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Third, it’s now apparent that the pressures our occupation will place upon the Kurds — even at their behest — will greatly challenge their ability to run a model democracy. Kurdistan is a pro-American but not terribly democratic land. Tribes and militias have won what independence the Kurds have been able to earn. The Pesh Merga is a force as deserving of local trust and loyalty as it is unconducive to civilian government. This is not a dig against the Kurds. But it is another proof that undue expectations are the ruin of good hopes. We ought not dare foist the same dreams of hearts and flowers that distorted our view of Iraq upon the last portion of that country that seems capable of seeing to its own affairs without great violence.
THE INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION is that a relocation to Kurdistan will probably not solve any of our present problems and will likely make all of them worse. The pain will be particularly awful because of the sensation that the Kurds are our last ditch proteges. It will be terribly hard, if the going gets tough, not to egg on a declaration of Kurdish independence, which will give the Turks apoplexy and hasten the dismemberment of Iraq. Accompanying this will almost certainly be another round of strife as Kurds struggle to abandon their eternal aspirations (and brethren) in Turkey. There is nothing outlandish in expecting a rush of Turkish Kurd refugees after that.
Though we could gain the approximation of a formal colonial relationship, where rules are clearer and force can effectively be applied, we would lose a great deal in the bargain. Not least would be the embarrassment of having tried shiny, happy quasi-imperialism — only to be stuck with the ignominious, old school version. Occupying Kurdistan would invite grand dreams, and feverish, almost desperate hopes, of a success all the more important for its diminished scope and higher stakes. But relocating to Kurdish territory would also invite the worst of all possible worlds: the surrender of Iraq to its fate and the shackling of our own troops to whatever fate awaits them — in a Kurdistan that we will guarantee is unable to escape the Iraq we left behind.
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