Daniel Larison points out the ironic contradiction between the enthusiastic American support for Israel's failed attempt to crush the Hezbollah "state-within-a-state" in Lebanon and the long-term American support for the Kurdish "state-within-a-state" in northern Iraq, which engages in border provocations with its neighbors Turkey and Iran. He quotes first from The Guardian, then offers his own comment:
"Although fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants is nowhere near the scale of the 1980s and 90s - which accounted for the loss of more than 30,000 mostly Turkish Kurdish lives- at least 15 Turkish police officers have died in clashes. The PKK’s sister party in Iran, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (Pejak), has stepped up activities against security targets in Kurdish regions. Yesterday, Kurdish media said eight Iranian troops were killed...
"Frustrated by the reluctance of the US and the government in Baghdad to crack down on the PKK bases inside Iraq, Turkish generals have hinted they are considering a large-scale military operation across the border. They are said to be sharing intelligence about Kurdish rebel movements with their Iranian counterparts. “We would not hesitate to take every kind of measures when our security is at stake,” Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, said last week." ~The Guardian
I assume that we will be bombarded by numerous articles and television appearances by pundits declaring Turkey and Iran’s right to defend themselves against terrorism and we will hear a lot of complaints about the “Kurdish state within a state,” right? Isn’t it obvious that their war is our war? In fact, I think we might be on the verge of WWVI against the united forces of “Kurdish fascism.” We certainly have to keep an eye on the Kurds’ state sponsors and the forces occupying Iraq. What choice will Iran have but to bombard Baghdad for allowing this sort of thing to go on in their own country? I mean, the Iraqis even have a Kurdish president, so that must mean Iraq is responsible for everything that is happening. Really, if you think about it, this is a golden opportunity for the region.
The Kurdish state-within-a-state is, in some ways, more dangerous to Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Iran, than Hezbollah is to Israel because there are about 14 million Kurds in Turkey and 5 million in Iran while there are very few Shi'ites in Israel. If the Iraqi Kurds were to wind up with oil fields of northern Iraq, they could finance a lot of trouble in Turkey or Iran. After all, even without oil money, the Kurdish rebellion of the 1980s and 1990s in Turkey killed dozens of times more than the recent Israel-Lebanon war.
With 12 aircraft carrier battle groups, submarine-launched cruise missiles, stealth technology, and so forth, the U.S. has little to fear from aggression by states, because they all have "return addresses" that we can blast to smithereens. Thus we could quickly drive the Taliban regime from power in Afghanistan for their crimes of negligence in hosting Osama bin Laden, providing a salutary lesson to the other 200 states in the world.
What countries with air supremacy like America and Israel have trouble with, however, are organizations that do not have return addresses. The hard core of the Taliban are now living in caves in the mountains, and we aren't making much progress against them. On the other hand, how important is that? That guerillas can hole up among civilians who support them and we can't do much about it without slaughtering civilians in vast numbers (the Soviets killed at least a million Afghans from 1979-1988 without achieving final victory) is a rough form of democracy. When we run into a situation where we can't eradicate popular guerillas, well, that's God's way of telling us to go home and find something better to do with our young men's lives.
Similarly, Hezbollah is, literally, a "low overhead" state-within-a-state. Even with a budget of apparently no more than $400 million for both its military and its social welfare programs, Hezbollah can get a lot of bang for its buck because its top operatives are content to live in holes in the ground or to shuttle from one safe house to another each night. If they were to start erecting above-ground monuments to their own majesty, they'd have a return address.
The good news is that these kind of organizations have virtually no offensive capabilities for seizing territory outside of areas where they are supported by the civilian population. Hezbollah can't fire up its chain of bunkers and send them rolling into Israel the way Israel can fire up its tanks and send them into Lebanon. What it can fire offensively are rockets, but they aren't all that dangerous without weapons-of-mass-destruction warheads. But the use of WMD missiles would set off a massive counterstrike with WMD by Israel, so deterrence should continue to work.
Now, many would argue that Hezbollah is completely irrational, with the implication being that we (whether "we" is Israel or America or both is usually kept vague) must commit genocide against them before they commit genocide against us. But if Hezbollah's leadership has looked crazy over the last 6 weeks, it's crazy like a fox, as they've outsmarted the Israelis.