Human Nature Is a Predictor the West Needn’t Ignore
By Philip Shaw M.Sc.
Recently what substitutes for a government in Iraq approved the relocation of Arabs from Kirkuk Iraq. The Arab population of Kirkuk is there partly because of a policy enacted by Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s and 1990’s to fill up Kirkuk with pro-government Arabs from the south of Iraq.
What a mess. That’s how it looks to these western eyes. The problem is most or all of it was caused by western powers. Relocating a people? That stirs up visions in western circles of ethic cleansings, xenophobia and everything else, which is wrong with human nature. However in the cauldron, which is now Iraq, sectarian division is the new normal. What happened to the “weapons of mass destruction”? It’s hard to believe four years out, so many people could have got it so wrong.
Still, the Kirkuk example serves as an example of human nature at work. When you don’t know what you don’t know, many people retreat to what they understand. For many in this world that means ethnic homogeneity. Sad as it is, the grand vision of all people going to work, playing in playgrounds and embracing a multicultural society is only a dream. The world is full of examples where nobody wants to live together.
In western circles it has become in vogue to push a policy of multiculturalism where society is asked to embrace diversity and “celebrate our differences.” Canada is surely a good example of a country where the government has a set policy to promote this. The United States on the other hand does not; assimilating into being “American” is key there. Europe on the other hand morphs between being inclusive and outright racist.
Of course there is more to this than simply accepting people’s differences. In the west, countries in Europe and places like Canada would disappear in the future if they didn’t have immigration. Birth rates are simply too low to sustain any type of population increase. Russia is another example. They are currently straining at the seams to maintain economic growth in a country where the “visible majority” isn’t overly tolerant of anybody else. Finding “people” to do the dirty work is becoming increasingly difficult within these nation’s economies.
Talking about “ethnic differences” in the west is akin to sticking your head in the sand. Nobody who wants to get ahead politically or economically wants to go there. I embrace the Canadian version of multiculturalism, however imperfect its reality is. However policy toward the rest of the world needs to embrace the limitations on the ground. In places like Iraq, parts of Africa and Asia, it’s far more important to foster basic education and full stomachs. If your neighbour is hungry, that’s a far greater concern than “celebrating their differences.”
In my life I’ve traveled more than I ever dreamed as a young tot. Two places stand out in my travels of countries, which live with ethnic division, which don’t always succeed the test of time. They are Trinidad and Fiji. Both had a thriving indigenous population before the British brought in indentured labour from South Asia in the 1800’s to fill the sugar cane fields.
On my visit to Trinidad I was struck by its ethnic diversity. Walking through the streets of Port of Spain I was dazzled by the inter-mixing of races and the cross-cultural practices. Even though Trinidad has had its share of ethnic struggles, at the end of the day the country works. The government and the people work at “coming together.”
Fiji is a bit of a different story. On my visit there I saw an indigenous population working seamlessly with the large south Asian population. However that was in 1984. Since 1987 there have been four coups in Fiji as the two ethnic groups vie for government control. In 2007 prospects remain the same. A difficult situation continues.
Enamul used to say, “its all based on history.” In other words, somebody’s grandfather didn’t like somebody else’s grandfather. Years later in places like Bosnia, Burundi, Fiji, the Congo and Iraq that fight continues. Nobody knows why the hate exists, but they feel it anyway.
Unfortunately, it’s the most basic of feelings and entirely predictable in many circumstances around the globe. So into Afghanistan and Iraq stepped the west with their military muscle and there miscalculated aims. Four years out from the decapitation strike on Saddam Hussein Iraq has descended into sectarian violence, almost civil war. Afghanistan isn’t much better.
In retrospect it was all so predictable. Hindsight does that. However a closer look at human nature would have provided the salient clues. Getting it right next time around will be the west’s challenge.
Cultural Diversity – an asset or a problem for nations?
Dr. A.K. Enamul Haque
The policy of the Iraqi government to relocate Arabs from Kirkuk does not follow the norms that we are used to in this world. However, it is surprising that many people are quiet on this. To me it is linked with the fundamental question of national identity.
Kirkuk is not a new city. Its history dates back to the Babylonian era. The Ottoman encyclopedist Shamsaddin Sami wrote in 1897 – “three quarters of the inhabitants of Kirkuk are Kurds and the rest are Turkmans, Arabs and Others”. Nearly, 60 years later, in 1957, the census revealed that 178000 Kurds, 48000 Turkmans, 43000 Arabs and 10000 Assyrian Christians lived in that city (Wikipedia).
Wikipedia further states “in 1980s many non-Arab people who were forced out of the city during the Ba’th rule, have started to claim back their lands since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime including Turkmen and Kurds.” Saddam in the 70s followed a policy of Arabization of the city and encouraged Arabs to settle in Kirkuk.
What surprised me is to initiate a policy of “reverse ethnic cleansing” by the Iraqi regime. To me, this is a risky proposition. Given the history of the land, it is difficult to claim that Kirkuk was a purely Kurdish land. It was always a city where people of various origins lived peacefully. Arabs, Turkmenians, Kurdish, Assyrian all lived in this city for 2000 years. But Kurds were the majority. Consequently, Saddam’s policy to reduce the influence of Kurdish people from Kirkuk met with severe criticisms and protests. The current policy to de-Arabize Kirkuk is equally wrong and will be a failure.
Here again I find it difficult to accept where people of the whole world are trying to ensure cultural diversity is an asset for a nation. Iraq seems to me is heading towards a disaster. After de-Arabization of Kirkuk, the next move must be to separate Kurdistan from Iraq or simply to divide Iraq into separate countries. The oil rich Kurdistan will be under the control of the US army, and the Basra will be under the British influence the middle part – the so-called “Arab only” land will become Iraqi. I can see this blueprint in the hands of the US policy makers.
Having said this, my feeling is that it will be another recipe for disaster in Iraq. The temporary success in terms of eliminating the civil war (among Kurds – Sunnis and the Shiites) will be achieved but a more permanent war will begin with clashes between Arabs and the Persians.
I have always found the nomenclature used on Iraq is wrong. The civil war is not between the Sunnis and Shiites, as the western media put forward. Why? Kurds are largely Sunnis too. If it were really a fight between Shiites and Sunnis the Kurds would be with Sunnis. In fact the fight is between three nations – the Kurds, the Arabs (in Iraq) and the Persians (in Iraq). As a result, it is likely that other nations will eventually be dragged into the war if it continues for a few more years. It is for this reason; Saddam Hussein wanted to increase cultural diversity in various regions of the country. He thought that cultural diversity will reduce tensions among various ethnic groups and so it will be possible to make one Iraq. I hope the US leadership reads the history before nodding their heads to restart a dispute.