Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Worst Combination for Democrats emerging.

With the results from Nevada Caucasus and South Carolina primary, it seems like the worst combination is emerging for the Democrats in this election: Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain. While Republicans, as always, are far wiser than Democrats in electing the most likely candidate to win, Democrats, as always, are not so smart in electing a senator from New York, who is invariably described as divisive and vehemently disliked by about 50% of the electorate, just about enough to rule out her being the next president of the United States. Barack Obama, the candidate who emerged as a national surprise and an international hope, for restoring the political, economic, and international status that the United States lost in the last 8 years, is now well behind Clinton, since the infamous and mysteriously unpredicted results of the New Hampshire primary, now reinforced by the results of the Nevada Caucasus.

For Republicans, after squandering 55 years of political, economic, and international capital and prestige that the U.S. accumulated and maintained since 1945, putting the country into a crash course for imperial decline, prematurely ending the American Century before it could even reach three-quarters of a century, nonetheless managed to find two moderate Republicans who can grab a blue state or two in the Northeast, and clinch yet another national victory for the undefeated Republican battleship, who otherwise is not so successful in its wars overseas.
Governor of Massachusetts, an erstwhile Democratic State, is competing against a man who is unanimously hailed as a moderate democrat who can steal many Democratic votes (and he doesn't need to steal much, either) to become the President. And regardless of whether the Republican candidate is the Massachusetts governor or the ultimate Moderate, he will face the divisive and disliked senator from New York.

What an uninteresting and depressive election that would be. Looks worse than Bush vs. Kerry.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sener Akturk's op-ed on German immigration law appears in TARAF.

My op-ed titled Alman Göç Yasasında Türklere Ayrımcılık Var (The German Immigration Law is discriminatory against the Turks) appeared in the new Turkish newspaper TARAF in December 5, 2007. I argue that the amendments regarding immigration through family reunification in Germany amount to a thinly veiled and state orchestrated discrimination against the Turks. The purpose is to finally stop once and for all any further immigration from Turkey through the back door... Note that the new amendments do not affect European countries, U.S., Canada, Japan, or any other country whose citizens are not subject to a visa regime in their entries to Germany. You can keep up with this and all similar publications of mine by following my regularly updated professional website at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The problem is not the PKK, it is a Kurdish State

Yesterday Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan paid an unexpected visit to Saudi Arabia. This is one of the clear indications that the current problem Turkey faces in its Iraqi border is not the 25 year old PKK conflict but the prospect of an independent Kurdish State which would be "a bomb to explode Middle East from its foundations". These visits aim at bolstering Arab support for the Turkish cause and stop the Kurds from using the "Arab Card". The general visit to the region will likely include Jordan's King Abdallah and other Arab leaders.

Now some of the nationalists in Turkey will try to dismiss these efforts as "seeking Arab permission for Turkish matters". This is because 'diplomacy' has never been a respected method for the nationalist mindset in Turkey. For example the only diplomatic success story Modern Turkey ever had was the time when our negotiator in Lausanne talks, Ismet Inonu, switched off his hearing aid amidst the negotiations and forced a conclusion. At least that is the only diplomatic story I've been taught in my 12 years of Turkish education. This is a sign of our disbelief at diplomacy. For us, victory can only be earned in the field and then terms could be dictated at the table. Perhaps Turks perceive diplomacy in such a way because they have never gotten anything off the table before unless they had victory in hand. Our inability in diplomacy fuels our disbelief. Even though the underlying reasons for this disbelief are empirically justified in the Turkish mindset, they need to be reviewed. Especially if Turkey is to become a member of the Western club, she needs to learn its ways.

Therefore Babacan's visits should not be dismissed. An approach that ignores diplomacy and dialogue, the though that 'Turk's have no friends' will only leave us lonely, anti-social and aggressive. Although the "Independence Mythology" that our generations have been injected with preaches that we have, as a nation, been in the same situation before and emerged as victors, it is also important to realize that falling back into the same situation would be undoing our victory. If the Turks of today fall into a mood similar to the mood during that of the fall of the Empire, it will only mean that something somewhere has gone wrong and we haven’t come much distance. In fact we have to realize that today the situation is far better than what most people in Turkey are being pressured to feel. Even though those who cannot produce anything in politics are relying on the tried methods of scaring and depressing us into submission to an authoritarian rule they would like and even though the self-interest dominated media is pumping revenge, Turkey can still avoid this trap. Conscience and logic should not yield to this wave of hatred.

