There is a lot of talk in the media and among military and political leaders these days about the Kurds and their fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. This author wrote of the option of going to fight ISIS with the Kurds, and one of SOFREP’s own traveled to the region, and has documented his own interactions with the Kurds in Iraq and Syria. In short, the Kurdish people have risen to a place of prominence in global affairs like no other time in their recent history.

Some in America may think that the Kurds already have their own country (in fact, they do not), and others may wonder why the Kurds remain stateless (they have their own militaries, after all, and regional governments). Confusion over these questions is understandable given the complexities of the region. However, America’s political leaders need to rise above the fog of the current conflict and reassess U.S. policy toward the Kurds, and toward the region as a whole. It is time for a dose of realpolitik with regard to this long-suffering people.

Prior to the American Revolution, during a geopolitically fragmented time in history—similar to today—Britain’s competing European powers made cold, calculated decisions based on great power politics, with regard to how they would treat the rebellious colonies and on which side their allegiance would lie. France and Spain, for example, chose to support the American colonies, as the two countries were vying with Britain for European dominance, while some German states sided with the British empire, as dictated by their geopolitical interests at the time.

Those former 13 British colonies, of course, succeeded in their struggle for independence, and went on to emerge as a great power in their own right, reshaping world history. Today’s United States finds itself in a similarly chaotic world, and needs to make similar strategic calculations and assess whether or not supporting Kurdish independence, in some form, stretching across some varied geographical expanse, will benefit America’s interests in the Middle East and globally. Like France in the last quarter of the 18th century, the U.S. needs to pick a winner and shape current affairs to mold the future geopolitical environment.

That winner, at least in southwest Asia, is an independent Kurdistan. Support for such an entity is in America’s long-term interests and should be a medium- to long-range goal of a new American grand strategy. In order to be intellectually honest in this discussion, however, one must stipulate some hard facts and challenging realities.

First, many of the Kurds are politically organized, at least in both Iraq and Syria, as social-democratic parties. This means they are democratic socialists, and are, in fact, derivative of past Marxist parties. Today, they are largely organized as democracies, and supportive of workers’ rights and equitable societies, along socialist lines. Being labeled “socialist” obviously does not endear a group to most Americans. Many U.S. citizens will equate a group with a Marxist heritage as immediately suspect, and not to be trusted. This, however, is antiquated thinking. America’s present threats do not include communism or Marxism, and the majority of the Kurdish groups are opposed to one of America’s biggest modern threats—militant political Islam.

Second, today’s Kurds are divided among a number of separate political and nationalist movements, and are spread across multiple international borders in southwest Asia. Primarily, they are located in Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. This greatly complicates a push for Kurdish independence. It means that some country, or countries, will lose territory if the Kurds gain a state. Countries do not like to lose territory, as a rule. This would present a great challenge to a push for Kurdish independence.

Third, the creation of a Kurdish state will antagonize not only America’s foes (i.e., Iran and Syria) but also its allies (Iraq and Turkey). Russia would also likely oppose the creation of a Kurdish state, given its own Islamist separatists, and its own Kurdish population. It is current U.S. foreign policy to recognize a unified and federal Iraq. It is also current U.S. foreign policy to support Turkey against its restive Kurds. However, our central goal in these policies is to avoid further conflict in the region and to support stable allies. Supporting Kurdistan need not, and should not, be undertaken through armed conflict, but rather, solely through diplomacy.