Wild Turkey

Turkey — the Muslim anchor of NATO with a long history of secularism — is straying from its roots. The Turkish government, controlled by the Islamic Justice and Development Party and led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has slowly gravitated away from the West and towards the Islamic world.  As its bid to join the EU has been stalled, Turkey has begun to abandon the dream of its founder, Ataturk, who envisioned his nation as a secular, Western democracy and has instead focused on becoming the core state of Islamic civilization. In the process, it has alienated the United States on many issues and ruptured its strategic alliance with Israel.

The father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk.

Erdogan has treated the Jewish State — with which Turkey did $2.5 billion of trade in 2008 — with atrocious disrespect. Last year, he ambushed Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Davos Economic Summit, telling him “that you are killing people,” in response to Israel’s 2009 defensive war in Gaza. This year Turkey allowed a flotilla of so-called peace activists seeking to provoke a confrontation with Israel over its blockade of the terrorist-run Gaza Strip to sail under its flag. When nine of said activists were killed after trying to lynch IDF personnel in a scuffle on the Turkish flagship, the Mavi  Marmara, it was Turkey that reacted with indignation. Erdogan labeled the Jewish State ” a state sponsor of terrorism,” his government downgraded diplomatic relationships with it, and it is now pressing the UN Security Council to open an international investigation — a euphemism for a lynching of Israel — into the flotilla crisis.

From Erdogan’s previous behavior one might not guess that a state sponsor of terrorism was not welcome in Ankara. After all, didn’t Turkey and Brazil (to the chagrin of the US) vote against sanctioning Iran — the state sponsor of terrorism — for its nuclear program. And doesn’t the prime minister have a warm relationship with the genocidal leader of Sudan, Omar Bashir, who is wanted by the Hague for crimes against humanity.  This willingness to overlook the wrongdoings of Muslim leaders and governments reflects a disturbing double standard on Turkey’s part.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan shaking hands with Sudan’s genocidal maniac leader, Omar Bashir.

Indeed, Turkey doesn’t exactly have its house in order when it comes to human rights violations. It still will not come to terms with its bloody past, which is shown by its refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide that took two million lives, and its horrendous treatment of ethnic minorities. And while Erdogan tears up for the people of Gaza, there is no end in sight to the Turkish occupation of the northern half of Cyprus.

Its friendship with the US is also fraying. As aforementioned, it refused to support sanctions against Iran, for which America has tirelessly campaigned. It has been hesitant to allow the US to build military bases on Turkish soil. Lastly, as described in The New York Times, it has gone off message and undermined American foreign policy objectives in the region.

The Turkish flag with the Islamic crescent and star.

Turkey’s slide into Islamism and its drift away from the West and the United States is cause for alarm. America should respond by reaching out to secular elements within the government, like the military, and putting pressure on the civilian leadership in Ankara to correct its behavior. Europe should be more forbearing when it comes to Turkey’s EU bid and use that desire as a way to keep that country from going down a more fundamentalist path. Israel must stand its ground and not give into ridiculous Turkish demands. Finally, the people of Turkey, with their long history of tolerance, must decide whether this is the future they want. If not, it is their responsibility to bring their discontent to the ballot box and oust this government from power.

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Chavez and “The Wrecking of Venezuela”

Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez

Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez, is destroying his country’s economy with his failed socialist policies and the statist mentality that drives them. Chavez set out to remake Venezuela by more equitably distributing its wealth, but he has instead destroyed it and driven away the foreign capital that fuels emerging economies.

The Economist has documented extensively what it has called “the wrecking of Venezuela.” That country, which is blessed with abundant natural resources, has seen its mineral wealth swallowed up by social engineering programs. It has experienced economic stagnation as the rest of Latin America has prospered. It has suffered immensely from Chavez’s war on the private sector, which has targeted everything from supermarkets to golf courses, and damaged the country’s main engine of economic growth. By interfering with the market economy with price controls, Chavez has disrupted the flow of commerce and has created an artificial economy predicated on graft and waste. As described by Mary Anastasia  O’Grady of the  Wall Street Journal, resourceful Venezuelans have found their way around the Chavez economic model, trading with their free Colombian neighbors at the border.

Traders, with their wares, on the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

Nevertheless, the lack of economic freedom has expectedly been accompanied by a crackdown on political freedom. In 2007, term limits on Chavez were removed by a narrow majority in a referendum, and since then the de-facto dictator has embarked on a war against dissenters; throwing opposition channels off the airwaves, prosecuting citizens for speaking their minds out, and targeting what is left of an independent judiciary. With elections coming up soon, it is feared that Chavez may attempt to rig the vote.

