Kurdish insurgents and the Turkish state

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'Zones of Rebellion: Kurdish Insurgents and the Turkish State' by Ay?egül Ayd?n and Cem Emrence (Cornell University Press, 208 pages, $39) 

Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi always rejected the separation of means and ends. He said it was means, rather than ends, that provide the standard of morality. Although we can choose our ends, the only thing that is completely within our control is the means with which we approach those ends. What's more, exclusive focus on the purity of ends is delusional because the means adopted inevitably vary and shape the ends.

I kept thinking back to this while reading "Zones of Rebellion," co-written by Turkish scholars Ay?egül Ayd?n and Cem Emrence, on the conflict between the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish military. The book constantly emphasizes the importance of decisions taken years before in determining the course of the insurgency. The war was an intricate, evolving organism that defies narrow definitions of "rights struggle" on the one hand or "anti-terrorism struggle" on the other. "Scholarly studies typically have approached the Kurdish issue as a function of pre-conflict grievances," the authors write, criticizing this view for "almost ignor[ing] the transformative role of violence." 

"Zones of Rebellion" is a slim book, but it manages to fit plenty in. It is determinedly wonkish and non-ideological, divided into sections examining the origins and tactics of both the PKK and the Turkish military. It shows how decisions taken in response to particular circumstances set the future direction of the conflict and limited the options of both players. Ultimately, this path dependence led to political stalemate. At critical junctures each side pursued policies that might seem...

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