Sunday, July 22, 2007

AKP Wins in Turkey, and What that means

What? Not something about SunRocket? Stop navel-gazing, read this, and think:

Turkey is a secular democratic state, a NATO ally, but whose primarily muslim population seems to cause a great deal of fear and misunderstanding among Americans. It has troops in Afghanistan, sent AWACS planes to the USA after 9/11, and allowed America to station medium-range ballistic missiles on its territory in the 60's triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a reward, they are greeted with American vitriol and lumped in with Arabs.

The vote result (live in English here) shows the pro-islamic AK party in the lead, and possibly in a position to rule without having to form a coalition. Remember, unlike the US two-party system, a British-style parliamentary system can have many parties, and the executive branch is drawn from the leaders of the legislative majority. Should no majority exist, two parties may negotiate a coalition to control the majority. This leads to degrees of compromise not possible in the US political system, where discussions tend to be binary and divisive.

What does a pro-Islam party majority mean for the USA?
  • The vote by the Turks for a party that is considered by some a threat to Turkey's separation of church and state is a response to the fear of the Turks of US Unilateralism.
    • This is similar to, but obviously not as severe as, the Hamas election wins in Palestine.
    • Some Turks already expect a US reaction to mirror the one in Palestine: "Democracy is great as long as you agree with us."
  • It can be seen, along with comments last week on the Turkey-Iran gas deal, as a rejection of US influence in the region.
  • It can be seen as skepticism to the commitment of the US and EU involvement on the War on Terror.
    • US and British support for the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq in spite of increasing PKK terror attacks in Turkey.
    • Austria's disregard for INTERPOL protocol in the capture of a wanted PKK terrorist, instead allowing him to travel on to Iraq.
    • Finding of US-made equipment and weapons in the hands of PKK terrorists captured or killed in action.
    • Rejection of NATO treaty "Article 5" support against the PKK by NATO members following the suicide bombings in Istanbul and Ankara.
In a sentence, the USA can expect what it sees as lack of cooperation from Turkey to continue, based on Turkey's objection to what it sees as a double-standard from EU nations and the USA.

US unilateralists will of course counter with "they did not help us in Iraq," but unilateralism seems to always get hung up not taking into account your allies' political realities, instead requiring blind and unquestioning support from those to be called "friends." This plays into the hands of our enemies quite well, as it's "us or them."

Yet the same unilateralists scoff at Turkey's right to defend itself against a clear and immediate threat across the border in Iraq? How better to undermine your credibility.

Will the Turkish military, charged by the constitution to protect separation of church and state, intervene this time? Time will tell, and this will depend very much on the actions the elected leaders, versus public opinion. After all, the pro-EU reforms the AKP undertook during their last term have brought Turkey a rare period of economic growth and prosperity.

Naysayers will say Turkey is not truly a free state, and I would have to agree there. Insulting "turkishness" is a crime there, so free speech is restricted. However, what happens to people who deny the Holocaust in the USA or Germany?

Naysayers will say Turkey is corrupt and police abuses are rampant. Little evidence exists to support or deny that argument. One can point to allegations of Monsanto Corporation's, big energy, and military contractors' connections to the Vice President's office in the USA, with similar connections in Canada and Germany. DNA evidence causing exposures of miscarriages of justice in "non-corrupt" western states is similar. Again, I'll say this argument exposes the desire to be one-sided in the imposition of "standards."

Naysayers will say that women's rights are in doubt in Turkey. Partially true: While ignorance and tradition abound outside the urban areas, the number of women delegates elected in this election by AKP(!) supporters doubled. One can also argue that women in Turkey were the first of any nation to get a vote to begin with, in 1934 (corrected).

Naysayers will say that Turkey has a history of ethnic cleansing, but fail to account for their own countries' involvement. The Ottoman Turkish state probably killed a million Armenians or so, but accusing modern Turkey is akin to accusing the United States of handing smallpox-infected blankets to American Indians ("It wasn't us! It was the British!"). The Greek invading army into the southwest of Turkey in 1922 carried out similar atrocities on Turks living there. Turkish Cypriots are accused of massacres of Greek Cypriots, and those accusations run both ways. Bottom line: Everyone's ethnicity has has done this in the last 400 years. Study your own history. I say: get over your double standard.

ISRO (International Strategic Relations Organization) surveys (1 (2004), 2 (2005)) indicate:
  • Most Turks (~70%) see the USA as a "strategic ally"
  • Many Turks (~28%) see the USA as the greatest threat to the Turkish nation
  • 37% of Turks have no problem with their children marrying an American (considering how regionally "selective" Turks are, this is remarkable)
One of the interesting parts was that mainland Greeks overwhelmingly see Turkey as their #1 threat. They also overwhelmingly believe that Turkey's Mediterranean coast is "un-liberated" Greek territory. Yikes.

So, what should Turkey do? (Unilateralists: "Submit" is not the answer) My recommendations:
  1. Enforce equality legislation on the books now to erode base support amongst ethnic Kurds in the eastern provinces.
  2. Continue in its anti-corruption initiatives.
  3. Continue implementing positive economic changes to continue to reduce poverty, improve access to education, and minimal public services in its vast rural regions.
What should the USA do to get more Turkish support? (again, unilateralists: "Nothing, or threaten them with nukes." is not helpful).
  1. Address Turkey's status as a contributing partner in NATO.
  2. Address perceptions of double standards and unilateralism as viewed by the Turkish voting public.
It's really not much, but the vitriol used in the rhetoric used by both sides needs to be toned down. Someone needs to have the guts to be first, and do the right thing.

Or should Turkey really leave NATO and form a defensive pact with Iran, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan? That would be a nightmare.

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Blogger Just Me said...

well said!

As far as I can tell, this story was missed by the major news providers in the United States (and poorly covered), but I find it almost ironic that the domino theory about the spread of communism is in fact happening more so for Islamic States, and the push wasn't Vietnam or Korea but our OWN actions in the Middle East (first in the 1970's and then again in 2003).

1:32 PM  
Blogger Graham Freeman said...

Thanks for posting this excellent analysis. I wish more techies would think and talk about political issues.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Moms Hugs (aka EJC) said...

Amazed to find someone in the blogsphere writing about the importance of Turkey to US relations in Middle East. We (our leaders) could take a lesson from Turkey's history following WWI. Too bad Iraq did not have a man like Ataturk Kemal to take over & stand up to Bremer when he chose to disband the Iraqi Army. Ataturk used Turkey's army successfully to bring about order & peace - something our US leaders have yet to accomplish. Our media unfortunately chooses their usual negative focus, speculating on adverse outcome to US interests. Good for you to do otherwise. Thanks!

5:57 PM  

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