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Thirty Thousand Attempts to Keep Turkey Out of the EU

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I was attracted at first to UCLA History Professor Perry Anderson’s contribution to the London Review of Books (LRB) in the 11 Sep 2008 issue (“After the Ottomans”, also titled “Kemalism”) by four peculiarities.

First of all the topic: the discussions about letting Turkey in the European Union are obviously helping define what the “European Union” actually is (or is not). The history of modern Turkey occupies an important spot in the debate, and Anderson’s article promised to deal with that in great detail.

In fact (and here lies the second oddity about “After the Ottomans”) it was a very long piece, running to a total of more than 14,000 words.

This is not a good or bad thing per se: but the vast majority of LRB articles are much, much shorter, little more than a couple of pages in print and less than 5,000 words (2,700 words for Rosemary Hill‘s “Making Do and Mending”, 25 Sep 2008; 4,700 words for Sheila Fitzpatrick’s “Like a Thunderbolt”, 11 Sep 2008) .

Longer pieces are not common; for example the 15,000 words for John Upton’s “In the Streets of Londonistan”, 22 Jan 2004). Actually, the fact that authors are given a restricted space to express their opinions, does set the LRB apart from, say, the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.

Third, LRB articles usually sport very peculiar titles (check the examples above): Anderson’s was very uncharacteristically just a pure statement of fact.

Fourth, as it appeared obvious from the start, Anderson was not going to review any particular book: “After the Ottomans” was an essay in political history, with more than a whiff of polemics about everything Turkey.

Imagine then my surprise (or lack thereof) when the very next issue of the LRB hosted yet another Perry Anderson article on Turkey (“After Kemal”, 25 Sep 2008).

Once again the unimaginative title, the lack of any book to review (rather than simply quote and mostly, summarily dispose of), and the huge amount of paper devoted to it: 10 full pages, 16,000 words, of course mostly with very little of positive to say about Turkey.

So we got all of 30,000+ words on the single topic of post-Ottoman Turkish history: perhaps a record for the LRB, perhaps not. But it was all natural that I started wondering what was behind the LRB Editors’ choice to deluge their readers with enough words to fill up around 15 “standard” articles.

Now, I am not going to dwell into the “truth” of what Anderson has written about, from the end of the Ottoman Empire to today (it would be nice if a counter-article were to appear, perhaps on the LRB itself).

Who am I (who is anybody) to be able to reply to Anderson’s finely detailed history of Turkey, without risking getting buried by hundreds of pieces of information that only a lifelong study of a subject can provide?

And still: the two bits I dare considering myself rather familiar with, the conditions leading to the 1980 coup and the preparations and aftermath of the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, I do not remember them as clear-cut as described by Anderson, with the Turks invariably playing the “baddy” roles.

In truth, “After the Ottomans” and “After Kemal” do not read as works of scholarship as much as political-journalistic polemical essays, like a pamphlet of old, with an underlying “discourse” that keeps both articles together and absolutely consistent throughout. Oh, and all scholars that disagree with Anderson, each single one of them, have sold their souls to the Devil, I mean, the Ankara government.

In Anderson’s Turkish history everything is explained and neatly falls in place within the “narrative”. Even what shouldn’t follow that pattern (like the end of Menderes’ rule after being described as economically and politically strong) is classified as “part of a cycle” common to all centre-right Turkish governments: a cycle whose existence and reasons are however not truly explored.

Therein lies my biggest critique of Anderson’s double anti-Turkish whammy. Readers are being offered a partial and partisan representation of history, dressed up as the one and only truth, with no a single doubt expressed to it.

Turkey, they learn, is invariably on the wrong side of history (Turkish leftist politicians aside, apparently), behaving rather badly and with little in common to the rest of Europe, apart from a relentlessly-pursued (by Anderson) list of all that makes successive Kemalist and post-Kemalist governments in Ankara a sort of heirs to the Nazis.

That may be so: but why devote 30,000 words to it right now? Well, Anderson does actually provide an unwitting explanation to that: ironically, by making a very strong case for Turkish EU membership:

The conventional reasons for which it is pressed within the EU are legion: militarily, a bulwark against terrorism; economically, dynamic entrepreneurs and cheap labour; politically, a model for regional neighbours; diplomatically, a bridge between civilisations; ideologically, the coming of a true multiculturalism in Europe. In the past, what might have been set against these considerations would have been fears that such an elongation of the Union, into such remote terrain, must undermine its institutional cohesion, compromising any chance of federal deepening. But that horse has already bolted. To reject Turkish membership on such a basis would be shutting the door well after there was any point in it. The Union is becoming a vast free range for the factors of production, far from an agora of any collective will, and the addition of one more grazing ground, however large or still relatively untended, will not alter its nature.

