europe, with interest in oil production. The Kurdish people saw this as an opportunity to become a free and independent country and such was promised by the Treaty of Sèvres that ended the war with Turkey and was designed to break up the Ottoman empire. For reasons best left to your own research a second treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne was written, and the hope of independence was removed. The Kurds have been fighting for the right to their own country ever since.
On September 25th, a referendum will be held in the Kurdish region to determine the desire of the Kurdish people to seek full independence from Iraq. This referendum is expected to pass by greater than 95%. Then what?
Most western nations, including the United States, have opposed Kurdish independence for many reasons. Some of the reasons are political such as Turkey will be opposed, others are emotional such as the entire Middle East will fall apart if we allow for a separate Kurdistan. This last assumes a stable region, which it is not. These arguments have been made and discussed and dissected for many years and I will not go into the reasons why Kurdish independence should be opposed or argue the points others have put forward in opposition. I intend to simply argue why there should be a free and independent Kurdistan.
What makes a country/nation is a combination of a common language, common culture and shared values, or simply stated a uniqueness that sets them apart from others. Without this uniqueness, there is always problems. Forcing different people to adopt other cultures or languages has proven to be disastrous. For many years the Kurdish language was not allowed in the Kurdish regions of Iraq. Kurdish culture was suppressed and the Kurds themselves were removed from their homes and replaced by Arabs from the south. Surrounded by Arab states, Turkey and Iran, Young Kurds do not speak Arabic, Turkish or Persian. While most Kurds are Muslim there is a thriving Christian community of Kurds as well as Yezidi (a culture all its own). There is also a diversity of political thought, not always as readily accepted, but accepted. Nowhere else in the region will you find such a wide-ranging acceptance of diversity.
After centuries, we see the desire for independence in the Scots and prior to this the Irish, today we also see the continuing independence movement by the Basque . Currently we have seen a resurrection of older nations in eastern Europe such as Serbia, Bosnia, etc. The common thread has been language and culture. Iraq is not a natural country, it was made-up by foreign powers. The Kurds have nothing in common with their Arab neighbors, not language or culture or history. To allow the regional population to redraw the boundaries is not earth shattering but natural. Is Kurdistan perfect, no. Will there be problems, yes. But at the end of the day it’s the right thing to do. As a nation born of revolution and a desire to be free we have an obligation to help this new nation in every way possible. At the end of the First World War President Wilson made it clear in his 14 points that “XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development…” Kurdish children are more familiar with Wilson’s 14 points than most American adults.
It is time to fulfill the American promise to the Kurds.

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Is North Korea Helping Iran Skirt the Requirements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

I and NK

The recent advances made by North Korean nuclear capabilities force the thought that they may have had advanced help. The one nation they have been dealing with is Iran. It is known that Iranian ballistic missiles have shown a close similarity to North Korea’s. What is the relationship then between the two countries nuclear development. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran Deal, Iran was to end its research and development of nuclear weapons for 15 years. There is by treaty and understanding to be any outside research, but have the Iranian found a way around this.

North Korea has been cut off from the rest of the world for many years, regardless of economic support from China and Russia. The speed at which it has advanced from a small nuclear detonation to position of a probable thermos-nuclear device is astounding. If in fact they have also managed to miniaturize it to be a warhead on an ICBM is of even greater concern. Based on the speed of advancement it is not unlikely that they had outside help.   

While several countries could advise North Korea, such as China, Russia, India, or even Pakistan, these countries have no reason to do so. In fact, the opposite is true and none would be safe with a nuclear North Korea. Iran on the other hand has every reason to covertly aid the North Korean regime. It would have all the research it needs whenever it wishes to end the Iran deal and move toward development and deployment of a weapon. The current belief is that it would take Iran over a year to reach a breakout point but this assumes that they would start from the point they had been at the signing of the accord.

This is a major problem that must be confronted. While all attention is directed at North Korea, which it should be, Iran is setting the stage to become a nuclear threat in the Middle East. German Chancellor Merkel has said that the JCPOA could act as a guide to denuclearizing Korea the opposite is true. Iran has taken every opportunity to evade the spirit of the Iran deal and it should only be followed as a cautionary tale.

