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HATING OLD EUROPE, LOVING OLD TURKEY

Today's Zaman - June 29, 2007 Ali H. Aslan Thank God neo-conservatives never prove me wrong. It was only in my previous column that I said they are extremely uneasy about Turkey's EU integration process. A week ago Monday Mr. Richard Perle was at the Nixon Center to argue why he is not enthusiastic about it. According to Marisa Morrison of The National Interest, Perle said the EU must take care to preserve the Turkish military's place in politics during the membership negotiations process. While some of the EU-mandated reforms will undoubtedly improve Turkish democracy if implemented, any European attempt to circumscribe the powers of the army would be misguided, Perle warned. I'm not sure if it's the EU or Mr. Perle and his contacts in the US government that are misguided. What I'm sure of is that I don't have much admiration for those who think Turkey deserves a second-class democracy. Former Ambassador in Ankara Morton Abramowitz thankfully concurs. Having emphasized the notion of civilian supremacy over the military in democracies at the same meeting, he implied such reforms would not be harmful to Turkey's democratic health. Mr. Perle also criticized the EU for pressuring Ankara too much on not meddling with northern Iraq. I can now better see one other reason why Perle and his buddies like Michael Rubin are so popular with the hawkish elements in the Turkish military. There is much doubt a unilateral incursion into northern Iraq could seriously undermine the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). But it is certain such a move would deliver a strategic win for the Perle-types, that is, derailment of the EU process. Northern Iraq warriors in the US and Turkey have at least one thing in common: They all want Turkey lose track of the EU, remain a deficient democracy and live unhappily forever under the military supremacy over civilians. Just like in the good old days... Why am I not surprised that organizers of the infamous Hudson Institute hush-hush "Turkey Workshop" dealing with "plausible" nightmare scenarios that provoke a military operation into northern Iraq also privately advocate that the US should spend no more political capital for Turkey's EU membership? Because last time I checked the Hudson Institute was like a second home for people like David Wurmser who work for Vice-President Dick Cheney. And Cheney's unprecedented meeting with Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Ya?ar B├╝y├╝kan?t, who has increasingly been pressing the civilian government for a northern Iraq incursion, was facilitated by similar-minded people. The very same circles who would love Turkey to lose its reform pace are also proponents of a US war against Iran with Ankara's support. A country kept at a safe distance from the West and alienated from its neighbors in the East; that's the kind of vision they have for Turkey. Perle criticizes the notion of "one size fits all" democracy and offers a "dual" system for Turkey. To him, the EU should not be "tinkering" with the "internal institutions" of the country. ├ľmer Ta?p?nar of the Brookings Institution reminded him of the Bush doctrine which he was supposed to support. In a town where "a few years ago" is like ancient political history, a decent memory is hard to findÔÇŽ Perle's friends in the Turkish ruling secularist establishment might be telling him, "Let's take care of Islam and Kurds in our own way and halt the EU process so that Ankara can always remain a bastion of the US and NATO." On the other hand I am sure when they are privately talking amongst themselves they seriously consider alliance with nations like China and Russia after the EU membership option is gone. Mr. Perle is either badly deceived or he is trying to deceive Washingtonians. Obviously the primary logic behind the blind support for the status quo is preserving Atat├╝rk's legacy. However if Atat├╝rk, a true visionary and pragmatic, was alive today I'm sure he wouldn't be hindering the EU accession process like his obsolete fans in Turkey and the West have been doing. The secular legacy immune from excessive Islamic fundamentalism can only be maintained by a fully functioning democracy that will eventually carry Turkey to full EU membership. Those who hate "old Europe" might be in love with "old Turkey," but the future lies with a "new Europe" embracing "new Turkey." Why should such a happy finale be desirable for clashers of civilizations?





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