In Turkey itself, as in Europe, the major forces working for its entry into the Union are the contemporary incarnations of the party of order: the bourse, the mosque, the barracks and the media. The consensus that stretches across businessmen and officers, preachers and politicians, lights of the press and of television, is not quite a unanimity. Here and there, surly voices of reaction can be heard. But the extent of concord is striking. What, if the term has any application, of the party of movement? It offers the one good reason, among so many crass or spurious ones, for welcoming Turkey into the Union. For the Turkish left, politically marginal but culturally central, the EU represents hope of some release from the twin cults and repressions of Kemal and the Koran; for the Turkish poor, of chances of employment and elements of welfare; for Kurds and Alevis, of some rights for minorities

Is it this then: with his essays, is Anderson trying to weigh in to keep Turkey out the EU unless certain conditions are met, exactly because there is an overwhelming list of reasons for Turkey to be accepted right now? It is telling that the listed “hopes” for the Turkish left, the Kurds, the Alevis form for Anderson some of the reasons for impeding Turkey’s “accession process”: thereby killing those very same “hopes”…

One last point: Anderson has been provided a pulpit by a major publication. Is the LRB in the business of torpedo-ing the chances for a European Turkey?

I do think the LRB Editors should come out honestly about it, explaining their own reasons for allocating a large amount of magazine real estate to…a pamphlet. A pamphlet unlike any other LRB article.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/24 at 12:24:10

Posted in EU, Europe, Politics

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Georgia and Russia: Where Are We?

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It’s been a month since the first Georgian attack against the civilian population of South Ossetia. Where are we? Here a brief summary, based on various sources (Il Sole 24 Ore, The Economist, International Herald Tribune / The New York Times, Spiked Online, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Riformista, The Globe and Mail):

  1. Russia: weak and insecure. It “needs” to prove itself otherwise, but then fighting soldiers don’t even have a decent pair of boots. With its strong internal problems, and a strong inferiority complex, it is pretty much isolated, constantly just two steps ahead of a crisis. For how long?
  2. Georgia: maybe a democracy, maybe not. Surely, it is not a solid democracy. There is too much desire for a fight. It is like a “Russia of the Caucasus”: same weakness, same inferiority complex, etc. etc.
  3. The EU: it has done well with its cease-fire diplomacy, only to revert to type and to its abundancy of stupid national interests. The whole is less than the sum of the parts indeed, making it vulnerable and dependent, despite its size and wealth.
  4. The USA: its own dependency on oil has reduced the one and only Superpower to a tired, failed has-been. Too many people in the control rooms still play like in the Cold War, and still think of revenge despite having won twenty years ago.
  5. The Rest of the World: orphans of a serious U.S. policy, they move back and forth waiting to see what the consequences will be.
  6. Several commentators: all involved in the game of historical equivalence. Some say it’s 1968 all over again, some point 1956, others to 1938. I say it’s 1919. In any case, I have read quite a few pernicious, interventionist ideas, in a chaos of ideals without purpose.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/01 at 22:57:22

Back to Basics on Iran and the Bomb

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Oceans of ink are being wasted without addressing the most basic issue regarding Iran and its nuclear weapons program. The latest example is Peter D. Zimmerman’s op-ed, “Nearer to the Bomb” (IHT, July 8), where we are treated to 674 words in order to state the most obvious of facts (“the real purpose of Iranian enrichment is to provide fuel for weapons, not reactors“).

However, not a comma is dedicated to the problem of Iran’s own security, regularly and openly threatened with talks of war and mentions of foreign-supported “regime change”.

Have we learned really nothing from years of negotiations going nowhere, of sanctions resulting in nothing, and of incentives regularly failing to persuade successive Iranian Presidents and negotiators? Does anybody seriously think that Iran can afford, at this stage, to remain nuclearly unarmed?

Mr Zimmermann rather tellingly is able to contemplate harsh sanctions but only “modest low-calorie sweeteners“. That is exactly the kind of attitude that has brought the “Iran Bomb” issue where it stands at the moment.

When and where will the EU or the USA find instead the courage to offer full security guarantees to the Islamic Republic, in order to achieve a less nuclear, more secure world?

Written by omnologos

2008/Jul/09 at 00:44:19

Posted in Ethics, EU, Humanity, Iran, Politics, UK, USA

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Kosovo: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys?

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Letter to the International Herald Tribune

Dear Editors, dear Ms. Dempsey

Can anybody seriously describe the ongoing Kosovo crisis as a good-guys vs. bad-guys conflict, as attempted in Ms. Dempsey’s “Letter from Europe“, June 11, 2008, published on the IHT as “Deadlock in Kosovo risks Balkan instability“?

The articles is a relentless attack on everything Russia and Serbia have to say about Kosovo, with the EU depicted as the poor victim of a machination intending to deprive Kosovo of true independence, by keeping the UN around.

We are even treated to the classic “It is not for lack of trying by the Europeans or the United States to reach an agreement with Russia over Kosovo“, about the aborted Ahtisaari Plan.

Well, Ms Dempsey is well aware and even describes in the article the situation in Northern Mitrovica: could she please then try to explain on what basis would the Ahtisaari Plan free Albanian Kosovars from Belgrade’s rule, while effectively imprisoning the Mitrovican Serbs under Pristina’s?

Neither the EU nor the USA have shown much interest in upholding the rights of the minority Serbs in Kosovo, all too focused in promoting the rights of the minority Albanians in Serbia. This is no recipe for a lasting and peaceful settlement, with or without Russia: and in fact to this day there is no lasting peaceful settlement in sight.

It is also too easy for Ms Dempsey to push aside the legality question. It is not just a matter of Vladimir Putin “claiming that Kosovo’s independence had no international legal basis“. In fact, like Ms Dempsey, also the EU, the USA and legions of international legal experts still have not found any legal basis for Kosovo’s independence.

The best they could come up with, it’s a “sui generis” clause, hoping that all problems will evaporate if everybody agrees that Kosovo’s is a case unique in history, never to be repeated again.

That’s no legal explanation for bypassing the United Nations in order to create a new State in Europe.

Does anybody believe the situation is better today than before “independence” came to Kosovo, with the EU’s “undermined security ambitions” also thanks to its deep divisions on the topic, as correctly pointed out by Ms. Dempsey?

Are we any better down the path of Balkan stability, a “region where the slightest misunderstanding or provocation can lead to violence“? I for one am not sure about that. But if we want to be serious at dealing with this problem, that’s not just a question for Russia to answer.

regards
maurizio morabito

Written by omnologos

2008/Jun/16 at 22:46:05

The Moral Equivalence of Hamas and Israel (and us)

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Another day, another series of reports on tens of dead, dying and injured people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I’ll leave the sorting out of who’s to blame to anybody wishing to waste their time.

Sure, there are more victims on the Palestinian side than on the Israeli, indicating an overwhelmingly disproportionate response as if the value of human life really depended on nationality (a consideration unfathomably shared by the Palestinian leadership too: prisoners exchange usually involve a handful of Israelis to tens of Palestinians).

On the other hand what purpose can it be in the launching of aimless rockets by Hamas, randomly towards civilians? Apart, that is, from killing if not terrorizing them on purpose, because they are civilians: as if that has ever won anybody’s war.

The height of mutual stupidity is that people in charge on the two sides are determined to brutalize each other. At the same time, retaliation after retaliation, they have kind of abdicated all hopes of recovering their own humanity…to the sudden appearance of virtuous behavior in the other camp.

It’s fairly obvious that whatever the causes of their madness, they are all directly responsible for untold miseries that will befall on their own children.

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What should be done to bring peace to Israeli and Palestinians alike? It’s more than obvious, it’s actually boring. Stop wishing the others could go away. Realize the land is for the two of them, and for the rest of humanity as well. Decouple Israel from the messianic undertones, by getting it into the European Union.

But that doesn’t look like in anybody’s interest. The main hope is that the situation has worsened since the quasi-agreement with President Clinton in 2000, because when everybody knows peace is tantalizingly near, everybody rushes to settle the last scores.

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But that’s still too easy an analysis.  

Who else is brutalizing civilians in the futile attempt of getting a military and thus a political advantage in a never-ending war, worsened exactly because and by that brutalization?

It’s us from NATO.

The civilian victims are in Afghanistan, nowadays, and likely but less evidently in Iraq.

And it’s no novelty. Leaving aside the famously useless killings of tens of thousands in Dresden during World War II, just fifty years ago the French Government tried almost casually to defend the bloody bombing of a Tunisian border village, in the Algerian war.

Despite our illusions, things have not changed since. We are still eliminating fellow human beings without much of a thought. Here’s NATO proudly using American and European taxpayers’ money to kill road building workers. Never, or almost never, big news in our media.

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It is high time we leave aside idle discussions about other peoples’ business to mind about our own idiocy.

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/02 at 22:25:00

Serbia: Trapped in the past…by the EU!

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I find the IHT’s Feb 25 Editorial on Serbia and Kosovo rather disingenuous (“Trapped in the past“, IHT, Feb 25).

They state that “Every effort has been made by NATO, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States to accommodate Serbian fears and sensitivities” but then undermine that very claim by decrying Serbia’s lack of “any willingness to negotiate the province’s independence” (as if this were a fait-accompli from the very beginning: so much for “accommodation“…).

They also accuse Belgrade of having “never demonstrated any remorse for the carnage unleashed by the former dictator Slobodan Milosevic“: thereby forgetting how young the Serbian democracy is, and its obvious innocence with respect to the crimes of a past dictatorship.

Serbia and the Serb may have a lot of soul-searching to do having lost pretty much everything and some in their misguided attempts to restore national pride by way of armed conflicts. But nothing, almost nothing has been done by the EU in primis, and by the USA, to help them out of that trap.

Actually, it is apparent that Kosovo has been recognized by some States, and not by others, only as part of a wider USA/Russia geopolitical game. What trust should Serbia put in such a process, is anybody’s guess.

If that can be the basis against “triggering wider conflict“, it’s very much doubtful.

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/25 at 22:26:52

Lessons to the World from Union of Inconsequential Nations

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And so the EU has arrived to the long-expected Kosovo Day of Independence…without a common view on what to do with it.

Twenty seven idiots.

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/18 at 19:47:11

Posted in EU, Kosovo