Foreign Policy

The New Iraq War

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Managing the empire can get so complicated: Turkey invades Iraq. From Reuters:

Thousands of Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq to hunt Kurdish rebels, television and a military source said on Friday, escalating a conflict that could undermine stability in the region.

Turkey's military said the cross-border offensive, possibly the largest in a decade, would continue until they had stopped the threat from PKK rebels, who have been using northern Iraq as a base to stage attacks in Turkey.

It said in a statement 24 PKK rebels and five soldiers were killed in clashes in Iraq. It also said at least 20 rebels were killed in separate aerial attacks.

The United States urged Turkey, a key regional ally, to limit its offensive to precise PKK targets and to bring the operation to a swift conclusion.

Link via the very useful Rational Review. Doug Bandow in reason in 2003 on the U.S.'s complicated relationship with Turkey.

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  1. The neocons are right! Other countries in the area are interfering in Iraq.

  2. “bring the operation to a swift conclusion”

    Sort of like our operation to democratize the Middle East with Iraq as our model?

    Ruthless

  3. The United States urged Turkey, a key regional ally, to limit its offensive to precise PKK targets and to bring the operation to a swift conclusion.

    Yes, for the love of God, Turkey, please do not just carelessly barrel into Iraq without regard for the instability and retributive violence that your presence will engender.

  4. This is indirect retribution for the Armenian Genocide Resolution. Why did you do this to the Kurds, Nancy Pelosi?

  5. Seriously, Turkey, listen to the United States: make sure your operations are carefully targeted against the terrorists who actually threaten you, and make sure you get in, take care of business, and get out.

    I mean, that’s just common sense.

  6. joe,
    Did you plagiarize me after a fashion?

  7. David,

    I hope you don’t take that personally, because that same joke’s going to be made hundreds of times in this thread.

    — Chris “Nostrodamus” Potter

  8. No, David, see, I worked in a bit about the”limit their offensive to precise targets.” So it’s all good.

  9. Gallaher, old boy,

    Isn’t “democratizin'” what we were doing back in our days in Indo-China way back when?

    I think we all got a taste of that, didn’t we?

    I don’t recall it working out that well.

  10. Isaac,
    Are you going to the reunion of BOC 5-67 in Quantico in May?
    I am. My old buddies will probably tar and feather me.
    Luckily (as Fearless Fosdick exemplified), I love pain. (Merely flesh wounds.)

    By the way, has everyone seen “Indochine” (in French with English subtitles) starring Catherine Deneuve?
    Don’t accost me until you have.

  11. They’ve done this a few times in the last couple of months, right?

    Or was it just airstrikes?

  12. Indochine is a great movie

    And not just because I would enjoy watching Deneuve read the phone book.

  13. USA [horrified]: Turkey, where did you learn to do that?!

    Turkey: I didn’t learn it from watching you, Uncle Sam, because, see, rather than trying to control the world, I’m just trying to directly confront an actual problem I’ve been having with armed attackers from a neighboring state.

    That’s my really lame take on the Ruthless joke. I shall forever refrain from jumping on his bandwagon again. I will not pass Go. I will not collect my $200. I will hole myself up in Stevo’s bunk and think about what I’ve done.

  14. The historical parallel to this whole thing seems to me to be Pershing and Pancho Villa at the turn of the last century.

  15. Well, the Turks pretty much kept a lid on the whole Middle East for quite a long time. Why don’t we bring all our people home, and let them have at it?

    -jcr

  16. Do they (the Turks) fly aircraft from Incerlik (sp?)…or is that like US territory?

  17. > Do they (the Turks) fly aircraft from
    > Incerlik (sp?)…or is that like US territory?

    Incirlik is a US base, Turks use a number of other bases around the region.

    There is nothing really surprising going on… Turks made numerous similar ground incursions during 90’s with as many as 100K troops, take care of business in a few weeks, went back home.

    It won’t be any different this time…. I think the idea that Turks may have intentions of a long term invasion with this operation is just nonsense…

  18. Isaac: I missed my taste of democritization, I’m only 20! DAMN YOU, BOOMERS, I WANT MY VIETNAM

  19. Sam McManus | February 22, 2008, 11:05pm | #
    Isaac: I missed my taste of democritization, I’m only 20! DAMN YOU, BOOMERS, I WANT MY VIETNAM

    Hey man, our parents told us what a bunch of spoiled brats we were. What we needed, they said, was a depression and a war.

    Well, they gave us the war. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad.

  20. Is it too late to give Iraq back to Turkey?

  21. DAMN YOU, BOOMERS, I WANT MY VIETNAM

    Your wish is granted!

  22. borders are kinda fluid there and national sovereignty is really just a quaint concept that only matters for ACTUAL nations.

