Hawk hiccup? How wide is wider in a `wider war'?

November 5, 2001 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Hawk hiccup? How wide is wider in a `wider war'?
    With the world dazed and everything in flux, seize the moment. I'd make a deal with Ankara right now to move across Turkey's border and annex the northern third of Iraq.
    Safire has been Monday-morning quarterbacking in his column since September 11. (He suggested the FBI wasn't doing enough to "deprogram" material witnesses with "conservative Muslim clerics".) He's made no bones about his desire to squash all terrorists, coalition be damned. He's sided with "wider war" wing of the administration, but this is by far the zaniest scheme--projected onto his ex-boss in a convo from hell. I know there are a lot of people--intelligent people--reading MeFi that support the war. Mostly our discussions have run pro/anti. The flower-children (anachronistic anarchists?) like me should sit out this one. Do any of you imperialists pig-dogs support this?
posted by rschram (28 comments total)
posted by feelinglistless at 1:41 PM on November 5, 2001

It is easy for Safire to make these sorts of suggestions. I wonder, though, which country would do the annexing, Turkey? And what would it accomplish? Wouldn't that put most of Kurd territory under Turkish control? The cure sounds worse than the disease.

The current situation may turn into a broader war, and I don't think would be a good thing for the US. Things internationally are already quite bad.

Would I like to sit this one out? Oh, yes, but I don't know if any of us will have much of a choice in the matter...
posted by tranquileye at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2001

wow there it is in cold hard print. US f*cking imperialism. let's sort out the map for these people. it's our land, after all. the UN embargo has killed 1.6 million people in Iraq (half a million children, according to UNICEF) all in the name of Iraqi oil. We are intentionally destroying the nation through a slow and deliberate genocidal deconstruction of its infrastructure. Now maybe we should just cut up the country eh? I'd sure love it if some foreign power -after destroying the my nation and sanctioning the hell out of its civilians - just decided to cut it up into pieces while I watched my children die of starvation or cancer(we also dropped 2000 tons of depleted uranium during the Persian Gulf War) and infected the cattle with bacteria. (Yes, we do use more bio-warfare than all other nations combined. it's cuz WE ROCK! go britney!)

I never thought I'd see the day when we started blatantly talking about eradicating the sovereignty of other nations. The power structures at be are supported by a completely media-dominated, short-sighted and mis-informed american populace, completely unaware of the true impact of the foreign policy workings of its government. I know half you people could care less how many arabs and muslims died at the hands of our terrorist state, but I'm afraid the toll has gotten far too high and history alas, is repeating itself.
posted by aLienated at 1:59 PM on November 5, 2001

One thing Nixon has right is that this would be a perfect time to "remedy" all the problems in the Middle East. They (the Mid East) aren't going to solve their problems on their own. While I think it's terrible for a more powerful nation to control smaller ones, something it needs to be done.

Sure lives are going to be lost, but lives are going to be lost anyway. Saddam is killing off Kurds. Palestine and Isreal are killing off each other. Not to mention the countless other small tribal skirmishes.

I don't know the solution, nor does Nixon. That doesn't mean we can sit on our butts till another devastating events occurs.
posted by geoff. at 2:06 PM on November 5, 2001

alienated, i don't understand your shock. every opinion on the spectrum is professed in america: it's not like we act on all of them. that's part of what i like about the US; everyone has a say -- even the idiots.
posted by moz at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2001

Geoff, Nixon is dead. This interview is with him in purgatory:

Reached by cell phone in purgatory, where he is expiating his sin of imposing wage and price controls, Richard Nixon agreed to an interview with his former speechwriter.
posted by buddha9090 at 2:21 PM on November 5, 2001

It's very telling that Safire thinks Nixon's main sins are wage and price controls! Interesting little snippet, but I'm not convinced that such a wide-scale operation has more benefits than potential failures.

Another interesting this is where Safire argues against himself (as Nixon) on the issue of Israel vacating the West Bank. I wonder how deeply committed Safire really is to the Israeli extreme right? Perhaps he is admitting (albeit in a back-hand way) that some of his earlier pronoucements were more emotional than realistic.
posted by cell divide at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2001

yeah moz, i hear you. i think i had some bad chili.
posted by aLienated at 2:35 PM on November 5, 2001

Annexing part of Iraq to Turkey might difficult logistically, but it certainly should make no one lose any sleep. Replacing a psychotic, genocidal, bioweapons-using dictator (Sadaam Hussein) with a (largely) democratic, secular, and NATO member (Turkey) could only benefit all concerned -- most of all the Iraqi people whose territory would be transferred.

