FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Wants to Defeat ISIS–But Not That Badly

by

The Obama administration recently announced a policy of limited intervention in Iraq, using drone strikes to stave off conquest of Kurdish autonomous areas by ISIS. The main US ally on the ground is Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government, and US support against ISIS is limited to Kurdish areas inside Iraq.

Barzani’s main competitor for the loyalty of the Kurdish people is Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which is active in all four nations with substantial Kurdish minorities.

While leading the originally Marxist-Leninist PKK from inside a Turkish prison, Ocalan studied the work of anarchist Murray Bookchin and adopted a form of his “libertarian municipalist” philosophy (which he renamed “democratic confederalism”). Bookchin’s philosophy came to Ocalan’s attention as part of a larger wave of interest in libertarian socialist thought among Kurdish nationalists after the fall of the USSR. Ocalan saw democratic confederalism — also influenced by horizontalist struggles like Mexico’s EZLN — as an alternative to both Western corporate capitalism and the Soviet command economy.

Democratic confederalism became the basis for the Group of Communities in Kurdistan, a PKK attempt at territorial administration in Kurdish areas.  It adheres closely to Bookchin’s model of federated direct democracies on the model of the Paris Commune, the soviets that emerged in Russia after the February Revolution, and local anarchist bodies in the Spanish Revolution. The economy is governed by a mixture of worker self-management and participatory planning. Women figure prominently in its municipalities and militia units, and have fought valiantly — for understandable reasons — against ISIS.

PKK is still listed as a terrorist organization because of its violent insurrection against the Turkish government, although it has maintained a truce with Turkey for the past year and gained significant regional autonomy for Kurdish areas in eastern Turkey. Since the truce the PKK moved the bulk of its fighting forces into Iraqi Kurdistan this April.

Supporting the PKK would arguably be far more effective if Obama really wants to stop ISIS penetration of Iraqi Kurdistan, especially given the party’s peace with Turkey and de facto independence of Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria. The PKK and allied militia in Syria have been more successful militarily against ISIS forces than the Western-backed Free Syrian army. PKK defended the Yazidi areas of Iraqi Kurdistan and relocated endangered civilians, when Barzani’s Peshmerga forces melted away. PKK fighters from Turkey have prevented the fall of Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan, which sits across lines of communication between ISIS areas in Syria and Iraq. Ocalan and the PKK, unlike Barzani, have popular support throughout Kurdistan — not just the Iraqi part.

But that’s unlikely to happen. The one thing worse than an ISIS victory, from the American state’s perspective, would be the demonstration effect of an alternative to both corporate capitalism and state socialism, based on decentralism, direct democracy and self-management.

Kurdistan has much in common with postwar Korea. In the power vacuum left by the retreat of Japanese forces from the Korean peninsula, as William Gillis writes (“Mass Graves,” reproduced at Austro-Athenian Empire, May 25, 2008), “something amazing happened. The Korean Anarchists, long the champions of the resistance struggle, came out of the woodwork and formed a nationwide federation of village and workers councils to oversee a massive project of land reform.” Soviet occupation authorities in the north quickly put a stop to this, liquidating the anarchist project and installing the Kim regime. American forces were considerably slower to arrive, giving southern Korea a respite of peace and freedom. When they did arrive, though, American military commanders “had no protocol for dealing with regional federations and anarchist communes.” Accordingly they restored land to the dispossessed aristocracy and helped the landlords set up a military government. With the start of the Korean War the military regime’s murder of anarchists and other leftists, already underway, kicked into high gear. At least 100,000 suspected anarchists, socialists and communists or sympathizers were buried in mass graves.

The American state would rather ISIS not win. But as with the farmers in Orwell’s Animal Farm, the men have one interest in common with the pigs that trumps all others: they don’t want the “animals” — ordinary people — to rule themselves.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. 

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 24, 2017
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail