The Corner

re: Kurdistan and the Freedom Agenda

Kevin Sullivan over at RealClearWorld continues a debate I’ve been having with the Center for American Progress’s Matt Duss, and writes:

The American executive can only do so much, and freedoms backsliding in Kurdistan — again, a region often touted as a model worth protecting — probably can’t be too high on the president’s priority list.

What Kevin rehashes, perhaps unintentionally, are a few debates that occurred at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration:

1. When democracy is backsliding, should Washington focus first on its friends or its adversaries? Should we ignore Kurdistan because Egypt is worse, and should we ignore Egypt because Syria is worst?

2. Should we excuse the traditional myopia that afflicts both Democratic and Republican administrations, or should a multi-billion-dollar national-security apparatus be able to handle multiple events in multiple countries at the same time? If we can only handle two or three international issues at a time, why not just hire ten smart people to manage foreign policy and save taxpayers billions?

3. Or, to reverse Kevin’s argument, why not use our leverage over a Kurdish government that takes our support for granted to demand an end to the murder of journalists and an end to behind-our-backs deal-making with the Islamic Republic, and eliminate an irritant to our regional credibility? Or should we settle for a Barzani dictatorship because that’s the path of least resistance?

4. Last point: What did eight years of coddling Turkey because “they are our ally” get us? Sometimes, it’s best to nip problems in the bud.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.


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