  23. Isaac,

    Don’t miss the depression. We’re headed there right now.

  24. They’ve done this a few times in the last couple of months, right?

    Or was it just airstrikes?

    Airstrikes and artillery, but yes it’s been going on for — oh, at least a good decade.

    The Kurds are probably the closest thing to a group we ought to actually support, and they’re unfortunately the ones we’re most likely going to screw over.

  25. Lost_In_Translation

    Yeah, but I’m old now. This stuff is only fun if you’re young.

    Oh, wait a minute, the war wasn’t that much fun either.

    Damn!

  26. “It won’t be any different this time…. I think the idea that Turks may have intentions of a long term invasion with this operation is just nonsense…”

    Right. I mean, it’s not like the Turks have a history of taking and holding territory.

  27. But, now that we’ve knocked Iraq over, the Turks are the only thing left that can counter the Persians.

    Which might sound like a “who cares” thing except, if we left Iraq to itself today then Iran would most likely control Shia Iraq. Then there’s nobody else to stop The Shias from rolling over Saudi Arabia. And then Iran controls pretty much all the oil in the ME.

    And then things could actually get really ugly.

    Perverse truth 1: keeping the ME divided against itself has been a Western interest and goal (at least in some circles) since they carved it up post-WW I. In fact it was a goal through most of the colonial era.

    Perverse truth 2: invading Iraq has served one possible good, in that it’s pitted Sunni against Shiite again. They were actually sort of starting to work together pre-9/11 and that made it easier for Muslim terrorists to do what Muslim terrorists do.

    Perverse truth 3: invading Iraq was a really stupid thing to do anyway.

    Perverse truth 4: invading Afghanistan, and then trying to take their main source of income away from them (poppy seeds) is nearly as stupid as invading Iraq was.

    And now, to solve all our real problems, we’re going to plant a socialist in the White House.

    The US is a giant bundle of perverse truths.

  28. PKK is a terrorist org. so turkey must defend their people.

  29. “Isn’t “democratizin'” what we were doing back in our days in Indo-China way back when?

    No, as I recall we preventing the dominos from tumbling into one another.

  30. Which might sound like a “who cares” thing except, if we left Iraq to itself today then Iran would most likely control Shia Iraq. Then there’s nobody else to stop The Shias from rolling over Saudi Arabia. And then Iran controls pretty much all the oil in the ME.

    I think you’ve been reading too much neocon porn Tom Clancy.

  31. My friends, I told you there would be other wars. And my friends there are going to be more wars where this came from, my friends. If you think things are horrible now, you a’int seen nothin yet my friends.

  32. I think occupying Kurdistan is a great idea.

  33. I, and others, have predicted that Iraq will degenerate into lawless chaos as soon as we leave. We haven’t left yet, rather the surge has increased our troop levels by 20% – 30%. So what is happening in the areas that have been turned over to local control?

    The Kurds are either allowing attacks on Turkey by fanatical believers in a “Greater Kurdistan” or they are incapable of preventing them from doing so. I’m certain that the Iranians and Turks are not going to give up territory to satisfy that ambition.

    Meanwhile in Basra, a homogenous Shiite city, has been under self rule for awhile and the results is, surprise, chaos. Rival militias, and a corrupt, ineffective and infiltrated police force are the reality of life in the port city.

    To the neocon pollyannas who think we are “winning” in Iraq I say look at the success(?) of the areas that are already self ruled. The government in Baghdad is rendered impotent the instant that U.S. troops stop backing them up. As this has played out in the Kurdish and Shiite controlled areas I’ve discussed, what do you think is going to happen when Sunni controlled areas are left to the central governments rule?

    Sadly, our choices are to leave now admitting failure, or leave later admitting failure. I’m certain whoever is in the White House will try to put lipstick on the pig when we withdraw, but perceptive obsrevers will recognize the swine, party dress and all.

  34. I’m sure they’ll be in and out in six months, just like us. Have they been greeted as liberators yet?

  35. escalating a conflict that could undermine stability in the region.

    Um. What “stability”? Armed PKK militants crossing into Turkey doesn’t qualify under any definition of “stability” I’m comfortable with.

    Then again, these may be the same people who think the “Surge” is “working” — whatever the hell that means.

  36. Proving once again that Saddam Hussein was the buttplug of the entire Middle East.

    And dim ol’ George W. Bush just had to go yank it out.

  37. What does the surge “working” mean anyway? Its such an obnoxious meme.

  38. Hey Suetonius, you ever going to write a followup to The Twelve Caesars?

  39. Surge “working” = let’s tamp down this disaster long enough for Exxon to get their Production Sharing Agreement through the Iraqi government (91% of the crude oil gross).

