The following article was originally published in Kurdistan24.
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, speaks highly of the Kurds in her new book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom.
Most notably, Rice suggests the Kurds have shown themselves to be more effective and skillful at self-government than the rest of the Iraqi population.
“As a people, [the Kurds] had long suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of Arabs and Turks,” she writes.
They dreamed of an independent Kurdistan and “were closest to realizing that desire in Iraq,” Rice continues.
The Kurdistan Region became a self-governing entity within Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War.
In 2003, after Baghdad fell and Saddam Hussein was toppled, it was evident the Kurds had used the previous 12 years very effectively.
The Kurdistan Region “functioned efficiently” and “the infrastructure was far superior to much of Iraq’s,” the former US Secretary of State adds.
Additionally, Rice says, “The Kurds were by far the most competent and coherent group in post-Saddam Iraq.” However, the “very competence” of the Kurds “made the politics of the country more complicated.”
Why should the competence of the Kurds cause problems for Iraq?
Generally speaking, a lack of skills in developing countries is the source of problems, and the US makes a considerable effort to ameliorate those problems through capacity-building programs.
Kurdish competence caused complications in Iraq, because of the “one-Iraq” policy to which the US and other powers adhered.
“The international community was united in the view that Iraq had to be a single, unified state,” Rice states.
Preserving the unity of Iraq meant subordinating the more competent party, Erbil, to the less competent party, Baghdad.
However, in her book, of which she began to conceive four years ago, Rice refers to the period before 2014 and the major changes the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and its brutalities have wrought in the region.
Speaking on Friday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Rice offered a somewhat different perspective.
She affirmed that Iraq, with US help, would soon defeat IS, but the question would then be understanding what form the country of Iraq had assumed.
She noted the Kurds would likely have new demands, regarding greater autonomy or even independence. Iran will have substantial influence in the south, while Sunni alienation from the government in Baghdad will continue.
Rice, thus, suggested it will be difficult to reconstitute Iraq and its political institutions, as they now exist.
So why bother? Kurds and their friends might well suggest the difficulty of reconstituting Iraq in and of itself makes a strong argument for Kurdish independence.
After all, why should a political entity that is more successful at self-government be subordinated to a larger entity that is less successful and which can only be put back together with considerable effort? If that can be done at all?
Rice also made some interesting points about Operation Iraqi Freedom, which remains controversial to this day in the US and elsewhere.
Indeed, the current US president Donald Trump has called it a mistake, as did his predecessor.
Rice explained the war was motivated by security concerns, and it was not a decision simply to spread democracy.
She said Hussein had been a threat to the region and the Bush administration believed he had rebuilt his proscribed weapons of mass destruction. That was the basic reason for the decision to oust him.
Once that decision was made, the question became what should replace Hussein, and Bush decided on democracy.
However, as Rice’s book reveals, some senior officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, argued the US should simply “install another strongman” to replace Hussein.
This article originally appeared in Kurdistan24.