Politicians need the power of the people’s authority
National Security issues should go to referenda
The Kurdistan Regional Government and the KDP have provided Iraqi Kurdistan with a functioning police force, an army, educational opportunities, economic freedoms, a stable electricity supplies, judicial reforms based on the rule of law, and an efficient communications network. Though far from a paradise, Iraqi Kurdistan is now the most stable part of Iraq.
Democracy is hard, perhaps the most complex and difficult of all forms of government. It is filled with tensions and contradictions, and requires its members to labor diligently to make it work. The Kurds’ negotiations with Baghdad, the oil issues, Kirkuk and Kurdish strategic relations with the US and its neighbors are all issues of national and public concern; they need to go to public referenda: the politicians who are negotiating in the name of the Kurdish people need their mandate.
After World War One, the Kurdistan region was in complete disarray after the ravages of war leaving only the local Kurdish tribal chieftains in control. When President Woodrow Wilson laid out his vision for world peace, the Kurds saw in it an allusion to Kurdish autonomy. Wilson stated that the Turkish portions of the Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but that the other nationalities then under Turkish rule should be assured a security of existence and an opportunity to achieve autonomous development unmolested. This was the first indication of possible Kurdish autonomy and an independent state.
It was believed that federalism and democracy could only work given functioning democratic institutions, a judicial system, integrated national political parties and electoral incentives created by democratic political competition. The United States did not want to get involved in the Kurdistan issue, both because it still had an isolationist view of the world and because Kurdistan, a landlocked area, had already been partially annexed by Britain.
The Treaty of Sevres gave the Kurds autonomy in Kurdish areas and a future independent state. However, this aspect of the treaty was never enacted. Turkey gained its independence through the Treaty of Lausanne, which did not mention the Turkish Kurds. Coupled with the British creation of Iraq, this dashed the hopes of a Kurdish independent state.
Democracy is not designed for efficiency, but for accountability. A democratic government may not be able to act as quickly as a dictatorship, but once committed to a course of action it can draw upon deep wellsprings of popular support. Americans believe, and rightly so, that the basic principles underlying their government derive directly from notions first enunciated by the framers of the Constitution.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that US foreign policy affected the status of Kurds.
Wilson had communicated a vision for the world, but the United States did not become a prominent actor in the creation of nation states in the former Ottoman Empire—it left this task to the European powers.
Democracy, certainly in its American form, is never a finished product, but is always evolving.