As we move forward attempting to handle a crisis with diplomacy we are edging the world closer to nuclear war. Repeatedly in history mankind has refused to see danger and ignored the signs that a major problem was on the horizon, until it is too late, and millions die. Decisive action can stop North Korea and Iran and must be taken for the sake of peace.       

What History Teaches Us About the Danger of Ignoring North Korean Threats and Actions

NK over Japan

Yesterday North Korea launched a missile that was capable of carrying a nuclear war head that flew over Japan.  This is not the first time NK has violated Japanese sovereignty but it is potentially the most dangerous. To be certain this was not a test but a message. The message is that NK can and will attack its enemies with nuclear weapons. The world is outraged and terrified, except apparently Russia, which has said it was US and South Korean actions that forced NK to launch this missile. This of course was some of the same logic that certain parties used in the past to explain the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US made them do it.

We are moving down a path that the world has seen before, and has never learned from.  Kim Jung-Un is a ruthless dictator with no moral compass or sense of the world. He is testing the US and regional powers to see how far he can go. He will continue to push until he is convinced of his invincibility. At this point the world will pay a terrible price for its restraint. It is just a question as to which country he will fire a nuke.

We have seen this with Hitler and Stalin and more recently with Kaddafi, Saddam Hussain, and Assad. In each case the world waited until the need for force was required to end aggression and millions died. The argument has always been the same, use diplomacy, use sanctions and wait them out, use of force will only beget force and war. The reality is that the longer you wait to stop someone like Kim the more devastating the war will be, and war is his aim. He has deluding himself into believing the world will always back down and he will always get whatever he wants. There is no one to tell him differently and his life to date has shown he will always get what he wants.

War is terrible, and nuclear war devastating. I do not want war but the way we are going I don’t see a way out of it short of a preemptive strike and the removal of this dictator. In the end, it will be the least deadly path. History however has shown that we will not take that path and there will be another devastating war that could have been avoided.              

There Where Many Sides in Charlottesville

non-zero-sum

There is a game known as zero-sum total. According to Webster’s this is defined as “a situation in which one person or group can win something only by causing another person or group to lose it.” We see this today in the form of political rhetoric. The President seemed to cause a major political uproar by saying that both sides in Charlottesville, VA could be assigned blame. This went against the grain of those that felt that blame can only be assessed to one side or the other.

Now the Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, KKK assholes have no place in today’s society. Under zero-sum total then any group who opposes them must be on the side of all that is good. But those groups included violent, race biased organizations that show a great amount of intolerance toward anyone who disagrees in any way to their beliefs. These include the Antifa, BLM and anarchist. So how do we blame both for suborning violence.  

It is easy really, assign blame to anyone or any group that is to blame. This is referred to as non-zero-sum. When zero sum is used when the problem is non-zero-sum a problem arises. This last is known as Zero-sum bias. For more I will direct you to a paper written by Daniel V. Meegan, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada titled “Zero-sum bias: perceived competition despite unlimited resources,” I will let the reader look it up and read. The problem is that what happened in Charlottesville VA is taken as Zero-sum, the Nazis are evil and therefore wrong. Anyone against them must therefore be in the right. In fact, the activities must be seen as non-zero-sum, the extremes were both wrong and evil but loud to be the only options seen.

What stops us in many cases is another problem called Identity politics, defined as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.” Much of this today revolves around race, ideology and by extension religion. In identity politics, a person takes a position based on race or ideology and will oppose anyone not of that race or ideology, regardless of facts. The problem with identity politics is that it forces anyone not in your group to be clumped into the “other” group.

No person or organization should be given a pass because of who they oppose. Evil is evil and left or right they should be denounced. The clumping now becomes a problem. While calling out both extremes we find others in the mix of a demonstration. In Charlottesville, the thugs where there to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. There were also those who opposed the removal based on cultural heritage beliefs and others opposed to the destruction or rewriting of history. I was born and raised in NJ and have no affection for Lee or the south having been raised to believe them traitors. But I was also raised with a strong sense of history and that we need to always remember history in order to move forward.  There were also those who truly believed the statues no longer represented Charlottesville and wanted them removed. If we consider the argument to be non-zero-sum then the middle groups should be allowed to come up with a decision that would be a compromise agreed on by all parties. This of course would require us to return to an old political activity known as compromise.    

