A PEOPE WHO THINK OF THEMSELVES AS A NATION IS ONE:

February 12, 2007

The Uncontainable Kurds (Christopher de Bellaigue, 3/01/07, NY Review of Books)

Since the Turkish Republic was set up in 1923, no Turkish statesman has shown the necessary combination of courage and imagination to resolve the question of how the country’s ethnic Kurds, who are now estimated to number fifteen million people, should be treated. Turkey’s leaders have tried variously to isolate the Kurds, integrate them, and repress them, hoping that they might agree to live unobtrusively in a state that was set up on the premise that all its inhabitants, except for a small number of non-Muslim minorities, are Turks.

During the past twenty years, several million Kurds have moved from their homes in southeastern Turkey to towns and cities further west, many to Istanbul–some to escape the state’s pitiless treatment of Kurds, others in the hope of becoming a bit less poor. Some of these Kurds have done what the state wanted them to. They have married Turks, or they have decided not to teach their children to speak Kurmanji, the Kurdish language that is most widespread in Turkey. They have taken their place in the mainstream Turkish economy and learned to enjoy Turkish food, pop music, and soap operas. In short, they have become the Turks that the state always insisted they were.

But there is another group, perhaps as large, who have remained in the southeast and in the Kurdish neighborhoods of cities in western Turkey. These people, recalling the humiliations to which they, as Kurds, have for years been subject, or because members of their families have fought against the Turkish state, retain a strong sense of Kurdish identity that has not been weakened by the military defeat that the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) sustained in the late 1990s, when it was forced to scale down its long guerrilla war against the Turkish army; and that has survived the capture, in 1999, of the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on a prison island near Istanbul.

The pride of such Kurds in their identity has been sharpened by two unexpected developments. First, since the American invasion of Iraq, the Kurds of northern Iraq have established a federal region that enjoys nearly complete autonomy. It runs its own armed forces, decides how to spend its revenues, and maintains independent (if unofficial) foreign relations. This nearly sovereign Kurdistan –inhabited by more than five million people–is a source of pride to Kurdish nationalists everywhere. Second, under pressure from the European Union, a club that the Turkish government has long wanted to join, Turkey passed a series of laws, mostly between 2002 and 2004, which have increased freedom of expression and relaxed slightly the monopoly held by the official Turkish culture. Under these laws, Kurds now have the right to broadcast in Kurdish and to set up private Kurdish-language schools. They are able to articulate their grievances more bluntly and they are physically safer. Following the passage of anti-torture legislation, reports of torture in police stations and jails have dropped markedly.

In August 2005, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, whose mildly Islamist Justice and Development Party has been in power since 2002, acknowledged during a visit to Diyarbakir, the main city of the largely Kurdish region in the southeast, that the state had made mistakes in its dealings with the Kurds, and that the answer to the problem was “more democracy.” […]

Turkey’s longstanding fear, that the Kurdish federal region in Iraq will declare independence, adding to nationalist passions among its own Kurds, is shared by Iran and Syria, the other countries that have divided up the ancient region of Kurdistan. […]

If you visit the Kurdish federal region in Iraq, with its own president, parliament, and flag, you may come away, as I did, with the impression that it is on the way to independence.

And it will be a Greater Kurdistan eventually.

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NO ONE HAS SOVEREIGNTY IN AN UNGOVERNED AREA:

February 12, 2007

U.S. fires into Pakistan to hit back at Taliban (ROBERT BURNS, 2/12/07, The Associated Press)

Asserting a right to self-defense, American forces in eastern Afghanistan have launched artillery rounds into Pakistan to strike Taliban fighters who attack remote U.S. outposts, the commander of U.S. forces in the region said Sunday.

The skirmishes are politically sensitive because Pakistan’s government, regarded by the Bush administration as an important ally against Islamic extremists, has denied that it allows U.S. forces to strike inside its territory.

The use of the largely ungoverned Waziristan area of Pakistan as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters has become a greater irritant between Washington and Islamabad since Pakistan put in place a peace agreement there in September that was intended to stop cross-border incursions.

It’s a free-fire zone.


