The controversy over President Trump’s pullout on the Turkish–Syrian border will settle down quickly. It is another useful debunking of ancient shibboleths and decrepit truisms, like the long-impregnable encrustation of false wisdom that moving the U.S embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would unleash hell upon the whole Middle East. There are about 35 million Kurds, approximately half of them in Turkey, where they make up about a fifth of Turkey’s population. A century ago almost all the Kurds had been in the Ottoman Empire, which the Allied powers broke up after World War I, a foolish decision that is on all fours with the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The result was the creation of four patched-together artificial states that have all now disintegrated: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Syria. They are not alike in other respects, of course. The Czechs and Slovenians (Yugoslavia) have flourished; the Slovaks and Croatians, and more recently the Serbs, have got by adequately well; and the rest of the remnants of Yugoslavia are struggling, but they are all living paradisiacal monuments to the foresight of western statesmen compared to the current fate of the populations of Syria and Iraq.
No American adult needs an update on what a debacle post-Saddam Iraq has become. The Iranians are the principal influence in the 60 percent of the population that is Shiite, precisely the opposite of what was intended when the United States invaded Iraq under President George W. Bush. The dispossessed Sunni 20 percent of Iraqis around Baghdad are being thoroughly misgoverned, even by Saddam’s standards, and the Kurds in the north, where most of the oil is, should be building a modern and autonomous Kurdistan that could attract and accommodate mistreated Kurds from Turkey, Iran, and Syria — an authentic Kurdish homeland. Instead, the Kurdish government in northern Iraq has been a sinkhole of corruption and misrule, anything but a Mecca for this bellicose, scattered, nomadic people.