Arabs and Kurds, and Emma Sky
My Hudson-NY piece this week is about the Arab-Kurdish tensions that seem to be coming to a boil. I argue that long-standing tensions are being whipped up at the current time because it serves several political agendas:
Kirkuk is saddled with very difficult issues involving many interested parties. The critical urgency for tackling these issues—energy, demographics, a history of ethnic cleansing—is now being impeded by political expediency: the Arab-Kurdish disputes are being played up, because ganging up on the Kurds would bring the Sunnis and the Shias together, or so think the likes of Maliki, Mutlag and Sky.The “Sky” I’m referring to is Emma Sky. I’ve been watching her rise for some time, and couldn’t tell whether this was a remarkably deft penetration of the American decision-making process courtesy of the ‘cousins’ across the pond, or that it was just an accident of history when mediocre characters, thrust into the eye of history, begin making irresponsible and ill-conceived choices. I’m still wavering between the two.
Sky has maneuvered herself into becoming General Ray Odierno’s brain.
Sky has been recently quoted as saying:
“It is a fascinating society,” she said of Iraq. “They have got things here that we have totally lost in the West: the appreciation of each other, whether it is the family, the clan or the tribe; values that aren't capitalist.”How foolish is that? What toxic mix of cluelessness and self-righteousness is necessary to allow someone to string together these words? Is Emma Sky arguing for a pre-capitalistic society for Iraq? Where’s the sense of irony here?
But I’ll hand it to her, she has been quite clever in rallying the ranks of her fellow travelers among the western media (think Tom Ricks), as well as the left-leaning think-tankers. She’s managed to manipulate them into adhering to a disciplined message about Iraq, one that is heavily colored by her politics.
But what really galls me is that she has the audacity to compare herself to Gertrude Bell. Apart from both of them being British, middle-aged and in a capacity to direct events in Iraq, there is really no way that Sky can measure up to Bell. I have a complex relationship to the latter: on the one hand I see how her personal biases negatively influenced her instincts, but on the other I’m awed by the intellectual heft and bravery she kept demonstrating. One of my favorite books is the Desert and the Sown, an account of Bell’s travel’s in what we’d now call the interior of the Levant around the turn of the century; a journey she undertook on her own. To me this book, one that is always handy for the leafing, is a testimony to how uniquely brilliant this lady was, a set of personal triumphs that one should think twice of before claiming them for themselves.
And guess what? Emma Sky has her eye on greener pastures: the Rose Garden. That’s right, she wants to start working for the Obama administration.
After a year or so away from the front line, Ms Sky will consider her next move. “I would love to go and work for the President in the White House,” she said, admitting that her favourite TV series was The West Wing.God help us all.