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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

More on the Kurds

An interesting article from the LA Times. It raises an issue that I don't think gets mentioned enough--why this absurd devotion to keeping Iraq as a single nation? There seems to be plenty of evidence that post-World War I British mapmakers did an atrocious job of breaking up the Middle East; why carry these mistakes into the new century? I understand that the Turks want to keep repressing and killing the Kurds in Turkey, but why is that a reason for preventing an independent Kurdistan?

I'm sure the breakup of Yugoslavia will be used as a justification for keeping ethnically and/or religiously diverse countries like Afghanistan and Iraq intact, but is the case there clear-cut? While a war between Serbia (Yugoslavia) and Croatia was the first result, the violence in Bosnia seems to have been as much a civil war between Bosnians as a war between Serbia and Bosnia, although Serbia certainly played a major role. And Kosovo was not separated from Serbia. So maybe it wasn't that Yugoslavia was broken up, but that it wasn't broken up enough, that was the problem.

I don't know enough about what happened (and is still happening) there, but I would suggest that no clear lesson about whether countries should be kept intact or broken up can be drawn from Yugoslavia. I think one lesson that might be reached is that when ethnic differences are large, only dictatorships can control a country with minimal violence. It seems to me that there are good reasons for having a multiplicity of countries, and that democracy stands a much better chance of success in countries where there are not large opposing groups with irreconcilable differences or long-standing hatreds.

Why not break Iraq into Shiistan, Sunnistan, and Kurdistan? Could it be worse than what they've had for thirty years, or what they have now?