While blackouts roll the country and judges rot in jail, Venezuela’s authoritarian government has embarked on a foreign policy that is as belligerent as its domestic policy is stupid. The Chavez regime is funding FARC rebels in Colombia, helping ETA terrorists in Spain, and supplying support to its Iranian and Syrian compadres. The dictator has called the United States the “Great Satan,” attempted to install like-minded leaders in other Latin American countries, and has undermined attempts at regional economic integration under an American aegis.

All these actions are counter-productive for both the people of Venezuela and the citizens of the Americas. If Chavez continues down this path he will lose the next election or run his country into the ground. If not, his behavior will earn him a deadly comeuppance from the US,  which he narrowly avoided in 2002.

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South Africa and the World Cup

Former South African President and leader of the anti-apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela.

It is heartwarming to see the World Cup being played in South Africa today. It is an event that crowns South Africa’s transition from apartheid and racial enmity to a truly, free democratic nation where whites and blacks co-exist peacefully. Twenty years ago, the apartheid regime’s soccer team was barred from participating in FIFA events, a part of the sanctions that would ultimately force the end of segregation and discrimination in Africa’s richest nation. The tournament being played this week is an exercise in symbolism that demonstrates the power of sports to bring different people together and reminds us of the positive influence they can have on the world.

This event is not an anomaly. Afrikaners and Zulu are forming dialogues with each other as their country becomes more integrated and united, and as racial divisions slowly fade into the past. Whites have trekked intro areas they would have never gone too during the apartheid era and many blacks now live in the desegregated city of Johannesburg. The New York Times’s Barry Bearak wrote a great article this month about how Afrikaners — who are big ruby people — chose to hold their rugby matches in Soweto, which was a redoubt of resistance to apartheid and a hotbed of black nationalism.

White Afrikaners and black Zulu outside a rugby match in Soweto, South Africa.

Yes today, in South Africa and in the wider world, racial inequity still persists. Yes, South Africa faces challenges, like the AIDS crisis and poverty, which appear intractable. Yet, it is finally shaking off the legacy of colonialism, which has haunted it for the last half-century and fulfilling the vision Nelson Mandela saw of a post-racial nation in which all people were treated equally.

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America, Britain, and the Special Relationship

The Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack.

Britain and the United States share the same language, culture, history, and values. Together, we have weathered World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the conflict in Iraq. The special relationship — official policy since the legendary camaraderie of Churchill and Roosevelt — has been a boon to both nations and has endured British and American governments of all stripes. Yet today, that important tie — the linchpin of US foreign policy — is under fire and it is up to America to shore it up.

Last month, the new Tory-led British government of David Cameron came to power with the help of its junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, and that party’s leader, Nick Clegg. Clegg, who is now deputy prime minister, and whose foreign policy positions stand in stark contrast to Cameron’s, wants to end the special relationship, as stated in a January Daily Telegraph piece, and “repatriate [British] foreign policy.” This rhetoric has caught on among others as well, with Prime Minister Cameron declaring that the UK seeks   “a strong, but not slavish” relationship with the US.

Britain's Premier, David Cameron, (right) and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (left).

To be sure, Britain certainly has some legitimate gripes. There is a natural resentment in the UK over its place as the junior partner in the Anglo-American relationship, a role it has played since the Suez Crisis of 1956. There is also anger at the United States for having dragged them into an unnecessary war in Iraq, which has cost thousands of British lives and billions in British treasure.

However, these complaints should not translate into the termination of the special relationship. Rather, America should act to salvage this bond by putting the UK on more equal footing with the US, hesitating before it asks our best friend to commit blood and bullion to a war, and re-emphasizing Atlanticism and the trans-Atlantic alliance. It is a tie worth saving for its sentimental worth and practical value. As the two countries march hand-in-hand into the 21st century and confront the challenges of a new age, they will need strong, dependable, and trustworthy friends to rely on and fall back upon.

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The Tragedy of North Korea

As North Korea continues to defy the international community in its quest for nuclear weapons, its people starve and suffer the worst depredations of communism. All around the North, in China and in the South, economic growth is occurring at break-neck speed and Pyongyang, by reinforcing its failed socialist policies and persisting in its bellicosity toward the world, is missing out on the bonanza. The people under Kim Jong-il’s regime are afflicted with hunger, biting poverty, and hopelessness. They live in ramshackle dwellings with income that goes from hand to mouth. More succinctly, they are serfs, held in bondage to their government, which exploits the fruits of their labor, and through its intransigent nuclear stance leaves them impoverished.  