In the end, we must all look at every aspect of a problem and be prepared to support the group we agree with. We must also be prepared to see neither side as holding our beliefs and values. Before you reach a conclusion based on a personal bias PLEASETHINK that both sides may be wrong. Use Charlottesville as an example where two extremes were wrong and the middle was ignored.    

 

The Need for a Military Option in Diplomacy

Arms and Influence

The recent flare-up between the United States and North Korea has many pundits and politician on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The thought of using nuclear weapons should cause the world to pause and think and do all that is in the power of nations to stop it, but it cannot be unthinkable. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) was a doctrine used during the cold war that kept both sides from striking the other. With-in this, the most important part is ASSURED. There was no doubt on either side that the other would respond to an attack with a devastating counterattack. President Trump is returning the military option to diplomacy and it is not a new or radical idea.

In his book in 1532, “The Prince” Niccolo Machiavelli asked “… is it better to be loved then feared or feared then loved…” The answer obviously was feared. Am I endorsing Machiavelli, of course not, but sometimes he does make a good point. Now let’s move a little forward in time to 1832. Following his death, the book, “On War” by the Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz was published, one point he made was that war is a continuation of foreign policy by other means. There are many interpretations of what he meant, but all agree that at a minimum when diplomacy fails, the state still has the military option. How does all this tie in. In 1966, Thomas Schelling an American economist and professor of foreign affairs, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control wrote “Arms and Influence”, in the first chapter he wrote about the “diplomacy of violence.” The diplomacy of violence states, among other things, that regardless of the size and capability of your military, should your enemy perceive that it will not be used then the deterrent effect is nullified. In other words, if the military option is off the table then the bad guy has nothing to fear. This is the lesson the leaders of today have forgotten. That what has been passed down to us by all the above and others is that without the military option there is no diplomatic option.

Recent actions by the United States over the last few administrations indicate to the world we will not use the full strength of our military. Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding, we have failed to react to most major crisis’s in the world with the military option in the background. Russian activity in Georgia and Ukraine had sanctions put in place. In Iran, a very bad deal was made that will allow them to have nukes in a short time. In Iran both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry told the world without the Iran Deal the ONLY other possibility was war. This then took the military option off the table and made for a one-sided solution that will have serious negative consequences.

Today we are facing a rogue state that has been allowed to progress to the point of being able to attack the United States mainland with nukes. The leader of North Korea has shown he has no moral compass or world view. What sanctions will work on Kim Jong-un? He lets his people stave and believes himself to be a god, as do the people in North Korea.

If the world is made to understand the US has placed the military option back on the table and is willing to use it then that fear may move those nations that can force a change in North Korea to do so. Hopefully it will not take long for the world to understand that Donald Trump will use the military and that if that is truly a terrifying thought then they will act to eliminate the threat of a nuclear North Korea. If not, the United States must do what is necessary to protect itself and its allies.

Its Decision Time on the North Korean Problem

ICBM

Before we get started I ask the anti-Trump folks to read through and think. Please don’t just troll and say, yea, but Trump is… Ok now, Kim Jung-Un is an unstable and irrational person. He is the son and grandson of leaders considered gods. He himself is considered a god by the people of North Korea and is considered infallible. I have read a lot of experts and others say things such as he would not launch a nuclear attack on the US because he would know it is suicide. No, he does not, he sees the world through a child’s eye. He has no world view or world experience and there is no one around him who will tell him he is wrong. He has killed his brother and uncle and others who have crossed him. Additionally, successive US administrations have failed to make any permanent impression on the Kim’s and they watched as the Obama administration and the world caved to Iran. The worst thing President Obama and SecState Kerry did in those negotiations was continually repeat that without the deal the only other possible outcomes were war. This taught Kim that the threat of war was enough to force the US to back down.
The one overriding national drive in North Korea is the reunification of the Korean peninsula. The Kim’s have always seen the US as the only thing standing in their way. The North has impoverished itself in order to build a military that can defend the government, defeat the US and reunite the Korean people. The current leader was raised on video games and a sense of infallibility. He is a child with a room full of toys and he wants to play. War could have been avoided in the past if the few countries such as China had acted as responsible adults. While the world is told that there are few options left in dealing with the regime in Pyongyang and none good it is coming down to a single option, overwhelming force. All nations will have to be involved and it must be quick and it must be soon.
Yes there will be civilian deaths, but far fewer than if a Nuke lands in LA.

