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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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

Maliki’s Menage-a-Trois

It has not been an easy month for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Domestically, the Basra Provincial Council announced a lawsuit against the national Ministry of Oil and the central government in Baghdad is still locked in arguments with the Kurdistan

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (www.foxnews.com)

Regional Government (KRG) over the issuance of exploration permits and oil payments. More significantly, the worsening crisis in Syria, continuing talks over an attack on Iran’s nuclear program, and Turkish attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq are testing Maliki’s foreign policy and domestic sovereignty credentials. This week, facing a menage-a-trois of American, Iranian, and Turkish interests in Iraq, Maliki decided to send some powerful messages. Continue reading