WHY WOULD SERBIA GET THE MESSAGE WHEN SO FEW OTHERS DO?:

February 9, 2007

The End of Balkan History: Serbia should let go of Kosovo and move on (Fatos Tarifa and Peter Lucas, February/March 2007, Policy Review)

One would have thought that Serbia would have gotten the message by now — nobody wants to cohabit with Belgrade. One by one, all the former Yugoslav “sister” republics left Serbia to start a life on their own. The first to walk out on the Serbs were Slovenia and Croatia. They left as fast as they could from the clutches of the troubled Yugoslav federation on June 25, 1991. These two republics were quickly followed by Macedonia, which declared its independence and peeled away in September of the same year. It was followed by the secession of Bosnia-Herzegovina in March 1992. Next in line was Montenegro, the smallest republic of the Yugoslav federation — and now only Kosovo is left waiting in the wings, standing by to join the entire region to attain what Charles Kupchan calls a “degree of finality.” […]

The solid “yes” vote for independence has restored Montenegro’s statehood, which was abolished by Serbian annexation and the great powers at the end of World War i. Many governments, including the United States, the European Union, Russia, and China, immediately recognized Montenegro’s independence and warmly welcomed the newest Adriatic republic into the family of sovereign nations.

Although small in size and population — even though bigger than Malta and with a population similar to that of North Dakota, Vermont, or Wyoming in the United States — Montenegro has all it needs to become politically and economically viable and, very soon, a candidate for both nato and eu membership. There is hardly anybody today who questions that Montenegro’s independence and progress will further improve stability and good neighborly relations in the western Balkans. On the contrary, it is generally expected that the recent events and further progress in Montenegro will potentially have positive effects on Kosovo and Bosnia, the two regions that have suffered most from the bloody wars of the breakup of Yugoslavia.

One of the fears and uncertainties related to the outcome of Montenegro’s referendum was the precedent its independence would establish for other secession-minded territories in Europe. How would states seeking to hold together fragile multiethnic societies react to such a precedent? Many assumed that if Montenegro voted for secession from Serbia and won international recognition as an independent state, such an outcome would reverberate not only in the Balkans but across Europe and in other parts of the world. There were those who believed that Montenegro’s choice and the willingness of the European Union and the United Nations to respect the verdict of the Montenegrins would stir up separatist groups in the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain, among the German-speaking separatists in the Tyrol region of Northern Italy (who seek separation from Italy and annexation by Austria), and even the Turkish Cypriots, who have been separated from the southern part of the island for decades.

In point of fact, Montenegro’s choice was immediately applauded by all these groups as a validation of their own aspirations and campaigns for self-determination. Meanwhile, Armenian leaders, who have for over a decade been caught up in conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, as well as the breakaway republics of Transnistria in Moldova and Abkhazia in Georgia, warmly welcomed the outcome of Montenegro’s referendum as a confirmation of the precedence that should be given to the principle of self-determination over that of the territorial integrity of nations. […]

Kosovo’s political future will be resolved through a different rationale and in a different institutional context than Montenegro’s. However, we do not subscribe to the idea that Kosovo is “a much bigger problem than Montenegro.” In all respects, Kosovo has the same legitimate right to independent political life as Montenegro and all the other constitutive parts of the former Yugoslav federation. The independence of Kosovo, with its ethnic make-up, population size (almost four times larger than Montenegro’s) and past and recent histories of bloody confrontations with Serbia, is more critical to the stability of the Balkans than the independence of Montenegro. As a matter of fact, moving Kosovo toward democratic self-rule and the resolution of its final status is long overdue. The truth is as simple as this: Given the unspeakable atrocities they have suffered in the past and the virtual political, economic, and territorial separation from Serbia they have been enjoying for the past seven years, Kosovo and its people cannot be forced to live under Serbian rule once again. Hence, any attempt to impose even the mildest form of Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo would be highly provocative and futile.

By now, it is in Serbia’s best interest to let Kosovo go, especially as Kosovo has de facto already left Serbia’s orbit.

Nearly every trouble spot on the globe features a de facto nation that folks refuse to accept.


IT'S WHAT WE DO:

February 5, 2007

The Clash of Civilizations Revisited (Samuel P. Huntington, a Harvard professor, is famous for his 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. He was interviewed by Amina R. Chaudary of Islamica Magazine (NPG, Winter 2007)
NPQ | You have argued that as civilization changes in America, it has moved toward focusing on democratic liberalism as an ideology.

Huntington | That always has been the American ideology. Since the revolution of the 18th century, America has basically had an ideology of liberal democracy and constitutionalism, though generally I try to avoid the use of the term ideology to describe this. I talk of American beliefs and values.

When you mention the word ideology, people have communism in the back of their minds, which was an entirely well-formulated ideology and statement of belief. You read the Communist Manifesto and you know what the core of it is. What we have, however, is a looser set of values and beliefs, which have remained fairly constant for two and a half centuries or so. And that’s really rather striking.

Obviously, changes and adaptations have occurred as a result of economic development, industrialization, the huge wave of immigrants that have come to this country, economic crisis, depression and world wars. But the core of the American set of beliefs has remained pretty constant.

