|Henry Machiavelli von Bismarck: Change That Tune|
by Gerald A. Honigman
Hey, television fans, did you hear the news?
That popular game show from the 1950s and reincarnated both in the ’70s and ’80s, Name That Tune, is set for yet another rebirth. This time, with slight change in title, it will be led by none other than former Secretary of State Hank Kissinger–Change That Tune.
I figured so much. I mean, who more than Henry–Uncle Sam’s Nicolo Machiavelli and Otto von Bismarck combined–would be more deserving of such an honor?
Back in 1498, Nicolo Machiavelli, became the main voice of modern political thinking. On the surface, Bismarck’s later realpolitik was characterized by “an enticing realism, but at its ruthless center was the idea that with a worthwhile end one could justify any means (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article12349.htm).
After the oil of the contested–but age-old, predominantly Kurdish–north was attached to the Brits’ Mandate of Mesopotamia, London abandoned the Kurds like the plague. While there were some Turkmen, Arabs, victimized Assyrians, and some others there as well, the Kurds constituted the majority of the area. Furthermore, Turks already had a half dozen other states and Arabs possessed even many more; they were/are not stateless peoples. Justice for the Assyrians still remains an issue, however, and most of the region’s ancient Jewish community fled to Israel.
Largely to appease Arab oil potentates elsewhere (the same ones who today fund and supply Sunni Islamists fighting Assad and his Shi’a offshoot Alawis in Syria), the region’s non-Arab Kurds saw their one best chance for independence in the new age of nationalism aborted. The Arab League state of Iraq was created on the entire land instead, with the Brits actively involved in the Arab fight against the Kurds.
At the same time that real and proposed partitions of the smaller Mandate of Palestine occurred so that both Jewish and Arab aspirations could be addressed (Jordan, for example, created on some 80% of the original 1920 whole area in 1922), there would be no such justice for anyone else but Arabs in all of Mesopotamia. My doctoral research on this very subject, from over three decades ago, can still be found on recommended reference lists in academies such as Paris’s acclaimed Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po).
While Kissinger now rationalizes about the wisdom of allowing an “artificial” state of Syria to break apart due to mutually exclusive and hostile human elements which had been earlier forced together, this reality rings even more true for Iraq. The latter is indeed the former Yugoslavia of the Middle East, with mutually hostile ethnic and religious groups largely forced together after the collapse of empires for other major powers’ interests.
As with the death of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito, it was only a matter of time–with Saddam taken out of the picture–that Iraq would follow along this same disintegrating path. Sunni Arabs; Shi’a Arabs; Assyrians, Armenians, and assorted other Christians; Kurds; Turkmens; now gone Jews (there since at least the Babylonian captivity); etc.
If Syria’s antagonistic, diverse groups depended on a similar despotic iron fist to keep them united, then why have folks like Kissinger insisted on shafting the Kurds on their bid for a small slice of the political justice pie in Iraq–something they had indeed been promised earlier? Perhaps Henry has had a change of heart and soul here as well. I doubt it.
Sure, there are always reasons among the Machiavellis for shafting others this way.
Regarding Kurds, there’s the hostility of the Turks, Iranians, Arabs and related petro-politics. For Henry, among other things, there was also Moscow to consider.
But, at some point, good people must insist on injecting ethics and some semblance of relative justice into policies of State as well
If Arabs are deserving of almost two dozen states–acquired mostly by the conquest and forced Arabization of other, non-Arab peoples lands (going on to this very day), how can the rights of others in the region be allowed to be manipulated solely by folks such as Henry Machiavelli von Bismarck?
When will an American President direct the Arabists in his State Department to step aside while he openly supports the birth of an independent Kurdistan–like President Truman did in 1948 with his fight with the Foggy Folks and others over the rebirth of Israel?
When will an American President show leadership once again and openly supply a new Kurdish state with the fire power to adequately protect itself–which Washington readily does for the oil potentates of the Arabian Peninsula and for other Arabs in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere?
When will Washington wake up, look at the tragic, barbaric mess which largely typifies the so-called “Arab world” and, not only stop blaming Jews for that mess, but also support folks like some forty million Kurds who are America’s natural allies in the region?
At a time when America is on the run in that important, volatile part of the world, the Kurds would likely welcome a major American base in the region. Furthermore, the oil of the Kurdish north is not insignificant–and there are now major fossil fuel surprises coming out of Israel as well.
This does not have to be an either/or scenario.
The same way non-Arab–but Islamist–Turks insist that Arabs get their 22nd state (by grossly endangering Israel, forcing it back to indefensible, ’49 armistice lines), Washington must make it clear that Turkey’s own twenty million or so Kurds, whom Ankara renamed “Mountain Turks” and outlawed their very language and culture, are also entitled to something much better.
