Friday, November 01, 2002
Ilan Berman is worried we're about to lose Turkey. Question is: who's we, kimosabe?
Let's face facts: the European Union is (a) currently structured to become an antagonist to America in foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East; (b) increasingly undemocratic and high-handed; (c) permanently uninterested in letting 100 million Turks into the club. Given (a) and (b), why again is (c) a minus for American interests?
Turkey is about to have an election where a moderate Islamic party wins the plurality of seats. A combination of pressure by the military and change among the pious middle class have transformed the leading Turkish religious party into a substantially more moderate force, potentially more like Germany's Christian Democrats than like your typical Islamist group. They are increasingly evolving into a party representing the interests of pious Muslims in a multi-party and secular democracy rather than a party seeking to overturn the constitution and create a clerical dictatorship with law based on sharia. This new Turkish Islamic party has affirmed its support for NATO, for its alliance with the U.S., and even for Turkey's strong relations with Israel. This is an enormously positive development, and must be encouraged.
So how is it to be encouraged? By telling Turkey that their only route to good relations with America is by surrendering sovereignty to our would-be rivals in Brussels?
Turkey wants better relations with Russia and Iran. Hey: WE want better relations with Russia and Iran, albeit in the latter case only after the revolution.
I have been a strong critic of the notion that EU enlargement benefits America by diluting the centralizing voices of France, Germany and the BeNeLux and thereby undermining the EU project. I don't think it will happen. Rather than change the EU, I think the enlargement will be more likely to change the countries subsumed into the EU. A larger EU will simply bring more of Europe under the sway of Brussels, and that is against American interests.
Rather than taking a view on enlargement, America should be fostering stronger bi-lateral ties - by trade-treaty and by military alliance - with our key allies on the European periphery. My top three candidates, in order, for such a policy are Turkey, Britain and Poland. These countries are all still very good friends of America, are skeptical of surrendering their sovereignty to Brussels, and have strong martial cultures. If the EU objects to bi-lateral relationships between America and any of these three, that tells us something about the EU's intentions. I have no doubt that, were the United States to offer to extend NAFTA to these three countries, the offer would be greeted with horror in Brussels but with interest in Ankara, London and Warsaw.
Our message to Turkey in particular needs to be: we are allies with all of Europe, but you are among our most important European allies. If our other allies don't treat you well, remember that we do, and that we will do our best to compensate you for their disfavor, and to favor you over them in disputes when possible.
Turkey is the anchor of American security in the Middle East. The country is not consumed with hatred of America, has a constitution that is generally popular, and has geopolitical interests that dovetail with America's. Losing Turkey would be absolute folly. We should not rely on Brussels to do our work for us in this regard.