In my latest article about Stephen Harper’s grand folly of wanting another military intervention in Iraq, I painted a very bleak picture, criticizing the third Western intervention in Iraq from a purely Canadian perspective.
In this article I would like take another approach, through the Orientalist lenses of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) military and political elite.
One of the biggest fallacies of this whole affair, the need for Western intervention, walks hand in hand with a relatively unnoticed undertone: the concept of Western domination. It appears to be, that, in this day and age, the word “Western” is the exclusive adjective for interventions, which suggests that the notion of a non-Western intervention is just a ludicrous idea. Obviously, international interventions can only be Western.
Thus, because the West is only part of the world that apparently has the right to intervene, it considers itself as the center of world, and the rightful guardians of world peace. This is a fundamental factor of the humanitarian arguments calling for intervention, but these humanitarian arguments are merely made up to dissimulate the underlying neo-imperialist ideology. Intervention is not only possible if done by the West, but it is only acceptable if done by the West — the events in Ukraine are a good illustration of this.
The current wave of Western interventionism we have been seeing in Iraq and Syria is rooted in Orientalism. Orientalism is the product of a Eurocentric vision of the world, which dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The notion of Orientalism, developed notably in Edward Said’s work by the same name, is that the “West knows best.” All Middle Eastern societies — and all non-Western societies in general for that matter — are undeveloped, static and archaic, and this is why they produce radical groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and terrorists. These societies have to be brought into the light of modernity and globalized capitalism through Western intervention — directly, or indirectly, and whether they like it or not.
As I explained in my previous article, the third “coalition of the willing“ is unprepared and offers only short-term superficial solutions; oxymoronic solutions, such as: dropping bombs to rebuild a strong Iraq. A perpetual déjà vu!
Is it that the veil of Orientalism has blinded the Western elites to such an extent that they’re now incapable of taking any other approach?
No! To see Orientalism as some sort of a naive, archaic ideology is wrong. It is an idea that has evolved and has been adapted to modern times. It is omnipresent in our language. The “international community,” NATO, and “humanitarian intervention” are just a few examples of its manifestations. Orientalism, which now fuels this third “humanitarian intervention” in Iraq, is an ideology of domination, which is used to justify neo-imperialist attitudes.
Unfortunately this Orientalist approach completely omits the only viable solution, which is self-determination and autonomy for the diverse array of communities that inhabit the region. The Kurds in an initiative spearheaded by the the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) have proven through their military victories against ISIS that self-determination is the best firewall against radicalism.
For instance, ISIS is the direct consequence of Western Orientalism, and the belief that centralized powerful dictatorships are necessary to impose law and order, in a very Hobbesian manner, on the uncultured masses of the Levant. ISIS is the direct consequence of an ideology, which argues that it is possible to “build” a nation from scratch, in the 21st century. This is expected to be done in the same manner as it was done after the First World War, by drawing meaningless borders and hoping to bring about stability. Needless to say, that experiment was a dreadful failure.
In opposition to this foreign belief that the peoples of the Middle East are somehow incapable of sorting out their own affairs, is the idea of Democratic Confederalism: a communal form of self-governance that has been applied by some sections of the Kurdish authorities, notably by the PKK. Throughout the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Northern Iraq, several new forms of participatory and autonomous self-governance have taken root. It is the main explanation for the era of stability and prosperity the Kurdish people have come to know, since the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. For the time being, the Kurdish authorities have been able to apply a new radical form of federalism, but unfortunately they’re still prisoners of the oil industry.
And maybe that’s the main problem: the suffocating grip that the oil multinationals and their cronies have throughout the region.
Self-determination will always be a step away from completion until oil is the object and not the subject of control. Democratization of the extraction of natural resources is a necessity for the development of true autonomy. And this is why any movement striving to define new spaces of self-determination in the Middle East is automatically an enemy of the world’s economic elites. The PKK is currently considered a terrorist organization in the same vein as is ISIS by the “international community”.
The main reason behind this never-ending “War on Terror” is the perpetual destabilization of the Middle East, through a divide and conquer strategy of instilling brutal dictatorships and a reign of terror. This has been ongoing ever since the mid-1920s, when Western powers decided to divide the region into imaginary states and zones of influence. The main weapon of the “War on Terror” is terror, and this is why it is a vicious, self-fulfilling cycle.
The Kurdish model is a glimmer of hope in a windwhirl of chaos. The decentralized model of Kurdish communities is a blueprint for something that has the capacity to shift the balance of power from the hands of an elite, from the hands of a few to the hands of the many. This is the only solution, if put into action, that might end the state of perpetual war, and the era of “Western intervention” in the region. Yet this isn’t in the interest of those, who profit from such chaos.
A luta continua.