What does the Democratic election victory over the Republicans and the new Democratic congressional majority mean for Turkey and the region?
One thing is for sure; Mr. Bush will not find it easy to make arbitrary decisions, which have cost the nation so dearly in terms of the economy and also in terms of prestige, and implement them with the backing of the Congress. The United States has never before been seen as this belligerent, morally questionable and ill prepared to understand the world. Anti-Americanism has reached new heights and the democrats of the world, who always saw the United States as their natural ally and comrade, have lost both. This made them more vulnerable in the authoritarian and repressive environments in which they live. Today no one believes in the Broader Middle East and North Africa project and believes that democracy is an American design to undermine the established order. What a loss! The global war on terrorism has been lost on the battlefields of morality and credibility. Now it is time for healing and recuperation. I hope the Democrats demonstrate enough ingenuity and leadership in this regard.
One major area that needs to be rectified is the Iraq theater. It is obvious that the Bush administration had no idea about the sociocultural environment it approached and is like a novice surgeon in that regard. Experienced operators open up and then quickly sew up the wound without any intervention when they see the hopeless situation inside the patient. The ailment can be so extensive and the patient could be so incurable that they leave it to rest. The U.S. government that saw only enemies to destroy had the arrogant confidence to take them all on itself. Now the Middle East is less stable than before, and the future of the region is more precarious and antagonistic to the United States in particular and the West in general. Any Middle Eastern country is such a political patchwork that undoing it with the intention of putting it together in another fashion may quickly end with total failure, as has been the case in Iraq. The Middle East is one of the rare places in the world where the pieces are greater than the whole.
If the U.S. government caves in its initial intention of supporting a federation or at best a confederation, the resulting division of the country along ethnic-religious lines will lead to a war that will suck in not only Iraqi factions but all of Iraq’s neighbors — overtly or covertly. The Shiites of Iraq may be the first group to drop out of efforts for a pluralist administrative system and enjoy the oil wealth and port facilities in the south of the country. The Kurds will want the same from the oil-producing regions of Mosul and Kirkuk. There is a high probability that a war will erupt over this region. And the Kurds will want the Americans on their side. This would be a very critical decision for the crippled Bush administration to give because the resulting body bags would be countless. Democrats may not want to share this responsibility. If the Kurds engage in a fight with the Sunnis over these oil fields, which are essential to the survival of both groups, in the event the country is split into three, the whole Sunni world and neighboring Syria will be on the side of the Sunnis. Iran and Turkey might help them covertly. A U.S. presence or indirect help from the United States may not be sufficient for the Kurds to lay a hand on this critical region. A fight to control these oil-rich areas of Iraq between the Kurds and the Sunnis would usher in an incessant war in Iraq. So every party involved or interested in Iraq must be restrained and try to contribute to the unity of the country, albeit as a loose federation or confederation.
On the other hand the United States must refrain from rash and unwise initiatives like using the PKK in Iraq against local enemies and its close allies like Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) in Iran and its equivalent in Syria to undermine incumbent governments just because they are adversaries of the super-power that is reshuffling the region. This shortsightedness has alienated Turkey, Iran and Syria and led them to take overt or covert positions against U.S. initiatives in the region. If the United States does not want to be responsible for a future Kurdish massacre in the Middle East, it must refrain from using the Kurds to promote its short and long-term interests in the region. Instead, it must help to reinforce their secure place in a collective system where they will be protected and benefit from the natural resources of the wider Iraq. Turkey will readily choose to be the guarantor of such a scheme.
Fortunately, there were still circles of reason in the U.S. system that wanted to alter the course in Iraq and Afghanistan while the Bush administration was advancing like a drunk driver. Interestingly, the initiative came from the very military forces that felt to be the victim of bad leadership. Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has assembled a team of some of the military’s brightest and most innovative officers to take a fresh look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Rapidly increasing the size of the Iraqi security forces, stepping up efforts to train and equip them and adjusting the size of the U.S. force in Iraq were the central ideas. The expected review aimed at extending beyond Iraq and involved some unorthodox ideas on how to fight terrorism. The review reflects the recognition that military efforts need to be part of an overall approach that includes all aspects of power, including diplomatic and economic. Isn’t it interesting that it is the military that launched this initiative against the directionless intransigence of the Bush administration? This is an initiative determined largely outside of the Pentagon. It seems we will see an eventual demilitarization of American power to the relief of disillusioned U.S. citizens, who handed Congress to the Democrats, and the rest of the world, who lost the United States as their champion of democracy and rule of law. If the Democrats fail, the world will never be the same again.
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