Betraying the Kurds

The way the Kurds are treated by America is a perfect example of the weaponization of nationalist and sectarian movements: use them when it fits your goals, abandon them when it doesn’t.

Trump’s greenlight to Turkey to go ahead and exterminate the Kurds in Syria is despicable — a betrayal of perhaps the only good thing that’s come out of this horrible war. But it’s also a perfect example of how nationalist and sectarian movements can be weaponized in the interests of empire. You back them when it suits your interests and throw them to the wolves when it doesn’t.

The War Nerd’s been predicting this betrayal for years. It was bound to happen. Because it had happened again and again.

The reason the Kurds are constantly used and betrayed is simple: they have the misfortune of being strategically placed and nationless. For the past century, by dint of fate, their various tribes and peoples have been spread among large chunks of landlocked real estate that does not “belong” to them: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran — all countries where America and other not-so-friendly players have their sticks in the proverbial geopolitical fire. And so over the years, it’s made strategic sense for America (and its allies) to weaponize the Kurds’ desire for national independence against whoever America at the time decided was its enemy, and then to turn on the Kurds when they were no longer needed.

In short: Running an empire is a nasty business. And cynically exploiting national and sectarian groups is a big part of the job.

—Yasha Levine


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