It is important to repeat that despite the general understanding of the Turkish public, the current situation is not about the PKK. The real deal here is the expanding influence of the Barzani Administration among Kurds and the prospect of an independent Kurdish state. The existence of America and England in the region also makes this an international conflict. In retrospect we can say that the biggest mistake Turkey has done in its Middle East strategy was to deny the American's support at the start of the war. This caused a separation among the allies and presented the Kurd's with an opportunity.

The new Kurdish strategy is to weaken and hopefully break the NATO alliance that Turkey is so surely anchored and moreover to put the question of an independent Kurdish state on the international agenda. Like in previous examples (Cyprus/Kosovo included not yet resolved), the presence of an international force in fire zone will initially bring de facto independence to the seeking group, which is ONLY to be followed by a full independence. This is precisely why there is a sly effort to pull Turkey into a wider conflict that involves international powers. The aim is to provoke the Turkish state strategy. The Kurds are well aware that the 'deep state' strategy of Turkey has always been to avoid their independence at all costs, so what they want to do is to go 'all in' when they have been distributed a good hand. They know that the government of Turkey and the Turkish state have different views and they know the state will stay when the government changes. So they are playing their hand to force the state to show its hand and act now when international powers are still in the area. They want martial law in Turkey, they want military to take things in hand. This will increase Barzani's influence within the Kurds of Turkey and forge a Kurdish coalition, a Kurdish front. The Peshmerga number almost 100,000 and they are well trained. They know they can hold of the Turkish Army long enough at bay to wait until the alliance collapses. Then, when the balances change and US weighs heavier on their side, they achieve their objective.

This sort of a strategy was employed before by Serbian leader Milosevic during the Kosovo crisis. In that example the process worked the other way around. Milosevic held on under NATO bombardment for 11 weeks until his whole infrastructure was destroyed only because he knew time would weaken the NATO coalition and he would have a stronger hand in the talks after the war. He got what he wanted and kept Kosovo as a part of Serbia despite loosing the war to NATO.

What the Kurds want is an independent state. In order to achieve that, they need international support and they have all the tools necessary to make the Turks look bad, victimize themselves and bolster international support for their cause. The recent government organized protests against Turkey in Northern Iraq is a clear indication of this strategy. It is very unlucky for Turkey that the SG of UN Ban Ki-moon has already commented on the issue. The change to an international platform is the first step of the Kurdish strategy. It could only be silly of Turkey to fall for such trap.

This is where Babacan's current visit becomes significant. When the American's need to choose sides they will have to consider a general strategy in the middle east bearing in mind Israel's safety as well. They are at cold war with the Shias and a hot one with Sunni Radicals. The only groups left are the moderate Sunni Arabs, Turks and Kurds. If America will need to choose between those, a 2-1 ratio will be important. Therefore in a Turkish-Kurdish confrontation, Arab support becomes critical. The Kurds, having realized and acted on this earlier, have already secured some deals with the Arabs of the region. The summary of their deal can be read in a letter published by the Kurdish Government website written by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, manager of Al-Arabiya television based in Dubai. Therefore Turkey's late efforts are critical. Even if we don’t truly believe in diplomacy, when the west is involved, we have to learn to work with it.

By this time Turkey should’ve learnt how to win at the table. We should at least try our best…

Monday, November 12, 2007

Our Contributor Mustafa Domanic's article appears on Washington Post - FLAGGED ON FACEBOOK

In the same year that YouTube popularized presidential debates in the United States, Facebook is driving the mounting tension between secularists and conservatives in Turkey. One million Turks have joined Facebook since the social networking site, which was initially limited to universities, opened itself to the public in September 2006. Members of the "Turkey" group receive an average of five or six invitations each day to political groups of all kinds, most of them nationalist. Tech-savvy activists designed programs that put nationalist messages on their Facebook "Walls," where friends write comments about one another. A group that encourages users to post a Turkish flag in place of their own photograph already has 100,000 members. But the nationalists aren't the only ones to have mastered the virtual world. A new liberal party uses Facebook almost exclusively to reach out to young people.

Edited by Emily Langer

Monday, February 26, 2007

Shocking verdict of the International Court of Justice in Hague denies Serbia's role in the genocide against Bosnians!