Everyone who thinks seriously about the Middle East recognizes that there will be no resolution of the problems there until every state is a liberal democracy (perhaps in condominium with a constitutional monarch or religious authority). Israel is already there; Jordan, Egypt and Iran are on their way (Egypt and Jordan more liberal; Iran more democratic).

It may well take military action and fiat-of-the-victors redrawing of borders to get the rest of the way home. This may be particularly expedient in the case of failed terrorist states like Syria and Iraq, where there are no civil institutions worthy of the name on which to rebuild a suitable society.
posted by MattD at 2:49 PM on November 5, 2001

buddha9090: DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN?! WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?! I didn't know who to credit so I just said Nixon. Rather then saying "the author as Nixon" or whatever.
posted by geoff. at 2:51 PM on November 5, 2001

Replacing a psychotic, genocidal, bioweapons-using dictator (Sadaam Hussein) with a (largely) democratic, secular, and NATO member (Turkey) could only benefit all concerned -- most of all the Iraqi people whose territory would be transferred.

The current situation of the Kurds suggests otherwise. After all, while the Iraqi Kurds have done well out of the de facto autonomy of the northern no-fly zone, the Turkish Kurds are -- you guessed it -- demonised as separatist terrorists, and uprooted from their homes by the Ankara government's dam projects. (The exploitation of the Kurdish region to supply the rest of Turkey with hydroelectric power, while also dispersing its population, is the reason why Safire's autonomous "Turkish Kurdistan" is a non-starter, or at best an crippled entity.)

Anyway, isn't the "dialogue with the dead" a rather cowardly rhetorical practice? Simultaneously authorise and distance your opinions by speaking them through a dead man: it's a hallmark of lazy journalism. What next: Ann Coulter "interviewing" Winston Churchill?
posted by holgate at 3:17 PM on November 5, 2001

The UN embargo kills iragi civilians just like US bombs kill Aghani cvilians who are used as human shields by the Taliban. HOW CAN ANYONE CRITICIZE THE US FOR TRYING TO TAKE OUT A GOV'T THAT HAS NO RESPECT FOR ITS OWN PEOPLE LET ALONE THOSE OF OTHER COUNTRIES??

To completely negate the manipulative and genocidal tactics of Sadaam and blame the embargo is limbo logic. And I don't think aLienated could lower the bar any further.

So lets recap for those blinded by their hate of any US action that makes people die:

Action: Sadaam decides to take over Kuwait, which unfortunately places Sadaam in the way of US interests
Reaction: We "drop 2000 tons of depleted Uranium on Iraq" and as soon as the iraqis cry uncle, we're outa there.

Does aLienated believe that no reaction would have been more appropriate? How does aLienated believe inaction would be interpreted by those who attack and kill in the middle east? Does aLienated feel that not taking Sadaam out in '91 worked out well? Would aLienated advocate the same austere aproach again. And is this really imperalism??

Maybe there's one nation in this world minding its own business, and politely deferring when another nation decides to take a swipe at its interests. But I can't think of their name. Maybe someone can help aLienated think of that mythical nation. It isn't Afghanistan, which has spent all of its short history in government meddling with quite a few other nations and trying to foment revolution. It certainly isn't Iraq. I think even the Vatican fails the "minding its own business" test.

The "US is imperialistic" rant is old, and arguably based upon the one sided analysis of the other side, often from a "have not" rather than "have" situation.

As was already expressed elsewhere in this thread, the middle east is was and will always be screwed up for various reasons, including a cultural bias in favor of armed conflict, and a decidely lower reverance for life and freedom than western culture. That was fine and well when the middle east was its own problem. They just made it our problem, and I invite alienated to propose a plan, rather than just criticize Safire's.
posted by BentPenguin at 3:48 PM on November 5, 2001


Oh. So you're a proponent of America "taking out" all the other governments in the world that we decide "has no respect for its own people". That should be quite a list. You must be surprised we're not bombing "the Northern Alliance", who have proven to have such an incredible respect for their own people.

Yeah. And cluster-bombing Afghan children. What's that about? Let me guess. They're just "collateral damage."

Oh. And your solution involving "taking out" people and governments sure seems like you yourself live in a place where there is a real "cultural bias in favor of armed conflict" and a "decidely lower reverance" for life". So what shall we do? Does BentPenguin believe we should bomb BentPenguin? Maybe someone can help show BentPenguin the hypocrisy of his stance?

Does BentPenguin understand that dropping 2000 tons of depleted uranium on Iraq and killing thousands of Iraqi children has done absolutely NOTHING to insure peace in the Middle East (or anywhere else)? Has BentPenguin ever read anything about America's sordid history in propping up sordid little governments in the Middle East (and everywhere else), thereby helping bring about the bloodbath there?