  40. What does the surge “working” mean anyway? Its such an obnoxious meme.

    There used to be a soda product called “Surge,” and if I recall its advertisements correctly if the Surge is working it means you’re energized and hip and doing these cool stunts which don’t really have much to do with soft drinks. Later, you will need to use the bathroom. There may also be belching.

  41. Jennifer, don’t forget–if you’re a dude it would also shrink your junk. Or so the urban legend that killed it off said.

  42. I’ve been talking to my Turkish relatives, and their reports are pretty disturbing.

    Basically, there is a massive upsurge in nationalism, especially in the countryside. This movement is promoting aggressive militarism in foreign policy, protectionism at home and to a lesser extent a marrying of mosque and state (kind of like the incohate marriage of church and state promoted by George Bush). Remember the column of Turkish soldiers overrun by the PKK? There were loud cries for the survivors to be executed for cowardice in battle since they hadn’t fought to the death.

    The modern Turkish republic was founded as a fascist state (Ludwig von Mises has a nice discussion of Kemalism in the chapters concerning fascism in his book on the economics of socialism). The education system is modeled to promote Kemalism and produces a population that is conditioned to be predisposed to accept fascist policies, much the way that the U.S. education system conditions children to uncritically think “freedom = good”. When I look back at the primary school education I received in Turkey, I am pretty shocked at some of the social conventions that were being taught (I still have my first grade textbook lionizing martyred suicide bombers from the post WW I war of independence).

    In many ways, the young of Turkey are turning their back on the West, looking to a mythical past of Ottoman greatness and wanting to undo the humiliations of a century of being denigrated as “the sick man of Europe”. Some, like my grandmother, even want Turks to reconquer the ottoman empire and the Asian steppes.

    This is not a good thing.

  43. There used to be a soda product called “Surge,”…

    I remember Surge, so I googled it.
    This is more evidence that I’m not the only person with too much time on my hands.

  44. Vault is the new Surge.

  45. I’ve been talking to my Turkish relatives, and their reports are pretty disturbing.

    Nationalism can get as ugly as religious extremism really quick. You can expect the MSM to cover Turkish politics and society in depth over the next couple of weeks.*

    *I’m kidding, of course.

  46. tarran-

    a nice summary.. thank you.

    You say that in the US we are taught, “freedom = good”. Actually, we conflate like this….

    Democracy = Capitalism + Christianity + Manifest Destiny.

    Never mind that voters could reject any of the latter three components any time they wish.

    “Democracy” is the more loaded term. Just an FYI….

  47. Nationalism IS a religion in the end.

  48. In many ways, the young of Turkey are turning their back on the West, looking to a mythical past of Ottoman greatness and wanting to undo the humiliations of a century of being denigrated as “the sick man of Europe”. Some, like my grandmother, even want Turks to reconquer the ottoman empire and the Asian steppes.

    In a history book by Isaac Asimov he pointed out that people all think that their natural borders, what is rightly theirs, correlates with the greatest historical extent of the kingdom/empire/
    republic. Since these claims invariably overlap, conflict is almost guaranteed. I have no magic solution for that mindset. My proposal of an international statute of limitations on territory (50 – 100 years) probably isn’t going to be universally adopted.

  49. Jennifer, don’t forget–if you’re a dude it would also shrink your junk.

    Look at the effects of the Iraqi surge on America’s world standing, and then look me in the eye and tell me this is wrong. I dare you. I double-fucking dare you. As our president once said: bring it on.

  50. We must bomb Turkey! Then we can have Thanksgiving dinner!

    Am I president yet? You OWE me, America.

  51. Oh yeah, here is the book I was talking about. It is an excellent starting point if you know someone who wants to learn world history independently. The man wrote non-fiction surpassingly well.

  52. In many ways, the young of Turkey are turning their back on the West, looking to a mythical past of Ottoman greatness and wanting to undo the humiliations of a century of being denigrated as “the sick man of Europe”. Some, like my grandmother, even want Turks to reconquer the ottoman empire and the Asian steppes.

    The President told us that the political situation we create in Iraq would serve as a model of western democracy for the entire Middle East.

    Sadly, he’s turned out to be right.

  53. Yeah, Asimov was known mostly for his fiction, which has bored me to the extent I’ve sampled, but it was his non-fiction that was superb. He could explain anything — or convince you in the unexplained cases that nobody else could either.

  54. Robert: Asimocv’s books on Rome and Greece are the two best introductory history books I have ever read. Unfortunately the analysis was a little misleading at times (I don’t think Asimov was an econ-buff).

  55. joe,

    That there post is an example of why we keep you around here. You’ll find that libertarians are willing to endure an awful lot of pain for a little bit of pleasure.

