If you’re watching the news, it’s likely you’ve heard ‘something’ about Kobani, Syria. It might just be blending in with all the other bad news you are hearing. It’s different. I believe it’s much different. I believe I have a moral duty to speak up, and hope others will feel that obligation, as well. It is not America’s job to rescue every community. I worry deeply about the future of many places around the world, but don’t feel my country should intervene in all these places. In the case of Kobani, however, we should act. We are acting, and the news carries regular updates about coalition bombing of Daesh forces. We need to do more.
This isn’t an isolated village that is inaccessible to assistance and must be abandoned to its fate. Kobani borders NATO. It has a gate that is manned on the opposite side by forces of the second largest ground force in NATO. It is 60 km from a large secure airport accessible to Kobani by major roads.
These are not people who have been threatening their neighbors. Even now, they are sheltering men from the FSA who were once allied with Daesh. They have opened their hearts and offered forgiveness even to their enemies. They are facing not subjugation, but slaughter. They have no State left to help them. Syria is for practical purposes gone.
They have not asked for Turkey or the US to fight their enemies for them. The town is defending itself, with the help of entire families. Not the well wishes and hopes of their families, but women, girls, boys and elderly manning fighting positions. These are not conscripted child soldiers. They know they are fighting for their survival. They are asking for the right weapons to defend against armor and heavy weapons that were plundered from Syria and Iraq. Some of these weapons might have once been American weapons.
What else could we do? The obvious answer is provide heavy weapons, delivered via Turkey. This is also the most difficult option. The people of Kobani are ethnic Kurds. Rightly, or wrongly, Turkey plainly views arming them, at best, as a security threat. I hope our allies in Turkey could be persuaded to set aside their fears with assurances of diplomatic and economic support to re-integrate Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Turkey is our ally, and we should be the type of friend to them that helps find a lasting peace with their Kurdish citizens. In the meantime, I believe we should immediately establish a more active presence in the region. Humanitarian assistance for the town and its refugees is certainly appropriate, as well as for the thousands of other Syrian and Iraqi refugees throughout the region. More measures to stop the movement of Daesh fighters across regional borders would be helpful, as well. Participation of many nations would allay concerns and speculation that elements of neighboring nations offer some forms of support for Daesh forces. Finally, we should continue establishing a stronger military cooperative element with other regional forces, including Kurdish forces, to increase theater-wide pressure upon Daesh. If they are sending re-enforcement to fight in Kobani, it means they feel secure in their bases of power. If a disorganized mob of murderers drawn from the gutters of the world can sweep across half of Iraq and Syria with pilfered and castoff weapons, imagine what a well-equipped and integrated regional force with air support could accomplish.
Why here, when we do not act in so many other places? Kobani has strategic significance. This significance is not due to its location or resources. The significance is in the hearts of their people. They are brave fighters who share common values with us. By standing with them, we will show people throughout Syria and Iraq that America is willing to help. We can show that we can learn from the mistakes of our past. We can show that we can commit to new friends and stand with them against common foes. We can earn our place as an ally, and grow beyond our perception as an occupier. In this place where we can make a difference that advances our own national interests, we can do the right thing.
Postscript:…This is post is plainly outside the usual scope of my writing here. The views expressed are my own, and do not reflect those of any past or current employers. The information is sourced from news reports and Twitter. My intent in writing this post is to encourage my friends to learn more about this issue, not to lobby or influence policy makers.