Will the Trump Doctrine Bring Peace or WWIII With Regards to North Korea?

ICBM

With the North Korean launch of an ICBM with the capability to reach the US, the specter of war has crept into the news media. Of course, much discussion revolves around President Trump and the fear that he invokes in a large segment of the left. What history teaches us however is that the direction Trump is taking us is one in which the potential for war should be reduced. I will add one caveat, what history has taught was based on interactions between rational actors, Kim Jong-Un may not fit that profile.
Much has been written about the ideals of continuing diplomatic avenues or increasing sanctions against North Korea, these have been the responses since the Clinton administration, and have resulted in various degrees of failure. I have read that there are no real options other than containment and sanctions. Many analysts insist that there is no viable military option because that will lead to a war where millions are killed. Kim Jong-Un, they say, is only developing nuclear weapons to protect his regime and will not use them since he must know it is suicide.
I must respectfully disagree with many of these analyst, the North Korean military exist, in the mind of the leadership, for one reason and one reason only, to reunite the Korean peninsula under Pyongyang. This has been true since the beginning under Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. In the third generation of the Kim dynasty the desire is strong to fulfill that pledge. North Korea does not however have a leader with a world view and whose only true military experience has come from an obsession with playing video games. In other words, he does not see using his military or nuclear weapons as a problem. It is a means to an end and will bring him glory and victory.
Ending the existence of nuclear weapons, or at least restricting the number of countries that possess them has been the desire of most of the world since 1945. This desire has failed and resulted in several countries joining the nuclear club. In no case has any country that desired a nuclear weapon been stopped from achieving that aim through diplomacy. What has been effective was stopping the use of these weapons through a concept known as Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. Once a nuclear exchange was initiated the response would be immediate and total. What made this effective was not the possibility of a destructive response but its assurance.
In recent history, especially in the last eight years, this assurance has been missing and it is causing the Trump administration to face the facts that not just the threat of war but military action is likely to be needed with North Korea. The world is facing the return of a peace through strength doctrine. When President Obama took the military option off the table or severely limited its use it sent a message to the world that anti-American actions would not always be followed by military actions and that diplomatic punishment was of little consequence.
In the last 5 months Trump has responded to a Syrian Chemical attack with a missile attack on the airfield that launched it, shot down a Syrian plan that had attacked our allies, run freedom of navigation drills through the south china sea and moved more military equipment to South Korea. The question remains if these and other activity are sufficient to convince the other side that US doctrine has changed. North Korea will never be convinced since their leadership lives in a bubble, assured of their invincibility. The countries that must be convinced are South Korea and Japan who will face the most devastation in the event of war, and China and Russia who have the most to lose in the event of North Korea being defeated and absorbed into a single Korea under Seoul.
This can be done given enough time and support from the American people and the international community. The center of this new doctrine comes not from old political thinking but from the infusion of business and nontraditional thinkers. This is not the first-time new ways of addressing old problems has come from nontraditional sources. Returning to the concept of MAD it was best explained in mid 1960s works by Dr. Thomas Schelling, an economics professor from Harvard and Yale. In his book Arms and Influence Dr. Schelling showed that in the realm of international diplomacy there is always a military component, unlike traditional belief that the use of military was diplomacy by other means we now learned that there is a coercive part. This last was referred to as the diplomacy if violence. The existence of a strong military by itself was sufficient to bring a just resolution to a problem. The only drawback to this is that the other side must have no doubt you will in fact use your military if needed. This is the part that has been a blockage to effective diplomacy for the US in recent years, there was a lot of doubt and in some cases absolute belief that no military action would take place.
President Trump is now caught in a period of changing doctrine and getting the world to accept and understand there is a change. In the case of North Korea, we don’t know how much time we have where the threat of military force to coerce a decision will be effective, or will we get to a point that we must compel an end. If forced to use the military many will die, Seoul will be devastated as will Tokyo, and China will be forced to move to stop a unified Korea to avoid a democratic western nation on its border.
The world is a dangerous place, made more dangerous when indecisive ideologs are running foreign policy. With a President who is less experienced in diplomacy and more in standing up for principles we have a chance of making the world safer by making war a probable outcome of the bullying tactics that have unfortunately been successful in the recent past.