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Totten's Road Trip to Iraq

Michael Totten takes a day-trip to northern Iraq with his long-time friend, Sean LaFreniere. Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI.

One of the more interesting threads that pops up in Totten’s travelogue deals with meeting the Kurdish people. He describes a very easy relationship in his fifth report:

It's hard to convey what it's actually like meeting Iraqi Kurds. Fleshing out the dialogue doesn't capture the feel of it. Americans and Kurds don't just get along because we're temporary allies of convenience in the Middle East. The connection is deeper and personal. Kurdish culture and American culture might as well be from different planets. But somehow, oddly enough, Kurds think much like Americans do. Let me rephrase that: Americans think like the Kurds. We have similar values despite our extraordinarily different cultural backgrounds. I find it easier to develop a rapport with Iraqi Kurds than with people from any other country I have ever been to. It's instant, powerful, and totally unexpected.

Totten mentions Michael Yon’s similar description, logged from his visit a year ago:

Meetings with Iraqi Arabs sometimes seem more like talking with the French. We are not enemies. But, generally speaking, there is no real personal connection. At best, our collective personalities just don’t seem to “click.” Yet by recognizing the sovereignty and inevitability of each other, we manage to cooperate toward our common interests, while not going to war when we disagree. But with the Kurds, like the Poles or the Brits, there is an easy and audible click. We have mutual goals, mutual enemies, and, also importantly, we actually like each other.

LaFreniere candidly adds:

I must admit that the willingness to risk bloodshed to defend themselves was a bit startling after living in Europe. I am not sure that Europeans today would be willing to defend themselves from even Martians.

Another very clear point is made with regard to the unrest in Turkey due to their internal conflict with the local Kurdish population. It seems readily apparent that Turkey needs to successfully resolve this internal struggle before it can truly move into the European Union.