Amidst the media storm of conflicting accounts about Israel’s recent bloody raid on a so-called “peace” flotilla carrying supplies and activitists to Hamas (identified as a terrorist organization by the U. S. government) in the Gaza Strip, my friend Sol Sanders has written this thoughtful piece. He steps back to ponder what the implications of this incident are for international politics. This article will appear in this coming Monday’s edition of Washington Times.
The West: mugged by reality
By Sol Sanders – Washington Times – June 7, 2010
Encounters between the so-called Peace Flotilla and Israeli Defense Forces have far reaching implications beyond the conflict between the Jewish state and the Palestinians and their supporters.
Those concerns eventually will dictate the course of the U.S. fight against terrorism. Basic trends are now obscured by Washington’s desperate attempt to minimize friction with the umma, the whole of the 1.3 billion Muslim world.
But the clash has dramatized an ugly reality: a world torn apart by Islamic fanaticism verging on nihilism is increasingly abetted by old European and American leftism. That is further compounded by an attenuated economic recovery in the West. And that, in turn, threatens what has been until now rapidly growing export-led Eastern economies.
This economic and political devil’s brew includes:
- Turkish government knowledge/participation in the Flotilla operation, is a touchstone which casts doubt not only on Ankara’s role but questions hoped rapid modernization of other Muslim societies
- NATO’s eastern flank crumbles as member Turkey courts Iran, Russia and Syria and other pariahs, in an effort to establish regional hegemony.
- Israel poses a moral, political and military dilemma for the West as multidirectional hostile forces threaten Jerusalem’s existence, forfeiting any possibility of major compromises from the Jewish state — including land for peace.
- Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s outreach to the Islamic world has failed — all signs pointing to growing radicalization and no evidence of emerging strong reformist leadership.
All these issues are complex, of course, and there will continue to be conflicting evidence. VIP voices will deny these interpretations because geopolitical reality is always difficult to acknowledge. But just as the collapse of European welfare statism has proved those critics clairvoyant who argued against creating socially dependent societies, so inevitably will the true nature of the present conflict become self-evident.
As anti-Nazi German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoeller acknowledged so long ago, the Jews – this time in their own country — are the canary in the mineshaft.
That Jerusalem underestimated the capacity for violence is intriguing. The Turkish activists’ affiliation to known Istanbul terrorists was well-known. Counter-intuitively, caution led the Israelis to incur casualties, grist for propaganda of the new alliance of red and green, the traditional Western radical left and Islamicist sympathizers. Their attempt to portray their provocative voyage as a mercy rescue ignored Gaza’s large food and vitals stocks provided through additional European and American aid millions., actually flowing through Israel and Egypt.
The Israelis now facing rapidly arming terrorist neighbors – Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north, and an increasingly unstable Jordan to their east – can take no new gambles on their security in any “peace process”. Israel’s Gaza withdrawal has proved a strategic catastrophe.
Meanwhile, the Tehran mullahs who arm these groups are moving relentlessly toward nuclear weapons at some indeterminate date. However credible Tehran’s threat to wipe Israel off the map, a nuclear Iran would dominate world oil and gas, a constant threat to regional stability and the world.
Turkey’s new role as an apologist for Tehran means turning its back on its half-century alliance with the U.S. It returns to an equivocal position, much like that during World War II when former German Chancellor Franz von Paper made Istanbul the Nazis’ overseas intelligence center.
As with more than one contemporary administration around the world [perhaps including the U.S.], it is hard to judge how much Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan’s policies are Michaevelleian and how much amateur hour. But clearly a half century of top-down Kemalist secularism is fading rapidly under attack from a new Anatolian, conservative Muslim middle class — ironically in no small part created by huge post-World War II American aid. As an anti-Soviet ally, Washington pumped more than $12.5 billion in economic and $14 billion in military aid [in unadjusted dollars] into Turkey. This does not include vast sums spent on and from U.S. bases and training programs. In riposte, Turkey, of course, blocked US/NATO base transit during the Iraq invasion.
Although Ankara now runs a bilateral trade deficit because of energy dependence on Moscow, Turkish companies are investing heavily in Russia. In return Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant — ominous given Moscow’s collaboration in helping to lay the groundwork for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Unlike the Korean War, and even Vietnam, where Turkey played a role, its 1800 troops in Afghanistan are smaller than Holland’s contribution and restricted to training. So much for calculations that its high birthrate and military tradition would make Turkey the principal NATO European fighter pool.
It was in Turkey, of course, where Pres. Obama launched his celebrated foreign policy initiative, an attempt to dialogue with a hoped for strengthening moderate Islam. Pres. Obama’s reiteration of American support for Turkish entry into the European Union rings hollow today with membership out of the question. To the contrary, how to deal with radicalization of Europe’s growing emigrant Muslims – including Turks — has become a chief West European headache. And nowhere has new, effective reformist Muslim leadership arisen.
Sol Sanders, veteran foreign correspondent and analyst, writes weekly for the Washington Times on the convergence of international politics and business-economics. email@example.com