I was stunned to learn today that the International Court of Justice in the Hague did not find Serbia guilty of contributing tot he genocide against the Bosnian Muslims!!! This verdict alone is more than enough to discredit the ICJ entirely. ICJ should know that by denying the Holocaust against Bosnian Muslims that occured before everyone's everyone's eyes in the 1990s (at a time when wars were reported "live" by CNN to the smallest detail), at least partly due to the shameless indifference of the European Community, and with undeniable responsibility and planning of the Serbain government, ICJ has revealed its shameless, shocking, and disturbing insensivity and political motivations once and for all. Perhaps to make Serbia more amenable to European overtures and prepare it for a EU membership in the future, perhaps to make sure that everyone relaizes how Muslim lives do not count in this world, that is is OK to kill them in hundreds of thousands wihtout remorse, guilt, shame... but whatever disgusting motivation the ICJ had in arriving at this decision, ICJ should be condemned by everyone who still have the least bit of a human sensibility against massive suffering...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Global Configuration of Power, an article I wrote 4 years ago

4 Yıl Önce Chicago Maroon gazetesinde yayınladığım bir makale, güncelliğinden birşey kaybetmediğini düşündüğüm için -bir de bu siteye kimse yazı post etmediği için- buraya post ediyorum. (Biraz Çetin Altan tarzı oldu; 1977'den bir yazı, der gibi...)

Global configuration of power
By Sener Akturk
October 29, 2002 in Viewpoints
Where do we stand in the broader trajectory of world history? By “we” I don’t only mean the people of the United States but all of humanity. What is going to happen with all of the world’s 215 or so states as political units? Will we have the U.S. continue as the sole hegemonic power in the next century or so, and live in a Pax Americana, assuming that the 1990s have been marked by that peace?
The rise of the U.S. to the position of the world’s top economic power took place very early in the 20th century, and some even place its rise to dominance in the 1890s. The rise to economic supremacy made the U.S. the number-one economy in the world by the 1920s and ’30s, despite the Great Depression, which after all, did not hurt the U.S. alone. Another evil that hit all the other great industrial powers, namely the Second World War, did not hit the U.S. as badly. This war indeed further induced and reinforced its economic growth and prosperity, making the U.S. the source of half the world’s industrial production by the end of the war. Yet those days are gone forever, and no one could expect otherwise, since it is impossible for 3% of humanity to provide half the world’s industrial products and at the same time have half the world’s GDP. The situation that emerged after the war, and the relatively privileged and well-deserved place of the U.S. within it, was certainly ephemeral. As everyone knew they would, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, Germany, Japan, and Italy recovered. No one expected them to become destitute third world countries; they were “doomed” to prosper, but at the same time, no one expected Japan and Germany to recover so well in the way in which they did. For example, Japan exceeded the victors and the defeated alike, rivaling even the U.S economy. Furthermore, with the tide of anti-colonialism, countries like India, Pakistan, Algeria, and Indonesia became independent, and they too began to claim their deserved share of world GDP through industrialization. The U.S. share of the world’s industrial production declined consistently, bringing it to something like 25 percent, down from the 50 percent it happened to be in 1945.
The source of military and political power is economic and industrial strength. Immediately after the war, the U.S. had unrivaled bargaining power precisely because of all the stuff that the U.S. factories were producing. You did not need precision bombing of European and Asian cities to coerce their governments to do what the U.S. wanted them to do; they agreed to U.S. demands because economic cooperation was mutually beneficial. The U.S. economy was the driving force behind American power. Overwhelming economic superiority led to overwhelming political superiority and global hegemony. As that economic base of power weakened by almost a half in relative terms, the U.S. does not enjoy the same bargaining power today.
There is something quite funny, and I think ephemeral, about the distribution of political-military and economic power among the states today as well. Looking at the world economy ever since the 1970s, we are used to seeing a tri-polar configuration, with the U.S., Japan, and Germany being the three seats of power. Germany is also surrounded by and engaged in a union with a bunch of other wealthy industrialized European countries, calling themselves the “European Union.” Yet Japan and Germany are not seats of military power because they don’t have nuclear bombs in a world where even Israel and Pakistan have them. In the political-military arena, we also confront a tri-polar division: The United States, China, and the Russian Federation are the three countries with nuclear capabilities; strong armies; and enough land, natural resources, and population to become the world’s sole superpower. So the U.S. has to face two contenders in the economic scene and two contenders in the military-political scene.
How uninformed is it then, to say that the U.S. is the sole superpower? I think it is just a fantasy to say that the U.S., or for that purpose, any other country, is or can be the sole superpower. But the U.S. enjoys the situation I outlined above, namely, that its economic and political-military contenders are different. No other country since the Soviet Union could combine economic and military power in such a way as to challenge the U.S. in both of these fields. Yet, just as the situation after the Second World War was, this is also a passing phenomenon. If this is the case, which nation might be the likely candidate, combining formidable military power with an economy that rivals the U.S.?
China seems to be the most likely, yet not the only candidate. The Chinese GDP, at least in terms of purchasing power, is already large. China has nuclear weapons, a seat on the United Nations security council, a million-man-strong army, a land area that equals the U.S., and a population more than four times that of the United States. Russia, if it can reverse the demographic trend toward a devastating decline in its population and bring along an economic recovery, can easily bounce back and become a superpower again, this time with a capitalist ideology. What about Japan and Germany? With that much land and population, can they become superpowers even if they do acquire nuclear weapons? Japan can, due to its isolated status as an island nation, emulate the British empire if it can supplement itself with components of military power. For countries like Germany and Japan, which already have nuclear power plants, building a nuclear missile is very easy. Germany can compensate for its small population (80 million) by subjugating the European Union to its wishes.
There are yet other countries with huge unrealized potential. Brazil is the most important one that comes to my mind. With a land area that almost equals that of the U.S. and a population that is more than a hundred and fifty million, a prosperous and militarily mighty Brazil could easily become a superpower. India is another case in point, though lacking many components of power, whereas Indonesia is lacking all components except population. The other countries of the world, countries below a population of a hundred million people and a land area of three million square kilometers (one third of the size of the U.S.) are not contenders.
As such, we have identified the political-military and economic configuration of power in the world, as of the year 2002, and the trends that favor the rise of other powers vis-à-vis the relative decline of the United States. Next week, I will look at the U.S. and its foreign policy as one of a declining superpower and what that means for us as the residents of this country and as responsible human beings.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Oh Cyprus, Kıprıs

