Mercury Rising 鳯女

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The Limits Of Pacifism: Or, Why US Lefties Won’t Side With The Kurds

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 11, 2015

John Dolan just wrote an excellent article on his latest travels and travails.  Seems that, because of recent refugee and immigrant paranoia on the part of its leaders, he and his wife were forced out of the Republic of Macedonia for three months to its far more prosperous neighbor, Greece (and yes, Macedonia is a very, very poor place if Greece, among the poorest of the EU members, is richer by far).  Greece has also been blocking Macedonia’s entry to the EU, and would like Macedonia to change its name, for the understandable reason that Greece suspects Macedonia would like to eventually expand its borders to encompass those of the old Kingdom of Macedonia, which means that all of what is now northern Greece would get swallowed up by Macedonia. However, Macedonia is so poor right now that it’s hard to imagine it having the wherewithal to act on such nationalistic dreams during the lifetimes of anyone currently living.  Furthermore, paranoid officialdom aside, its people are friendly and hospitable and decent, per Dolan’s account.

Therefore, it’s not surprising to see him write, towards the tail end of his latest account, the following:

I’d like to end, for balance, with some sketches of suffering I saw among the Greek people. But I didn’t. They might be happening all around us right now; after all, I grew up in a miserably scared, penniless family that somehow managed to pass for average, so I know it can happen. All I know is that when we crossed the border from Macedonia to Greece, it was very clear we were passing from a genuinely poor country to one that seemed almost as wealthy as Italy. And one that has played a rather sleazy role in keeping Macedonia, the poorer country, out in the cold.

I’ve seen real suffering, real privation in Kurdish refugee camps for southern Iraqi Shia, in Timorese slums, in Kuwait Bedu shanty towns, and I’m pretty sure that, at least in this part of Greece that kind of suffering doesn’t exist. And yet everyone is extremely interested in Greece and were generally not very interested in anything I wrote about those places.

I’ve been trying to figure out why the problems of this reasonably well-off country have gripped so many of the progressives I know, while those of much more desperate and heroic places like Kurdistan seem to leave them cold. Part of it seems to be desperation for a leftist party that’s free of any taint of revolutionary violence. So you can cheer for Syriza, but not the YPG/PKK or Sinn Fein, both parties with far more noble and hard-won histories than Syriza’s. I find that odd, because I have no problem with revolutionary violence, and didn’t think most leftists did either. It seems they do, but maybe I’m too nearsighted an ant to get the big picture.

And that, I guess, is the lesson here, the one that applies to all genuine ant’s-eye view stories: An ant can’t see much.

Actually, most US lefties have problems with violence of any sort, unless it’s the stupid kind practiced by “black bloc” idiots, half of whom seem to be frat boys masquerading as lefty radicals but who really just want the chance to break a few windows and loot storefronts.  A long experience of seeing the US going to war for the wrong things and the wrong entities has made the US left embrace pacifism and reject armed and organized combat as a solution for anything. It’s even got to the point where confronting Hitler is falsely attacked by a growing number of pacifists as unneccessary and counterproductive.

One Response to “The Limits Of Pacifism: Or, Why US Lefties Won’t Side With The Kurds”

  1. Charles II said

    People like Nicholson Baker are a self-parody. But I think it’s true that a consistent anti-war attitude can prevent most conflicts. The real failure of restraining Hitler came in not enforcing the WW I treaties forbidding rearmament of Germany.

    Now, it wasn’t all straightforward. Hitler trained his Luftwaffe using civilian airliners. That kind of cheating is hard to enforce. But artillery, tanks, and especially capital ships are much easier to monitor. Not to mention shutting down the attack on Republican Spain. As late as 1937, France could have taken on the German army on its own, and handily. But it was so much more profitable to sell Germany munitions and to cry crocodile tears as it dismembered Austria, Czechoslovakia. and Poland.

    With Japan, the western powers had expended so much effort in looting and corrupting China that it was incapable of organizing resistance against Japanese aggression. Had the west sincerely supported democratic forces in China, it could have resisted the Japanese invasion. Without Manchuria, Japan had nothing at all with which to power its industry.

    I don’t think absolute pacifism is realistic. But I do think that a genuine commitment to preventing conflict and strengthening internal democracy would prevent most conflicts. Conflict, after all, is the consequence of an imbalance of power feeding into a sense of impunity on the part of the aggressor. If each nation is strong, and if other nations are committed to the principle that the greatest war crime of all is that of aggression, then there is no sense of impunity and therefore no reason to go to war.

    Finally, look at the Middle East. A century ago, it was a peaceful area, controlled mostly by the Ottomans. With World War I came the imposition of boundaries designed to keep people divided and weak. Those fed into Arab support for the Axis in World War II, and the justification of the re-colonization of French North Africa and the imposition of Israel on Palestine. From those decisions have flowed a series of wars, including Turkeish-Kurdish conflict (due to drawing national lines that fractured the Kurds), the Arab-Israeli wars, the French dirty war in Algeria, and so on. Our wish to keep the Arabs divided fed into the Iraq-Iran war, and then we invaded Iraq twice. Grievances from that fed into the Sunni resistance, which has mutated into ISIS. Our intervention in Syria has also fed ISIS. At each stage over a century, our unjust acts have led to deeper and deeper brutality and violence. Had we been genuinely committed to the principles we proclaim, a lot of bad stuff would not have happened.

    We can support the Kurds–indeed, I think that this is the proper and just course of action–but we should do so for that reason, rather than treating them as proxies and pawns. If we’re sincere, let’s make a major objective creating a Kurdish federated state in Iraq, and increased Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and Iran.

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