Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

For some reason, I think I have something to say to you. You think you have something to say to me? Email me at: gideonsblogger -at- yahoo -dot- com

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004
And speaking of less-paradiasical immigration questions: what is to be done about Turkey?

I happen to be an optimist about the AK party; I think it may very well follow the Christian Democrat example of Western Europe, and articulate a political Islam that is not Islamist or opposed to democratic norms. Such a development would be enormously positive for the region, and could serve as a model in the way that Kemalist secularism (which apes French laicite and anti-clericalism) much less Baathist atheism (which apes Nazi and Communist models) cannot. That's not to say an AK ascendancy bodes well for American influence in Turkey; odds are, a more Islamically-open Turkey will draw away from the United States even if it does not draw away from democracy. But in the long-term view, the health of such a strategic and populous region as the Middle East matters enormously, and so the success of Turkey's democracy - which depends on the domestication of Islam rather than its repression - matters, again in the long run, more than the success of America's alliance with that country.

But put that aside: even if Turkey is successful, what is to be done about her? That is to say: what is to be done about her in Europe?

I think it is safe to say that, at this juncture, after Turkey's democratic reforms, after the Cyprus vote, and after the agreement to admit historic basket-cases like Romania to the European Union, there is no reasonable argument against admitting Turkey to the club. No reasonable argument, that is, that Europe can admit to. Turkey was given criteria to meet for admission, and they have, by any reasonable standard, met them.

What is Europe, anyhow? That's the question Turkey poses in sharp relief. Is Europe a loose trade confederation? In that case, admitting Turkey makes sense, but the current European structure does not: what need is there for common passports, free movement of labor, etc. in a loose trade confederation? Is Europe a euphamism for Franco-Germany, a union that ends the prospect of any future wars for dominance on the European continent? Then why allow Britain in, much less Turkey, as these countries will be sufficiently large and strong to have a role in shaping policy, potentially not to Franco-Germany's liking? Is Europe a new superpower counterweight to the United States? Then, like any nation, it needs to have a strong central authority; and is progressive dilution by including the Slavic nations of Central Europe, much less Turkey, likely to speed the process of developing this authority? I think not. 

Or is Europe, as Chris Caldwell and explicitly and Stephen Kinzer implicitly suggest, a world government in the making, a piecemeal attempt to change the paradigm by which the peoples of the earth are ruled?

Europe-as-paradigm cannot reject Turkey, because rejecting Turkey means rejecting the paradigm. But Europe conceived otherwise - as a trade confederation, as Franco-Germany writ large, as a rival superpower in the making - cannot reject Turkey either, because rejecting Turkey would be disastrous for Europe's foreign policy, and specifically for the foreign policy of key member states such as France and Germany. Rejecting Turkey would drive that country into the arms of either its Muslim neighbors or the Americans; neither is an objective sought by or to be welcomed by European statesmen. But accepting Turkey means taking one more giant step, larger than any before, in the direction of the end of the nation-state and the end of national democracy. It is not plausible that Frenchmen and Germans will allow Turks - who currently roughly equal either of them in numbers and will, in a few decades, approach the total population of French and Germans combined - to vote as equals to shape the destiny and daily life of France and Germany. And it is contradictory to the whole premise of Europe (free movement of labor and all that) that Frenchmen and Germans could vote to protect their countries and their way of life from being transformed by an influx from Turkey. Admitting Turkey to the EU, as currently constituted, makes it very difficult to conceive how both democracy and the EU survive.

So once again, Europe's statesmen have led their people down a path from which turning aside is no longer possible. The only directions are backward, or forward. To date, Europe has always gone forward, and no one should bet that they will flinch now.

Let me stress that I admire the achievement of modern Turkey, and that I am generally optimistic about the future of that state and that people. I don't think there's any reason why Europe couldn't assimilate a controlled flow of Turkish immigrants - if they wanted to. It's not at all clear, though, that they want to; the Germans, certainly, seem averse to the very idea of immigration, notwithstanding the fact that they have millions of immigrants (mostly non-citizens) in the country already. But union with Turkey would not mean a controlled immigration, but uncontrolled, and it would not be possible to assimilate Turks to European norms because Turkey would be an equal partner and equally justified in demanding that Europeans assimilate to Turkish norms. Whether or not those norms are superior, inferior or precisely equal in some mythical objective sense, there is no question that Europeans in general do not want to assimilate to them. To make an analogy: even an immigration enthusiast, who thinks Mexico is a great country that has made great strides towards democratization, who finds Mexicans hard-working, loyal and possessed of good values, and who is confident of America's ability to assimilate a large Mexican immigration - even that person might pause before contemplating political union with Mexico, letting Mexico vote on American foreign and domestic policy, etc.

I've argued for many years that America is better served by the increasing integration of core Europe than by the increasing expansion thereof. A Franco-German state comprising those two countries plus the BeNeLux, tightly integrated and looking like a larger version of the German federal state, is not contrary to our interests. The country would be stronger than any Continental power before, but Europe is not so central to the world any longer, and we are not threatened by one power dominating there. If other countries to the south and east are integrated with this power at the level of a customs union, that is only to the good. If Italy, or Spain, or Czechia, choose deeper integration, and vote to surrender their sovereignty and become part of the Leviathan, that does not change the picture overmuch. But a massive, sprawling EU quasi-state approaching 400 million souls, committed to something more than a customs union but incapable of being a functioning nation-state, will necessarily burden America. It will be unable to assist us militarily, unwilling to assist us diplomatically, unable generally to make coherent policy based on its interests because it will be unable, increasingly, to discern its interests. Though weak, it will be dangerous. But America has pursued the opposite course for decades, encouraging expansion first and integration later, and it is probably too late now.