Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

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.


Emma Sky

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.

24 Comments:

Anonymous neil said...

God help us all indeed! For Sky's
previous activities in Jerusalem
(she never stayed more than a few
hours 'in Gaza')see comments and links attached to this web-site:

http://kotare.typepad.com/thestrategist/2009/02/a-treehugger-in-iraq.html

6:29 AM, April 23, 2009

 
Anonymous neil said...

Michael Busch of CUNY is also very
sceptical of Sky and Odierno - and
critical of Tom Ricks pointing out that he was 'embedded'. Ricks has
subsequently conceded that he did
not speak Arabic and was therefore
limited to focussing on internal
dynamics within the US military:

http://gcadvocate.org/index.php/view/00430/The-story-behind-the-surge.htm

7:20 AM, April 23, 2009

 
Anonymous neil said...

'Clientitis' was a criticism of Emma Sky in Palestine as well -
and most of her 'insights' were,
in my view, pretty superficial.
Her so-called 'PAID project was
it transpired 'non-existent'(her
words in a British Council memo
after she was finally rumbled!)

But British Council hush that up and Emma Sky's rise continued -
despite evidence of 'mediocrity'.
She was then embraced by Bremer,
and also by Paul Wolfowitz here:

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=3634

Your own assessement rings true:

"Sky has developed an unfortunate case of “clientitis” involving the chieftains of the principal Arab tribe in Kirkuk’s vicinity, the ‘Ubaid, who flatter her with platitudes about her magnificent role in history, which consequently drives the garrulous Sky to see things their way; which is to say, the Kurds are the aggressors, even though many of the ‘Ubaid chiefs hunted down the Kurds in the Saddam years, much like how the Ukrainian auxiliaries massacred Jews on behalf of the Waffen SS. "

7:43 AM, April 23, 2009

 
Anonymous neil said...

As for her being a left-wing tree-hugging pacificist ...... nothing
could be further from the truth!

She struck me as an arrogant and upper class public-school bully
(Old Decanian from Cheltenham!)
with no discernible ideologies
aside from playing one group off
against another cynically for the
advantage of the ruling hegemon?

The only evidence of 'tree-hugging' was her garrulous
enthusiasm for 'The Hash' -
an expat orienteering game
involving dead-letter drops
and trees ... And pacifists
do not get involved in any
way with military matters!

7:56 AM, April 23, 2009

 
Anonymous Neil said...

The comparison with Gertrude Bell seems to have begun with Kurds in
Kirkuk, however, who thought Sky
was biassed against them - or at
least that is how I read George
Packer's critique of Sky in a
2004 article in 'The New Yorker':

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/10/04/041004fa_fact

There was it seems at that point a suspicion that the Iraq Property
Claims body Sky was sponsoring at
that time was a political 'sop'- a bit like ('non-existent') public
admin reform projects in Palestine being used as "political" levers?!

8:36 AM, April 23, 2009

 
Anonymous Neil said...

Perhaps she was 'against invasion of Iraq' but so was Saddam ......

8:39 AM, April 23, 2009

 
Anonymous neil robertson said...

More of the same - but still no answers on Sky's 'non-existent' (her words not mine) British Council/UK DfID'PAID' project
in Palestine which attracted
the attention of auditors not
to mention a PNA Minister who
complained to HM Consul General
Robin Kealey in East Jerusalem!

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09325/1015391-82.stm

12:39 PM, November 21, 2009

 
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