The biggest issue in Turkish foreign policy for the last forty-forty five years has been without doubt, the Cyprus Issue. To debate what was done wrong or right in the past is irrelavent now and the status quo only helps the Greek Cypriots and especially hurts the Turkish Cypriots, politically and economically.

Since the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was formed in 1983, the only country that has recognized this state and has diplomatic and economic relations with it has been Turkey, its GDP has only reached 1/3 of the Cyprus Republic in the south and the TRNC economy still runs afloat with the financial aid from Turkey in the amount of around half a billion dolars a year.

Years ago when I visited Cyprus, what I saw at a park in the Turkish side of Nicosia made quite an impression on me. This park was right on the green line that divides the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus. When you looked down from the elevated park that was surrounded by barbed wire, you could see a street on the Greek side of Nicosia. The rooftops of the apartments on the street were manned by Greek soldiers in their machine gun posts. What was more interetsting was M\maybe 4-5 feet away and 10 feet below the feet you could see a street that clearly belonged to different world from the streets of Turkish Nicosia. This clean, beatifully paved street with fancy cars passing by was clearly, a European street. The Turkish Cypriots that see and are aware of this difference every day want the status quo to change and the isolation to end. That is why they voted for Mehmet Ali Talat to be president and thats why they voted in favor of the UN's plan to unite the divided Cyprus (which the Greek Cypriots rejected). The sad part is that no matter how much they try, an isolated and unrecognized TRNC can not achieve much on the international stage without Turkey's help.

We have to stop looking to the past look to the future if we really want to move forward in this issue. For the sake of Turkey's bid for the EU and the welfare of the Turkish Cypriots this cycle of quandary has to end and I can assure you this is not as complicated as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think its safe to say that the international community has been behaving in a double standart, especially after the UN's plan was rejected by the Greeks and promises were made to lift some sanctions against the TRNC, but as long as the international community sees the situation as Turkish forces occupying Northern Cyprus, their bias is not going to change and the Greeks are going to keep playing innocent. The main reason that the Greeks rejected the UN's plan is that they really dont want the status quo to change and if Turkey and the TRNC would pressure them for change their mask will surely fall. For example, a partial withdrawal of Turkish troops would be a good start in this direction.

If the Turkish government is really aiming for zero-problems with its neighbors then it shouldn't play it safe on the Cyprus issue. They should make a bold, historical move and show that they indeed deserve another term heading the Turkish nation and its foreign policy.