I got a lot of grumpy readers who want a column on the Kurdish-Turkish skirmishes in Northern Iraq, pronto. A lot of them were pissed off at my last column gloating about the Malibu fires. I guess I'm only supposed to glorify this violent shit if it happens outside California. Well, too bad, fellas. Maybe you weren't one of those kids who always cheered for the flood vs. the dam, the wildfire vs. the water-bombers, and Ebola vs. those interfering French "doctors without frontiers," but I was and still am. People get the wrong idea about me, like I'm actually a cuddly puppy growling at the sofa. But I mean every damn word of it, and that goes for Malibu every bit as much as Mali. Sure, I have sentimental favorites, but not many any more. And I try to be fair about it. If you were to say, "So Gary, would you be just as happy to see Fresno burn as Malibu?" I'd say, "Sir or Madam, Your Honor, that is what I dream about every night on my commute." Hook me up to a polygraph and you'll see nothing but a little smiley-face on the graph when the notion of Fresno burning comes up. Hitler asked, "Is Paris burning?" My question is, "Why not Fresno?"
But fine then, ya pussies, we'll go back to nice safe overseas chaos'n'violence, take a slow Predator tour of Kurdistan and zoom in on what little gore there is to highlight. See, that's the first thing to keep in mind: this is classic low-intensity warfare, and if you're hoping it'll build up to a nice big poppable zit of a battle, forget it. Nobody wants that except us frustrated war watchers, and you'd think by now, after 60 years of this chronic-fatigue warfare, we'd face facts. But we're all--and I admit I feel it too--we're all hoping for something a little more Stalingrad, a decisive campaign with winners and losers.
I guarantee a lot of you won't like the story here, because it's the same old thing: combat itself is trivial in this kind of war, casualties are insignificant (unless you're one of them) and military genius, it don't mean shit. This is one of those annoying "wars" that are just about everything EXCEPT combat, everything from the difference between a language and a dialect to the whole notion of being something called a "Kurd."
Could you draw a map of Kurdistan? Basically it's a peanut-shaped footprint across SE Turkey, Northern Iraq and a patch of western Iran. But it's not on any world map, because the Kurds, like the Tibetans and the Tuareg, are stuck in the Hell of the Landlocked Tribes, a seriously bad Hell when countries are mostly defined by their chunk of coastline. There are 25 million Kurds just festering in that peanut, but they don't have their own country and never will unless a new Woodrow Wilson comes along and gives the world another shaken-not-stirred roll of the liar's dice like Woody did in 1919. We get a lot of our dumbest ideas from that fine Presbyterian gentleman, but Wilson would've been better off sticking to showing off his stiff collars as president of Princeton instead of doing his Jurassic Jimmy Carter routine by playing Sir Noble Knight defending "the rights of small nations." The right of small nations is to duck, shuck and say "Yessuh." That's about it. That's how they survive. Small nations that can fight for their rights usually keep going past the tribal borders till they're stomping on the rights of other small nations that can't back their "rights" up with guns.
Prussia would be the classic example here, and it's more relevant to the Kurdish example than you'd think. When we think "Prussian" we think German officers with monocles and an attitude problem, but there were other Prussians living there first. They spoke something called "Old Prussian" that wasn't even German-based. It was related to Lithuanian, and as far as I can tell, Lithuanian is related to the Language of the Flowers or Proto-Gnome or Paleo-Sanskrit in a fur coat or something like that.