Dec 20 (1/1): Rojava, Local Governance & Way of Life

The new “borders” between the various foreign forces of significance in northern Syria have solidified a bit. So that means hammering out an understanding of how things will work going forward.

Given the nature of the war at all levels—kinetic violence, economic, social, etc.—it makes sense that the cessation (or partial cessation) of shooting would only be a starting point.

To add to that context, though, it makes sense to remember what the Turkish backed militias (TFSA) have been contributing to the situation.

Guys like this.

Translation (German): The Turkish regime has been supporting Jihadist gangs in Syria for years through the secret service MIT and is trying to increase its influence. An ex-IS member reports about it! #Riseup4Rojava#DefendRojava

And they do the sorts of things guys like that do.

Translation (Kurdish): The occupying state and its gangs have targeted the M4 road and the villagers around the M4 road and are bombing Obus and Haryana …

These are basically the types of people that Erdogan not only uses, but is comfortable dealing with.

Now, given that context, consider that Turkey should obviously be expected to have strong ideas about what sorts of new social and political arrangements there will be, who will be involved, and who will lead.

Which is to say, Erdogan wants to rebuild northern Syria with his own men.

And it’s not like people haven’t noticed.

So it’s pretty clear that that group, proposed to lead and, indeed, be a critical social structure are not representative of the people, nor do they appear to be of the sort of people whom the locasl would choose.

Of course, this is consistent with the whole program of ethnic cleansing that includes not just the killing of the Kurds and other people who live there, but also the eradication of their social and cultural presence and replacement with other peoples.

Those salutes need to be addressed at some point.

Anyway, while the ethnic cleansing here is definitely an Erdogan thing, the attempt to control the social and political situation of an area under military control is basically Occupation 101.

In that same vein, Russia is organizing their own local militias in areas under their control as well.

It’s easier to control a local population if they, or at least some of them, cooperate. It just is.

It’s much easier, for example, than dealing with this all the time.

Of course, that raises the issue of who is helping and who is not—and who’s help the powers that be prefer to accept and use.

Now here’s the thing: Rojava is, was, and always has been about a specific, self-conscious approach to self-rule that involves cultivating a new and innovative form of politics that they believe in.

And now some people—entities of obvious power—are proposing their own social and political arrangements for the region.

So it makes sense that, while there are rich, sophisticated treatises on the subject of their politics, Rojava has put out a more simple introductory explanation.

It’s really, really interesting stuff. Like, I want to learn more, and I’m a little chagrined that I don’t already know more than I do.

Basically, it’s like James Madison’s constitutional system for America, but adapted to the 21st century.

Madison’s genius is to understand political factions, power, and freedom in new ways. Specifically, he thought actually trying to get rid of political factions was a bad idea because he reasoned that factions are actually a function of freedom: Free people develop new ideas and form factions.

Factions to Madison, therefore, are a necessary side effect of the good stuff.

So Madison concluded that, with respect to getting rid of faction as a “remedy, that it was worse than the disease,” (Federalist 10).

So that’s how he came up with the whole diffusion of power, destabilization of permanent majorities (to protect minorities), and separation of powers concepts for the US Constitution that he developed and explained so brilliantly in Federalist 10 and 51.

Of course, kinda a lot has happened since then.

Not only have our understandings changed since then, but people and how they interact has evolved over time as well. And even if they hadn’t, we’d expect to learn some things through the experience of trial and error.

Two of the biggest problems attending the Madisonian system have been:

  • The growing distance between the people and an increasingly powerful central government.
  • Preserving the voice of disadvantaged minorities who may consistently be neglected in the Madisonian system.

For the first problem, Rojava re-emphasized decentralization of government by institutionalizing localism in government—and the underlying theory is worthy of some prominent conservative American political thought.

Review of Politics: Reagan and That Unnamed Frenchman (De Tocqueville): On the Rationale for the New (Old) Federalism, Zuckert, Catherine (Vol 45 No 3 Jul 1983)

Popular demand will give rise to ever enlarged “popular government” unless individuals acquire both the self-confidence and the organizational skill to act on their own behalf. Decentralized political institutions do not restrict the powers of government and so protect individual liberty merely by dividing it up and making more decisions subject to local majorities. By making it possible for more citizens to participate in community decisions, decentralized political institutions foster private enterprise by teaching individuals not only how to associate but also how, through association, they can produce results. If Tocqueville is correct, the federal component of the Reagan administration’s program ought not to be viewed as merely another expression of a general conservative dislike for “big government,” much less a tactic to evade political responsibility. Decentralizing the administration of domestic social programs as much as possible may, on the contrary, be the essential means to Reagan’s larger goal of reinvigorating American enterprise. Spending reductions and tax cuts will not suffice, if enterprise depends upon attitudes and attitudes are shaped largely, if indirectly, by political institutions.

(FWIW: That’s a very serious, prominent, and incredibly smart conservative political theorist; I’m not just using it because it talks about Reagan. Though that might not be a bad reason if it were.)

So yeah, they sought to solve, or at least alleviate, the problems that come from big, centralized government through localism.

The second issue of representing the point of view of the marginalized has been a thorny one in the Middle East. Most political constitutions in the region have addressed the problem by guaranteeing specifically defined forms of representation to specific groups.

Of course, this just causes the groups to become more rigid and entrenched as they try to hold on to power. It’s some of the absolute worst in identity politics.

So instead, Rojava swapped out things like designated representation for religious and ethnic groups and swapped in guaranteed local offices for women in equal proportion to men as a way to to capture the point of view of those most likely to become politically dispossessed.

But, like, “capture” in a good way.

It works really well.

The only problem, of course, would be if they use it to pursue a plan of world domination.

I don’t think that’s a real concern.

But you can see how the struggle—a struggle between what Turkey wants to impose on the region and what these people might want for their own way of life—is very real.

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