Sunday, November 28, 2004


Form and Content

I was scanning TV channels a couple of nights ago and caught a columnist/historian? (though not his name) describe our odd position on Iraq: "Turkey is not on the US' side, and it is not on the side of the insurgents, it is not on the side of the Kurds, and it is not on the side of the Shiite either." That pretty much sums it up. Then, get this, the commentator said that before the commercial that an actual Iraqi insurgent called the show and, referring to Turkish truck drivers, said that those who did business with the Americans would be killed. After which they got a businessman who had a road contract in Iraq on the phone. The guy said he only dealt with Iraqis. Then he was asked: But weren't the Americans providing their security? No they can only protect themselves, was his reponse. But weren't the Iraqis he dealt with brought to power by the Americans etc. etc.? Then one of the guests, the editor of the Turkish Daily News I think, said that in northern Iraq Turkish companies were making something close to 500 million dolars. The businessman said his gains didn't come anywhere close, and besides he wasn't working in northern Iraq and did not know of any other Turkish companies working in the area. He added that when a couple of French journalists got kidnapped, the French foreign minister went to the Middle East, when Turkish workers got kidnapped there was hardly a word from the Turkish government.

The international skepticism towards Turkish policy usually stems from the contradictions and inconsistencies that plague it when one looks at its position on a number of subjects instead of just one. For example, I have yet to see a convincing argument that details how Turkey's position on an independent Cyprus does not contradict or weaken its position against an independent northern Iraq (an opposition that's based mostly on principle, not implementation). The only argument thus far is "national security", which works when you want to convince your own citizens but does nothing to earn you respect in the eyes of the international community. If Turkish Cypriots are right in asking for autonomy after what they suffered, didn't the Kurds suffer as much under Saddam if not more? Response: But the population demographic is much more complicated in Iraq... counter: It would difficult to argue that Turks and Greeks were geographically (and conveniently) segregated before the invasion. etc etc. Maybe someone can come close to giving a reasonable defense of our position. What's more worrying is that no one in the media or political spectrum seems sharp/brave enough to realize that this is a problem. In other words, there is no attempt to make such an argument to begin with.

Looking at the 2001 Cyprus symposium hosted by Denktas, one sees one Turkish historian argue that it was a bad thing that Greece was encouraging Greek nationalism on the island, and then sees another argue how good it was that Ataturk's Turkey was encouraging Turkish nationalism on the island, how good it was that Ataturk never wavered in cultural or monetary support for that community. The problem is, no one who attended the symposium or put the articles together thought anyone would see a contradiction or, in the least, something odd that required further elaboration....


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