How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers

I found this op-ed by U. S. Representative Francis Rooney at RealClearWorld on the differences between Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan interesting:

Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan are engulfed in identity crises. While the two independence movements are the subject of frequent comparison, their situations differ because of historical, cultural, and economic ties with their respective mother countries. Catalonia and Spain share a deep and longstanding unity, while Kurds have a loose union with the rest of Iraq and lack a shared history beyond the past one hundred years. Not surprisingly, a silent majority of Catalans seems to support a unified Spain, while a clear majority of Iraqi Kurds desire self-rule.

These discrepancies call for different solutions to the two predicaments. Instead of pursuing an independent state, Catalonia should look to Italian regions that are seeking greater autonomy within Italy. Conversely, the Kurdish independence movement compares with Kosovo in the 1990s, where an ethnically, culturally, and religiously different state seceded from Serbia.

There is one sense in which the two cases are very much alike: we shouldn’t support independence either for Catalonia or Iraqi Kurdistan. Both cases would be disasters, destabilizing their respective regions. In the case of Iraqi Kurdistan independence would be likely to foment a war that would embroil not just the Kurds and Iraqis but the Iranians, Turks, Syrians, in all likelihood the Saudis and possibly the Israelis.

If the Kurds manage to wrest their independence from Iraq we might be forced to accept it as a fait accompli but it’s not something we should be supporting. Catalonian independence on the other hands sounds for all the world to me like a power grab by a handful of Catalan politicians.

8 comments… add one
  • Bob Sykes

    The union of the Kurds with their Arab neighbors goes back some 3,000 to 4,000 years or so. It is a product of the Indo-European expansion. The idea that it is a product of the Sykes-Picot (whatever) treaty is spectacularly ignorant.

  • And they were ruled by the Turks for most of the last millennium. To the best of anybody’s ability to determine there has never been a distinct Kurdish state.

  • PD Shaw

    The continued discussion of the aspirations of “Iraqi Kurds” hurts my ears. They are not actually talking about an ethnicity that goes back thousands of years, they’re talking at most about an emergent identity within a state that is not a century old.

  • Andy

    The big difference is that the Kurds in Iraq have de facto autonomy.

    As far as the big question, I think any group needs to demonstrate their independence – it’s not something that can be given to them. Imposing it from the outside never works out.

  • The “traditional” view is that the Kurds are the descendants of the Medes of classical antiquity. It’s controversial but if true it would certainly give some credibility to Kurdish claims (which is why the idea is popular among modern day Kurds).

  • TastyBits

    For the US, the cases are very much alike. Except for national security, the US needs to mind its own business.

    If a group can obtain independence, they should. Again, it is not the US’s business.

    The American colonists were of British descent, and according to the sameness theory, they should have remained British.

    Applying the sameness theory, the Britain Empire should still be intact, largely. In India, the British did not kill off enough of the native population to keep India from independence.

  • Except for national security, the US needs to mind its own business.

    If a group can obtain independence, they should. Again, it is not the US’s business.

    That’s pretty much what I think but I would add that if a country or group cares about what the U. S. thinks about their independence movement that worries me.

  • PD Shaw

    “an artificially created Iraqi state by European powers following the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. These boundaries were drawn without regard to major cultural and religious differences.”

    An autonomous Kurdish region was created in the peace treaty that ended the War with the Ottoman Empire, comprising what is now Southeast Turkey and Northern Iraq. It also created an Armenian State, extending btw/ Kurdistan and the Black Sea.

    The agreement was not implemented because the Turks revolted, the Ottoman Sultanate discarded and the treaty abandoned. Simply put, the European powers (and their Armenian allies) were unable to force their will for the final partition. This was not without regard to cultural and religious distinctiveness of the Kurds; the British were quite willing to use the glimmer of self-determination movements against its enemies. They simply were not willing to fight for them, nor were the Kurds.

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