North Korean woman in her ramshackle village.

 

 However, even in a slave society there are goods to be gotten, money to be  made, and a life to be had. Indeed, in the world’s most closed country, free and private markets — the pillar of a strong economy —  sprung up and flourished until last December when the earnings of North Koreans, and with them the market system, were wiped out by a currency devaluation. The aim of this action was to wipe out the country’s nascent capitalistic elements and unfortunately — by breaking  the intrinsic contract that goes with the use of paper money — it did. In order for North Korea to prosper, these markets have to be nurtured and not butchered, and the communist regime must modify its behavior both internally and externally. 

All it must do is to look  the North’s north and to its southern neighbor to witness a vindication of the free market system and a chilling indictment of the controlled, communist economic model. South Korea, which was poorer than the North in 1950, is now an economic tiger, thanks to its embrace of capitalism. China, with its financial and monetary liberalization program, has awakened a sleeping dragon. The region is awash in cash and confidence. Look at South Korea at night and you will see a blaze of lights, look at the North and you will see everyone equal in darkness, except for the Dear Leader, whose electricity never shuts off. 

Korea at night.

 

While Kim isn’t ailing, the people of North Korea are being left out and literally left in the dark. North Korea and its people cannot afford nuclear weapons, the criticism they bring, and another fifty years of solitude, suffering, and famine.     

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The New Iran Sanctions

A vote at the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on Iran.

Yesterday the United Nations’s Security Council levied new sanctions on Iran for its quickly-progressing nuclear program. The sanctions — which were agreed to with Turkey and Brazil voting no and Lebanon abstaining — black-listed some companies that do business with the theocratic regime and are aiding its attempts to make atomic bombs. However, the Security Council’s actions do not go far enough because they do not target all the corporations that help Iran get around international isolation and the resolution fails to take aim at the heart of the Iranian economy; oil and gas exports. This failure is mostly the responsibility of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia, who capitalized on every opportunity to weaken the draft and assented to sanctions that were much less strong than the ones the United States had originally sought.

The Iranian regime also has Brazil and Turkey to thank, which to thumb their nose at the United States and in Turkey’s case, to ingratiate itself with the Muslim world, have not only voted against the sanctions but have tried to strike a horrible deal with the so-called Islamic Republic. This bargain struck last month and sealed by hugs — in a scene resembling the Munich Conference of 1938 — would leave Iran with enough uranium to manufacture one nuclear bomb, with which it could wreak grievous harm on the world. This is unacceptable and was appropriately rejected by yesterday’s Council vote.

Lula of Brazil, Erdogan of Turkey, and Ahmadinejad of Iran hugging each other in May.

That being said, the United States and Europe need to lead by example and go beyond the sanctions approved in the UN. The EU and the US should crack down on American and European companies that engage in behind-the-scenes dealing with the Iranian government and its lackeys and affiliates, America should divest itself of the theocracy’s oil, and European governments should freeze the assets of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is classified as a terrorist organization and is responsible for much of the regime’s nuclear program. Iran must not be allowed to acquire weapons with which it will menace mankind, theocrats with bombs are never safe.

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America Must Stand With Israel

The Stars and Stripes and the Magen David.

In the wake of the flotilla crisis, America must buck the tide of criticism and stand with its only true friend in the Middle East: Israel. Israel has been unfairly condemned by the international community of hypocrites for protecting its people from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. The Arabs are trying to play to their street, Europe is playing with oil politics and courting the Muslim vote, and America is silent.

Some have said that the Obama Administration should speak up and join the chorus of condemnation. They are wrong. Yes, America must speak up, but they must do so on Israel’s behalf.  The Israelis are solid allies; they are the only real democracy in the Middle East and bonds of friendship–economic, political, and emotional–tie us together. The Jewish State happens to be right on the issue of Gaza: trade should not be able to flow freely into an enclave controlled by terrorists, especially when that commerce brings in materials that have been used to fire 10,000 rockets at Israel in the past five years. If the people of Gaza want the blockade lifted, they should throw Hamas from power. If Hamas cares about the people they rule–they don’t–they can end the Strip’s isolation by recognizing Israel’s right to exist and renouncing violence.

The official policy position of the current administration supports the blockade, though Obama and the State Department seem to be backing away from that stand. They should not, because there is no good alternative to it, and it is imperative to Israeli security and survival.

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