Democracy: Metis or Techne?

While doing research for an article on the U.S. and democratization in Iraq, I was recently led to James C. Scott’s book Seeing Like a State. In the final chapter, Scott explores two types of knowledge: metis, or practical knowledge, and techne, or technical knowledge. In keeping with my current research subject of democratization, I began to question how democracy fits into this dichotomy.

Below are my thoughts on this subject. It is a long read (my apologies) but it is a subject that I feel deserves a close look due to its direct implications with our adventure in Iraq and future policy.

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Maliki’s Misplaced Fear

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The flag of the Islamic State of Iraq. The group, linked to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the March 8th attack on Syrian troops in Iraq. (Photo: http://www.wikipedia.org)

A few days ago the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), a Sunni militant group with links to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the March 8th massacre of 48 Syrian and nine Iraqi soldiers in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. The attack targeted an Iraqi army convoy that was returning Syrian troops who crossed into Iraq to escape rebel fighters. Originally, the operation was attributed the Al-Nusra Front, a Sunni insurgent group in Syria that is also linked to Al-Qaeda and has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. government. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if the attack was carried out by Al-Qaeda’s Syrian or Iraqi front. What matters is that the attack is the most glaring sign to date that Syria’s civil war is spilling over into an Iraq that is struggling with increased sectarian tensions and fears of another civil war. Continue reading

A Semester in Review: The Microcosm of Iraqi Kurdistan

The semester ended and I sat pondering what I had learned over the past sixteen weeks. Do I know more about international politics in the Middle East than when I started? If so, what did I learn and how can I best summarize my new knowledge? These questions were running through my mind when I came across this analysis about Iraqi Kurdish relations with Iran and Turkey. The pieces suddenly came together when I realized that Iraqi Kurdistan is a good microcosm for my semester. The four trends which I found to be most significant in my study of international politics of the Middle East are all present within Iraqi Kurdistan: the lingering effects of colonialism; the struggle between politics, or realism, and identity, or constructivism; the impact of oil; and the involvement of outside actors. Continue reading

Democracy vs. Democratization (A Public Conciliation)

Yesterday, in class, we tackled one of the biggest questions of recent U.S. history. Why did the U.S. decide to invade Iraq in 2003? This question has been debated in all corners of the academic, public, and government worlds for almost a decade with many answers proposed. Some are unlikely, such as oil and corporate greed, some are plausible, such as security concerns and intelligence failures, and some are downright crazy, such as revenge for events in the 1990s and secret Israeli conspiracies. This subject is difficult for me, a veteran of the invasion, to approach because it is still difficult to separate my emotions from reason. Although I study Iraq extensively, both personally and academically, I purposely shy away from the above question. Continue reading

Kurdistan- The Next Oil State?

Oil platform in Iraqi Kurdistan. (www.telegraph.co.uk)

Oil has played a significant role in creating and sustaining states in the Middle East. Since the Qajar Shah of Iran signed the first oil deal with William D’Arcy in 1901, oil money has been used to centralize power, fund an era of modernity, and build elaborate welfare states across the Middle East. Could Iraqi Kurdistan be the next state to buy its independence with oil? Unfortunately, the cards still seem to be stacked against Kurdish independence. Continue reading

Do Individuals Matter in International Relations?

Do individuals matter in international relations? What a loaded question, right? Immediately, one is compelled to say yes, of course they do. What about the standard list of international bad guys and good guys? Saddam, Khomeini, and Hitler or Truman, Churchill, and Bush (ok, I’ll that last one for you to decide). However, there is a true argument hidden in this question. To extract it we must first qualify the question and then look at some examples. Continue reading

Iraqis First, Christians Second

The leader of the Iraqi parliament’s Christian Rafidain bloc, Yonadim Kana, refused the formation of special sectarian security force units to protect Iraq’s minorities. Al-Monitor reported that Kana announced his dissent and revealed the creation of a special

Yonadim Kana, leader of Iraq’s Christian Rafidain Bloc. (www.iraqichristians.info)

committee formed to draft a law that would guarantee administrative and cultural rights for minorities. Continue reading