If one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence came back today, he would not be surprised about what Americans are saying and believing and articulating in their public statements. It would all sound rather familiar.

NPQ | How is the Muslim world faring in the context of a world that has mostly accepted, if in theory, not practice, liberal democracy?

Huntington | We’ve seen at least the beginnings of rather significant social and economic change in the Muslim world, which I think will in due course lead to more political change. Obviously, Muslim societies, like societies elsewhere, are becoming increasingly urban, many are becoming industrial. But since so many have oil and gas, they don’t have a great impetus to change.

At the same time, the revenue that natural resources produce gives them the capability to change. Countries like Iran are beginning to develop an industrial component.

NPQ | Do you think that the “Islamic civilization” will become increasingly coherent in the future?

Huntington | Certainly we’ve seen movements in that direction. Certainly there are various trans-Islamic political movements, which try to appeal to Muslims in all societies. But I am doubtful that there will be any sort of real coherence of Muslim societies as a single political system run by an elected or non-elected group of leaders.

But I think we can expect leaders of Muslim societies to cooperate with each other on many issues, just as Western societies cooperate with each other. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Muslim, or at least Arab, countries developing some form of organization comparable to the European Union. I don’t think that’s very likely, but it conceivably could happen.

NPQ | You’ve written, “Islamic culture explains, in large part, the failure of democracy to emerge in much of the Muslim world.” Yet large parts of the Muslim world have democracy—Indonesia, Mali, Senegal and even India, with its large population of Muslims. What is the connection, or lack of it?

Huntington | I don’t know what the answer to that question is because I’m not an expert on Islam, but it is striking the relative slowness with which Muslim countries, particularly Arab countries, have moved toward democracy. Their cultural heritage and their ideologies may be in part responsible. The colonial experience they all went through may be a factor in the fight against Western domination, British, French or whatever. Many of these countries were, until recently, largely rural societies with landowning governing elites.

I think they are certainly moving toward urbanization and much more pluralistic political systems. In almost every Muslim country, that is occurring. Obviously, they are increasing their involvement with non-Muslim societies. One key aspect that will influence democratization, of course, is the migration of Muslims into Europe.
In the end it is futile for both our own isolationists and for Islamic extremists to flail out against the Americanization/liberalization/democratization/globalization of the Islamic world. We are indeed evangelicals in the cause of universal liberal democracy and always have been. The periodic pauses in which we tone it down a little just end up being followed by needlessly bloody wars when someone annoys us enough that we re-engage the fight.


DO EVEN SOCCER TEAMS EVER ASK TO BE RELEGATED?:

February 2, 2007

Britain will never join an EU army (Liam Fox, 2/02/07, Daily Telegraph)

At a practical level, those who favour a greater role for the EU have three essential problems – the lack of defence spending among EU members, the lack of a common approach to foreign policy and the question of democratic accountability.

I often refer to the fact that Britain spends just 2.5 per cent of its GDP on defence, the lowest figure since 1930. Yet, while this is low by Britain’s standards, it is much more than many of our European partners spend. Germany spends only 1.4 per cent of its GDP on defence. For Spain, the figure is a mere 1.3 per cent, and Holland 1.7 per cent. Austria spends just 0.7 per cent and is considering reducing it further.

This is theoretically not an insurmountable problem, but to overcome it requires a revolution in thinking, and a transformation, particularly among low-spending countries, which shows no signs of even stirring on the horizon.

The idea that any of the EU states would ever be willing to contemplate spending on a scale that would match the level of protection afforded by the American defence umbrella is laughable. It is an issue that is likely to grow in significance when the British public awaken to the fact that, in combined Nato missions such as Afghanistan, British taxpayers and troops are carrying a disproportionate burden because too many of our European allies are unwilling to shoulder their fair share.

The second problem relates to foreign policy. Defence policy inevitably follows foreign policy: it is about projecting the force when needed to support your foreign policy objectives. Any common defence policy must act in step with a co-ordinated foreign policy. History teaches us that national self-interest will usually trump supra-national aspirations. Events in the Balkans since 1990 have shown how difficult it is to merge individual countries’ foreign policy objectives.

The crisis in the Balkans cruelly exposed the gap between EU rhetoric and the ability to act effectively. Unable to keep a peace that did not exist and unwilling to involve themselves in conflict, Europe’s Hour had indeed come, but it failed to live up to the challenge. It was America that was the prime mover in saving the Balkans from Euro-paralysis.

Better to follow America than”lead” Europe.