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Kurdistan and Secession

More than 1.7 million Iraqi Kurds have signed a petition calling for a referendum on independence.

A Referendum Movement in Kurdistan spokesman says a delegation from their organisation has travelled to the United Nations headquarters in New York to hand over the petition.

“The signatures were collected in towns across Iraqi Kurdistan,” spokesman Karwan Abdullah said.

The movement’s campaign is not supported by Iraq’s two main Kurdish former rebel groups – the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – which have long limited their demands to autonomy within a federal constitution for fear of offending Iraq’s powerful neighbours.

The independence campaigners charge that the two factions, which ran three northern provinces in defiance of Saddam Hussein before last year’s US-led invasion, are unrepresentative and that most Iraqi Kurds want to break away.~ ABC News

It is instructive to remember that many proponents of the Iraq war would usually minimise the desire of Iraqi Kurds to establish their own independent state to the point of The Wall Street Journal‘s outright denial. This has been partly an opportunistic argument–the consequences for the region from Kurdish independence were serious enough that even otherwise irresponsible war supporters had to take them seriously and provide assurances that such consequences would not be forthcoming. It was also partly based in the real interests of the government and the major media in the Iraq war, which can only be an extension of hegemony.

American resistance to Kurdish independence, which the U.S. government will not support on account of Turkish opposition to the idea, reflects both the fundamentally unrepresentative sort of state that Washington hopes to create in Iraq and highlights the profound cynicism with which Washington will discard the perceived self-interests of a people to serve the interests of the cliques that curry favour with the West.

There are undoubtedly those in the War Party who prefer instability and political disunity in the Near East, for whom an Israeli interest in supporting an independent Kurdish state may be more compelling. However, nothing better illustrates the lack of commitment to the erstwhile democratisation of the region (and therefore the profound dishonesty of the entire policy) than the continued official opposition to Kurdish independence in the main Kurdish parties, the interim government in Baghdad and in Washington.

By all liberal democratic theories of self-determination and human rights, virtually no people on earth more deserves its own state than the Kurds. An overwhelming majority desires independence, the Kurds are an identifiable and self-identified ethnicity with a long history in roughly the same territories they have inhabited since their first emergence as a people–the liberal standards of consent and the right to rebel ought to guarantee Kurdish statehood at once, if the democratists were to take their own propaganda seriously.

Kurdish secession would nonetheless spark a ruinous series of conflicts, into which the War Party would assuredly pull our country and as many others as it could, and could only lead to the devastation of a Kurdish territory that has enjoyed some of the finest years of peaceful development in its history. Mass nationalist movements of this kind usually lead to bloody insurrection and remain a thorn in the side of all other nations for decades to come. The disasters brought upon Greece by her pursuit of the Megale Idea, the reconquest of all Greek-inhabited lands, would be just as great if an independent Kurdistan were to pursue a similar vision, and everything in the history of Kurdish nationalism suggests that it would.

What democratists find again and again, however, is that theories of self-determination and human rights, founded on abstractions and half-baked modern mythology, have very little to do with the real world. If they are at all realistic, they must become rank hypocrites and deny rights even to those who, according to their own standards, are most deserving. That their ideas do not mesh with the real world and must be betrayed frequently in practice while advancing them “in theory” does not appear to them to be a drawback or proof of the falsity of their beliefs. Yet it must be the surest sign that democracy is founded on a series of fantasies, each more improbable and incredible than the least. For its part, the notion of national self-determination is the international equivalent of the anarchist bomb-thrower: it compels a people to sacrifice all that they have and all that they are for the ephemeral prize of an independence that is inevitably only nominal, except for very large states. The suffering Chechen people, victimised by the conflict begun by separatist extremists and escalated by Islamist fanatics, are a testament to the moral villainy of proponents of self-determination. Perhaps, theoretically, some grinding tyranny might justify such rebellion (which was not true in the case of Chechnya), but it is precisely at this moment that the Kurds are the least oppressed that they have ever been.

These liberal ideas do not actually embody real justice and they tend on the whole to lead to greater bloodshed, devastation and chaos. It is difficult to think of an occasion in history where the introduction of liberalism has led to less upheaval, instability and violence in a country. Those who may be only mouthing democratist phrases, or who are unconcerned with the means to their democratic utopia, may not be troubled by the ruinous effects of these absurd ideas. Everyone else should be deeply worried at the proliferation of such democratic notions, especially in regions with so many competing claims for territory and power as the Near East, for the consequences for the present century may be terrible, just as mass politics in the last century was a veritable disaster for all established order, traditional society and the life and property of almost every nation.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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