These "terrorist" attacks didn't "make it our problem." WE MADE IT OUR PROBLEM (caps beget caps, you know) long ago. I invite BentPenguin to propose a solution, rather than hysterically advocating more terror.

The "US is imperialistic" rant is old. And it is cogent. And it is correct.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:15 PM on November 5, 2001

, including a cultural bias in favor of armed conflict, and a decidely lower reverance for life and freedom than western culture. That was fine and well when the middle east was its own problem. They just made it our problem

BentPenguin in some ways I agree with other things you are saying, but right here you are just spewing mindless thoughts.

1. Cultural Bias. Where was WW1? WW2? the Holocaust? Come on, even on numbers alone one could easily say the West (Europe and the USA) have the true culture of violence. But we know that's not true, and its not true of the Middle East. You have been brought up to believe that others are more violent than you, and this isn't the case. All of humanity shares the problem of violence, it isn't rooted in any one culture.

2. decidely lower reverance for life and freedom. Come on! Do you really think people are that different? This is the kind of logic that leads to ethnic cleansing and genocide. Well, THOSE PEOPLE don't have a reverance for life that we have, so...

3. They just made it our problem. Like it or not, the modern, violent history of the Middle East has been tied up in the West's interests since WW1 and probably beyond. To try and pretend that it was 'their problem' when the West drew up the current borders and had a hand in just about all the leadership of the original Middle Eastern states is just plain historically blind.

Again, I do agree with some of the conclusions you've drawn, but the way you're getting there is based on a complete misunderstanding of both history and humanity
posted by cell divide at 4:33 PM on November 5, 2001

At least Safire calls the spade a spade - protecting strategic oil interests is ultimately what this conflict is about.

We're supporting and defending a corrupt Saudi monarchy in ways similar to the Iranian Shaw and look where that got us. Our dependence on Arab oil forces us to compromise and befriend the same governments that produced the 19 highjacker terrorists. If there were no oil in the middle east, we wouldn't be there, and terrorists like bin Laden wouldn't exist.

Along with carpet bombing Afghanistan we should be accelerating fuel cell and fusion R&D and get the oil monkey off our back.
posted by Zombie at 4:39 PM on November 5, 2001

fold, when did the US cluster bomb Afghan children? I must have missed that AP wire. And the thousands of Iraqi children? Where are you getting your information? I can only find that the US dropped 300-800 tons. A far cry from your 2000. DU also can only be toxic if it is inhaled as dust or has some how entered a persons body (sharpnel, ingestion). As horrid as it is, they just didn't dump nuclear waste in the desert, they're bullets scattered around... a lot not hurting anyone (this again isn't an excuse for using toxic bullets, I'm just saying...).
posted by geoff. at 4:40 PM on November 5, 2001

"You're imperialist!" "No I'm not!" "Yes you are!" Sheesh.

Rather than arguing the fine points of depleted uranium or playing Imperialist-or-Not, may I offer a different, IMHO more fruitful set of questions?

1. What are the West's interests here?
2. Should the West act in its interests?
3. What actions in the West's interests are appropriate?
4. Does Safire's plan effectively support the West's interests?
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 4:57 PM on November 5, 2001

Zombie: "At least Safire calls the spade a spade - protecting strategic oil interests is ultimately what this conflict is about."

I agree that Safire is refreshingly blunt and realistic. A resource of enormous value is at stake. The Bad Guys™ want it. They're willing to fight for it using any means, including mass terror. For the Bad Guys™ to get it will (1) seriously damage the economy of the West, (2) destabilize/topple friendly governments, and (3) increase funding for the Bad Guys™ to do more Bad Things™, which as Safire points out clearly include the acquisition and likely use of WMDs.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2001

The U.S. should give a chunk of the land to the Kurds who have been fighting Iraq, Americas, the wests, enemy, for how many years? Would Turkey kick in with troops? The new Kurd country would need to be built up, but could become a strong U.S. ally in that part of the world.
posted by spinifex at 6:28 PM on November 5, 2001

About those "half million Iraqi children" dead due to sanctions: it's conjecture, subject to certain highly politicized assumptions. Certainly the UNICEF survey showed that the rate of child mortality had increased, but there's no way that such figures can demonstrate anything but that mortality has apparently increased. The leap from that to the suggested causality of sanctions is pretty great.

Additionally, the rate it had risen to was comparable, quite interestingly, with Pakistan.

Oh yes, it does make a great line, though, don't it?

