Are Nightmares of the Cold War Still Haunting US?
By: Sherkoh Abbas, Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria
Dr. Sherkoh Abbas, a native of western (Syrian) Kurdistan, is a veteran Kurdish-American activist. As the US and world community has focused its attention on the Syrian dictatorship following the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, Dr. Abbas, working with other Kurdish activists, sought to unite the Syrian Kurdish movement,
form a united Syrian Kurdish front, and work with non-Kurdish Syrians and others to bring freedom and democracy to Syria.
Security, stability, and peace cannot be established in the Middle East while the same orchestra of tyranny continues to play its own familiar tune. Radicals and terrorists who are part of this orchestra have been playing the litany of thirty-three days in Lebanon. They are very happy and because they feel that the most advanced weapons and most skilled leaders of the war failed to get rid of them. This what they are looking for to defeat democracy and globalization – a failed experience in Lebanon, withdrawal or failure in Iraq, etc. By not addressing the root of the problem, by not supporting democracy and undoing past sins, we have demonstrated to them that we are weak and unwilling to support those who value democracy and peace. What is puzzling is that this orchestra is very weak. They have no superpower supporting them like Soviets used to do, so why are we giving up democracy and globalization, going back to status quo ante, and letting the orchestra continues its death tune? Maybe the nightmares of the Cold War are still haunting us. We need to remind ourselves of the euphoria of the victory over the Soviet Union.
The Middle East suffered from a host of problems since the World War I until now because they were divided unfairly; some people or nations were promoted at the expense of others. In fact, some nations, like that of the Kurds (Kurdistan, or the Kurdish nation), were denied very basic rights, and others were reduced to second-class people with limited rights like Assyrians, and others were promoted at expenses of others like Turks, Persians, and Arabs. Thus, cornerstones of the region's problems were put in place during the break up of the Ottoman Empire, which ultimately caused the region many wars, unrests, ethnic cleansing, genocides, and instability. All states or countries that have interests in the region today ignore these facts both publicly and privately.
Ignoring and denying the unfair division of Middle East during the World War I and continuing the path of the last 5 decades; supporting some nations at expense of others; and supporting dictators at expense of democracy to get some perceived stability and viewing it as a solution to the these problems only leads to more chaos and wars. In reality, the reverse is the solution. Acknowledging past mistakes and misjudgments and trying to reverse or undo the past could lead to stability, freedom, democracy, and peace. In other words, changing from a win-lose to a win-win strategy.
The ignoring the rights of a large population (30-40 million Kurds in this instance) is the most unfair treatment of a nation in the Middle East, and perhaps in the entire world. It is no secret that the issue is no longer, as it was during the cold war. The new situation in which democratization and globalization that have been appearing here and there, should only lead to positive changes to the region.
On the other hand, the current benefactor of the status quo in the region, the current leaders or regimes, did not know the true meaning of freedom, where they lived under the yoke of Ottoman period for four centuries, the origins of the current governments, dictatorial regimes, violence, and repression.
Those regimes only know and use repression, murder, and genocide against all that is contrary to their interests or beliefs. Now, globalization and democratization do offer some cosmetic changes or surface changes without prejudice to the substance of this complex problem, but they also add new levels of complexity. Why then are people puzzled when globalization and democratic strategies are not working? In addition, some institutions prepare useless theories and studies prepared by the experts who originally part of the cold war era or who supported or have stakes in maintaining the status quo, or do not have the will do independent studies or it does not know the meaning of the new globalization.
Furthermore, they do not understand the root cause and propose superficial solutions that are no value for the effected people in the region and fails to address the issues; no body knows about the problems as much as people who live it every day . It is not fair to the region to ignore the people of the region and jump to conclusions or supporting status quos due to conflict of interests, etc.
Peoples who have been ignored and who have suffered are more receptive to the new messages of democracy, globalization, human rights, free market economy, peace, etc. A living example of this is Kurdistan of Iraq.
We need to get to the root cause of the current situation. This approach can provide the right solutions to earlier mistakes but we need the will and determination to make it happened the right way. We have no Soviets today like the time of the Cold War era to undermine democratization efforts.
There is a rule in physics that states that the body opposes any changes to its position. This is what is known as speed of idleness. The pace or speed of idleness for the Middle Eastern regimes is to resist any changes to the status quos and to preserve the status extends from the beginnings of the Cold War. These regimes cooperate with each other closely and tightly despite the differences in their types of governments, beliefs, and values. Ultimately they place their own self-preservation above all else.
