Whose Side Are You On?

A reader replies:

I am on the side of the US (what will best serve the interests of my country) and on the side of freedom (which I think will best serve the interests of everyone). As for the sides in Iraq, I first and foremost think we in the West have a debt to the Kurds. They expected a state in 1919 and got the shaft (mostly because the British wanted the oil fields in northern Iraq to remain in Iraq). In  other days, they looked to the West for support against anti-Western governments in Syria and Iraq and got nothing but grief and chemical attacks.  These days they seem more interested in making money and rebuilding their country than killing each other, so I think we should encourage that.

Secondly, I also feel sympathy for the Shia. In the post World War I era, the British did not get the Shia involved in the new Iraqi government, and gave the kingdom to Faisal partly because he was seen as reliable and partly in order to  defuse a potentially explosive problem in French Syria. But even under Turkish rule, the Shia were kept down, as the Turks saw the Shia as threats - politically due to the influence of the Persian Shia leadership (sound familiar?) and religiously as the Sunnis see the Shia as not being real Muslims (sound more familiar?).

We will see if the "surge" is the solution.

We will. But this reader's response is helpful. The dumb way in which the president continues to portray this war - freedom versus totalitarianism - obscures the actual choices we have to make. Will siding with one faction in a Muslim civil war make us safer or less safe? If we have to pick one faction, which one? Is our ultimate objective keeping Kurdistan free - or maintaining the unity of Iraq? How feasible is it to support an Iran-backed government while attacking Iran's agents? Once you start unpacking the decisions, you realize how crude and unhelpful the president's formulations are. He doesn't even know which war he's fighting, let alone how to win it.