Back on topic: Nixon may have been an evil fuck of a man with little respect for the institutions of democracy, as demonstrated by his celebrated career of dirty-tricksterism. But he was probably the premier strategist of the twentieth century (at least, of those who've held the White House); and Safire, one will recall, knew him rather well. I suspect Safire's right about what Nixon would advise. Of course, even Nixon would have -- if in office -- been subject to greater political realities today than when he was head honcho of the West during the bipolar Cold War. This multipolar world is dramatically more complex, and short-term expediency in the service of long-term goals is much harder to accomplish when you don't have everyone agreeing on the enemy.

No, realistically, we can't give half of Iraq to Turkey and make it autonomous as part of the price. But it's the kind of thing that's worth contemplating. Take a look at any series of historical maps and you'll see that borders are hardly sacrosanct, and change all the time. International conferences to set them have been quite common at least since the post-Napoleonic era. Eritrea was carved out of Ethiopia; Kosovo was carved out of Serbia. Northern Somalia (the formerly British zone) has achieved a remarkable, if internationally unrecognized, stability of economy and government, and Kurdish Iraq has done almost as well. These proto-states are politically problematic, but choosing to chop the working parts off of the dysfunctional ones has happened many, many times.
posted by dhartung at 9:22 PM on November 5, 2001

It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant American columnists can be about world affairs. Turkey is a brutal dictatorship who is waging war on its Kurdish population for decades and has no respect for human rights. The prospect of turning over Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey is a really bad idea, one that is certain to start a new guerilla war in Northern Iraq. This is bound to make the area more, rather than less as Safire suggests, unstable and will certainly involve Iran as well which, as is the case with all of Turkey's neighbors, doesn't look very kindly to Turkey's expansionism.
As for dhartung's suggestion that borders are not sacrosanct, I do agree. But, putting aside the matter that the cases he mentions differ substantially as to the process of independence, I would offer to suggest that he would have a totally different perspective on this issue, had he happened to live in an area that would be affected by a redrawing of borders, and run the risk of being personally affected by the "side effects" of such an intervention. I do live in such an area and I assure you that Mr. Safire's suggestion that a tyrannical and belligerent state be once more "rewarded", will destabilise the region, thus endangering me personally as well as loved ones.
Thus I propose that Mr. Safire
a) doesn't know what he is talking about
b) displays breathtaking arrogance
c) does well to invoke the Late Nixon, since he was the man that Okayed the Turkish invasion of Cyprus among other crimes.
posted by talos at 4:08 AM on November 6, 2001

Moral issues aside, there are some practical realities involved in invading Iraq, or any Arab country. The 'coalition' would collapse. The US-sanctioned dictatorships -- er, I mean the "moderate Arab states" -- would unite with Iraq in opposition. Which would escalate the situation in Israel, etc. It would all get very slippery. Careful, careful.
posted by D at 8:11 AM on November 6, 2001

Ground Control to Major Safire. Ground Control to Major Safire.
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.
Ground Control to Major Safire, commencing countdown, engines on.
Check ignition and may God's love be with you.
This is Ground Control to Major Safire, you've really made the grade
and the papers want to know whose shirts you wear.
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare.
This is Major Safire to Ground Control, I'm stepping through the door.
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way and the stars look very different today.
For here am I sitting in a tin can, far above the world.
Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles, I'm feeling very still.
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go. Tell my wife I love her very much.
She knows. Ground Control to Major Safire, your circuit's dead, there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Safire? Can you hear me, Major Safire? Can you hear me, Major Safire?
Can you- Here am I floating round my tin can far above the Moon.
Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.
posted by mmarcos at 9:48 AM on November 6, 2001

The exploitation of the Kurdish region to supply the rest of Turkey with hydroelectric power...

Holgate, take a look at this map. There's not too many places to build dams that aren't in the Kurdish region of Turkey.
posted by joaquim at 3:18 PM on November 6, 2001

talos, we're not as ignorant as you think. We know that Greeks hate Turks, for instance, so I'm not surprised that you're overstating your case. Turkey is certainly not ready for EU membership: they repress the Kurds, they have an abysmal prison violence record, and the police have been out of control at times. (You've experienced some of the same in your history, and not so long ago.) But Turkey is not a dictatorship by the normal definitions of that word. They're a democracy with elections, a constitutional parliament, and orderly transfers of power. True, there was a military coup as recently as 1980, but then --- Greece had a military coup a mere six years before that.

Today, Greece has emerged from a shaky period of socialist govenrment to a thriving European multi-party democracy. Turkey is struggling, and far behind you guys, but when you compare them with Iraq, they are following a path of reform, however glacially, because they crave membership in the EU. Iraq has no such incentives.