Ditto for the Turks’ fellow Iranian hypocrites–even if the two are now on opposite sides of the Syrian fight.
The ayatollahs lecture about creating that 22nd Arab state on the ashes of Israel while some eight million Ahwazi Arabs are subjugated, assassinated, jailed, and so forth in Iran itself.
For whatever reasons, Kissinger’s new Machiavellian moment seems to allow for the creation–among other things–of an autonomous, perhaps independent, Kurdish region in Syria. Surely, however, he knows how the Turks will react to that–along with the region’s other key players–almost all hostile to justice for the Kurds.
So, what version of the tune will Henry play if logic prevails, the Kurds actually get their act together, seize the moment, put aside personal fiefdoms, and work together for the bigger picture?
What song will Henry Machiavelli von Bismarck sing if the previously Arabized and non-Arabized five to seven million folks in Syrian Kurdistan link up with the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq (ancient home of the great warrior, ruler, and terror of the West, Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub)–the best hope Washington has as a counterforce to the likely emerging Shi’a Islamic Republic of Iraq, Iran’s little brother, and the Sunni al-Qaida-type folks blowing everyone else apart there as well?
Will there be another change that tune if Ankara decides to invade Kurdistan for fear of the Kurdish headache spreading to its own far more numerous Mountain Turks?
Again, here’s where true leadership is required–preferably both in the White House and at State. One more time: this does not have to be an either/or scenario.
Kurdistan can be for Kurds like Israel, Greece, Armenia, and other lands are to their own members formally in respective diasporas.
Those Kurds who prefer to live in a Kurdish state will, at long last, have one to go to. A perfect solution, it will not be–for many reasons. But what “perfect solution” exists anywhere–especially in that part of the world? What compromises, for example, have Arabs ever made with anyone else in a region which they declare to be simply “purely Arab patrimony?”
Of course it would be even more fair if chunks of Turkey and Iran were also added to this solution. I see the latter as separate, federated parts of a single united Kurdish state, Kurdistan–some long overdue justice, but a nightmare, indeed, for the Kurds’ assorted oppressors. But why?
What set rule says that the region’s scores of millions of Kurds (and other subjugated folks as well) are not entitled to what Arabs, Turks, and Iranians already have? And why must such eventualities result in hostility? Kurds live there already–indeed, pre-date most of the conquerors of their lands by millennia–so why can they not have the same independence that the world demands for yet another Arab state?
President Obama won’t hear about Israel getting what the final draft of UNSC Resolution 242 promised it after the June ’67 war–more secure, real borders to replace the absurd, ultra-vulnerable ’49 armistice lines. The most he talks about are land swaps.
So, why, for example, is it not fair for Kurds to gain some of the southeastern parts of Turkey where they pre-date the invading Turks by millennia?
The reason is that the Turks drew their lines in the sand after their main realm was greatly truncated as a result of World War I. They vowed never to retreat further–especially with the loss of the oil-rich Mosul region mentioned above. And the Iranian mullahs will continue to exterminate–literally–any such dreams on the eastern side of this picture as well. Kurds are among those hung in Iran almost daily.
So, in light of these realities, we must work for what is possible–not what is fair.
If they feel seriously threatened, the Turks, will send their NATO (and Israeli)-equipped armed forces to squash a nascent Kurdistan.
The Kurds must thus show, as much as possible, that relative justice for their own people translates into a net plus for the entire region.
Perhaps someday the Turks and their friendly neighbor, Kurdistan, can develop relations and mutual respect to the point where something even better might become possible. There is already much trade going on between the KRG in Iraq and Ankara. I’d like to bring Arabs into this positive picture as well, but while I can hope, the odds against this scenario are not very good. It would involve, for most Arabs, an entire change in mindset.
Of course, what Washington and others choose to do or not to do could have a major impact regarding the fate of this almost forty million truly stateless people. Kurdistan’s neighbors will be watching very closely.
During the era of Henry’s major betrayal in the ’70s, Washington and Israel were also supporting the Kurds–as a thorn in their friend, the Shah of Iran’s, enemies’ side, Saddam’s Iraqi Arabs. The Israelis supported Mulla Mustafa Barzani’s Kurds at other times as well–but then also did likewise with the Kurds’ arch Turkish enemies. The Jews thus need to do better too. Of all peoples, they should understand the plight of subjugated, truly stateless victims. There must be no Israeli Machiavelli von Bismarcks.
What will be will be.
Now, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, Kissinger’s game show job was just a fiction created for this analysis.
But Henry Machiavelli von Bismarck’s change that tune approach to current events in the Middle East is nevertheless all too real–and not to be trusted.