  56. Kurdistan is the only place in Iraq where the locals, rather than the U.S Military or the puppet government, are truly responsible for security,so, naturally it was the only place which was secure, until the Turks intervened. So, yes, the incursion does undermine the security. Ah, the irony of it all!!

  57. Mr Gray,

    Kurdistan is secure only in comparison to Baghdad. There have been quite a few truck bombs in Kirkuk and Mosul, not to mention the fact that the regional govt is either complicit with or unable to restrain the PKK terrorists.

  58. J sub D | February 23, 2008, 11:19am | #

    I think dude sums it up nicely.

    Maybe to add… this is a clear indication of the Turks (and others, likely) feeling that we can’t act in any coherent way to retailiate to their incursion because we’re too caught up with debating war policy and obviously overstretched militarily – and diplomatically we havent built any inroads to influencing their neighbors or our friends.

  59. i also agree with

    banju | February 22, 2008, 9:55pm | #

    above – but i think this incident might be construed differently because we’re supposed to be underwriting their future as it is… having Turks indiscriminately attacking in their terrirory at this particular moment isnt exactly in our interests, and the fact that it’s going down seems a sign of our own failures to contain the situation

  60. Glad to see the surge is working.

  61. Gilmore,

    I think you are seriously misreading the situation:
    1) Turkey is not attacking anything indiscriminately.
    2) The Turks probably cleared this with the U.S. since they Turks are using special forces teams and don’t want them wiped out by U.S. airstrikes.
    3) The Kurdish government is protesting like Scarlett Ohara – I think many Kurdish officials would be happy to see the PKK go away, but lack the popular support to attack fellow Kurds.
    4) The U.S. government isn’t going after the PKK for the same reason the Kurds aren’t.

    The PKK are pretty evil fuckers – they are a Stalinist organization that have committed atrocities like massacring entire families. They target not only non-Kurds but against Kurds as well. If the Turkish government would stop this stupid business of denying minorities the use of their language, the PKK leadership would probably be dead, in jail or homeless within 5 years. My take on this is that they’ve pissed off everybody around them, and so nobody really wants to come to their aid in a meaningful way. In fact, if the entire PKK were to suddenly drop down dead from heart attacks, there would be much rejoicing.

  62. Tarran | February 24, 2008, 1:41am | #
    Gilmore,

    I think you are seriously misreading the situation:
    1) Turkey is not attacking anything indiscriminately.
    2) The Turks probably cleared this with the U.S. since they Turks are using special forces teams and don’t want them wiped out by U.S. airstrikes.

    for 1 to be 100% true, 2 will also have to be true – not “probably” – and also should have included the Kurdish leaders in cooperating with turkish forces and identifying areas that would be OK for them to try and clear.

    Natuarally this kind of cooperation would be hushed for political reasons, but without any insight into whether or not thats the case, then you are just making assumptions.

    There is a strong likelihood the turks are acting unilaterally and simply dont think the US or Kurds can afford to engage them and make the situation any worse. Between a rock and a hard place as it were.

    I am not defending the PKK in any way = your case that they’re “bad guys” has little to do with it. It certainly doesnt give any additional certainty to points 1 & 2 above

    Maybe i am misreading, but unless you can provide some insight into how the turks consulted the US on these operations, then i am left with the info i’ve got, which leads me to assume the turks are taking advantage of the conundrum we’re in to explplot our political weakness

  63. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/23/world/middleeast/23turkey.html?ref=world

    It does appear the US had some considerable advance knowledge of the operations

    but not the kurds, fwiw

    e.g.

    “”…The Bush administration agreed to share information and to open airspace to the Turkish military last year, after attacks by the Kurdish group intensified. Turkey’s airstrikes against Kurdish targets, which began in December, were sanctioned by the United States.

    ….
    a flurry of recent visits by senior military commanders of both countries, including one this month in Washington by Gen. Ergin Saygun, Turkey’s deputy military chief, seem to indicate a relatively high level of cooperation.””

  64. sigh

    Okay, I think we are talking to cross purposes here:

    1) An indiscriminate attack is when stuff is attacked without any attempt to discriminate between enemies and neutrals. If the turkish army was attacking kurds indiscriminately, the bodies would be piling up.

    2) A discriminating attack in no way requires the active cooperation with the U.S. or the non PKK Kurds. Yes, discrimination is easier with the additional data such cooperation would provide, but the cooperation is not a prerequisite.

    3) My point about the evilnesss of the PKK was not an implication that somehow you were supporting them but rather to buttress my point that the PKK have few friends in the area because they are a bunch of murderous thugs. Again, I think the non PKK Kurdish militias and governments are, for the most part, quite happy to see the Turksih government killing PKK members, so long as the blood is not splashed on their walls.

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