You're welcome to have a different opinion about the region from Safire, but you're wrong to say it's ignorant or arrogant. The US has interests all through the region, and we have a wider responsibility than (for example) merely the interests of Greece vs. Turkey. In any case, I don't see this actually happening, but some problems require thinking outside the box. One of the worst boxes we should limit ourselves to is thinking that "borders are sacrosanct". Some of those borders were drawn very arbitrarily decades ago, and either split ethnic groups or combined historic enemies inside the same nation. We can see the kinds of problems this has caused. We're actually trying to move toward a post-nationalist world. I've always said that European federalism should provide opportunities to give greater autonomy to so-called breakaway regions, from Northern Ireland to Basque to parts of Yugoslavia. Some say that gives fuel to ethnocentrism, but in some ways it seems to quell it. Spain's quasi-autonomy for Catalan has led to an economic boom there. In the end, we're here at a unique point in history and we need to be prepared to seize the moment for bold and innovative solutions to problems.
posted by dhartung at 3:40 PM on November 6, 2001

Holgate, take a look at this map. There's not too many places to build dams that aren't in the Kurdish region of Turkey.

I know, joachim. This doesn't absolve the Ankara government of using its dam policy to displace and disperse Kurdish settlements that date back tens of centuries (including one on built on the famous trading post of Zeugma, whose mosaic-floored villas are now submerged.) Nor does it absolve the British companies who sought export credit guarantees to build those dams just as Robin Cook proclaimed an "ethical foreign policy". It's been a happy coincidence for the Turkish government that its energy policy, designed to provide power to the rest of the country, also helps to suppress the insurgent Kurds: an ethnic group that, as has been said here before, has done especially badly out of the partition of the Ottoman Empire. And I can't help but think that an autonomous Kurdish region would suffer from the disparity of resources that looms large in the economic relationship of the autonomous Palestinian territories to Israel.

dhartung: how do you stand on the Turkish government's attempts to curb the success of Islamic political groupings, in order to defend Atatürk's secular state? It's a tricky, tricky situation: when the principles of secularism and democracy appear to be at odds, which should prevail? The US, as a nonjuror nation, doesn't face such a dilemma: but it's one that looms large elsewhere.
posted by holgate at 5:31 PM on November 6, 2001

This was the wackiest Safire article I can remember, but it's not that wacky. Turkey is the most stable of a group of countries created in the 20th Century on fairly arbitrary and capricious terms, so why not just lop off part of Iraq? The country has demonstrated that it's dangerous to the rest of the world and itself. The whole region is a disaster, so why not? At some point you have to recognize that its not arrogance to call a disaster a disaster.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:06 PM on November 6, 2001

dhartung: I think that the comment about Greeks hating Turks is way off. There was great solidarity with earthquake victims both ways in '99 and coming from the left myself, I always saw this "mortal enemies" nonsense as just that: nonsense. Turks and Greeks share culturally too many things. On a personal level I get along fine...

However it doesn't require hating the Turks to recognize that the Turkish military are running the country since Ataturk's days, that the human rights situation is horrific (witness the recent events), that the military decides what parties are OK to take part in the elections, that trade unionism is effectively banned, that identifying yourself as a Kurd is against the law, that there was (and still is) a bloody anti-guerilla war in SE Turkey which makes Milosevic's crimes in Kosovo seem minor by comparison, that Turkey is refusing to abide my multiple UN resolutions demanding it to withdraw troops from occupied Northern Cyprus and that it seems to be at odds with every single one of its neighbours (barring Azerbaijan). So it is not a far stretch to imagine that such an measure as Safire suggests will embolden the military both internally and externally and create even more conflicts than it purports to solve. These conflicts would affect me personally and, selfish me, I would really hate to be sent to fight an irrational war at this moment in time.
Greece BTW was under a military junta (and I won't even get into the subject of who supported it...) from 1967 to 1974. Ever since the military has been minding its business and not bothering anybody and the attitudes today are such that it is highly improbable that it will involve itself in politics in the foreseeable future. As opposed to Turkey where the final say on anything important belongs still to the military.
Also, I was not suggesting that fellow MeFites are ignorant or arrogant. I was referring to a vast zoo of commentators in the NYT or the Wash Post who write as if they were experts, but who really are less savvy about world affairs than many a cabdriver in Sofia. IMHO the average IQ of MeFites (of all stripes) is definitely superior to that of the Safires of the world. For example your commentary on what I wrote is something that one might disagree with, but it is not arrogant, and it invites discussion.
posted by talos at 2:56 AM on November 7, 2001

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