Globalization and democracy has helped those regimes to gather in one camp and unite among themselves in an unprecedented way in modern day history, this camp consisting from leftists to monarchists and atheists to radical religious. In this way or along those lines, the Middle Eastern tyranny orchestra was formed; this orchestra has been playing tunes soaked in the blood of various Middle Eastern peoples. This choir sometimes drumming at other times playing saxophone to litany of death.
The indecisiveness, reluctance, and fear of the Cold War caused us to regress and let those regimes, radicals, dictators, terrorist, and bandits to claim victory and the advocates of democracy to stop promoting our values of peace, democracy, human rights, and tolerance and retreat because they lost hope in America or the West.
This past experience in Lebanon shows us that giving up on democracy resulted in more suicide operations in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Who knows perhaps, perhaps next they will move to New York, London, and Rome?
The recent maneuvers in the Gulf by the Iranians is a direct result of what happened on the Lebanese territory. These maneuvers might be held tomorrow or in the future off the Syrian or Lebanese coast. It might be no need to military maneuvers off Lebanon or Syria's coasts because the Iranians have missiles that could hit targets 1200 KM away, which means that Israel could be reached by the Iranians missiles.
With the existence of the missile in the hands of the choir, the Middle East cannot experience any peace and in fact, US allies like Israel or Kurdistan can be wiped out by the regimes that commit atrocities against their own citizens as well as their neighbors.
That is why we need to have a new map, a new road map for Middle East and a new policy for the region as whole, to undo past mistakes, and change the formula to win-win and promote human rights, democracy, freedom, tolerance, secularism, and justice. We cannot go back to the Cold War era and fear of Vietnam era – this will lead to fall of the US prestige as victor of Cold War.
There can be no peace in the region under the yoke of the current dictatorships. Regimes that torture and kill their own citizens are never worthy of our support or trust. How can we imagine or think that lightly armed radical militias like Hamas or Hezbollah, or weak countries like Syria or Iran could cause such panic and fear among US administration, democratic nations, or people who want to spread democracy in the region. After all, the Soviets are long gone and no super power supports them, so why the fear? We defeated Soviet Union, and, in the face of another large crisis, we need determined leadership and a decisive policy.
Why are veterans of the Cold War era are thinking and saying that the US must take great pains to avoid another Vietnam-type experience? Russia or China are not acting in largely confrontational ways to US policies in the Middle East.
We must remember that during the Soviet era and during broad daylight, we took over Grenada, despite disliking of USSR , attacked Libya to teach its regime a lesson to abandon his radical behavior, and forced the Palestinian Liberation Organization to leave Lebanon. Despite all of the above, Uncle Sam makes excuses now when speaking of the Middle East and makes concessions to Assad of Syria and the mullahs of Iran.
Maybe Uncle Sam, the huge elephant, is afraid or fearful that a mouse like Syria or Iran or Hezbollah or may be the beginning of downfall of US. Any compromise on Syria and Iran to keep their positions or maintain status quos or minimal reforms could only strengthen radicals and terrorists and weaken democratic forces in the region and more instability and violence in the region.
The complete failure or abandoning of globalization and democracy efforts in Middle East, talk of withdrawal from Iraq and the Lebanon experience caused Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah to claim victories and caused the world not to respect America because it did not lose to Soviets but it did to couple small regime and bunch of bandits. The Syrians are building on this – the president of Syria recently announcing the establishment of Hezbollah in Golan Heights and pursuing a strategy to force Americans to leave Iraq, forcing American to abandon Lebanese government, abandon democratic forces, and abandon its allies, the Kurds and the Israelis.
Those regimes will certainly support and direct their terror machines like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic radical's radical, Palestinian terrorist and terrorist organization to continue suicide bombing, killing of innocent people, and destroying our allies like Israel and Kurdistan.
Finally, abandoning the business of democratization of Middle East or halfway restructuring the Middles East to get stability for those regimes instead of democracy for the region could cause much harm to democracy worldwide and American prestige and global interest.
Any compromise or deal with those regimes, radicals, or terrorists will force many nations, including our friends, to accept and deal with those regimes and terrorists. Those nations will say, "If American cannot defeat them who can?"
I really believe that people from Cold War era like those on the recent commission on Iraq need to engage advocates of democracy, promote them, and defeat the terrorists of Iraq and Lebanon and dictatorships of Syria and Iran. Any concessions or discussions with them will only strengthen radicals and terrorists and undermine free world's cause of democracy. There is no need to listen to this orchestra – it is the time to change it to democratic, fair, and peaceful and harmonious orchestra that can be part of the world community.