Friday, January 28, 2011
While Tunusia’s revolution is still in the making, Egyptians have now begun taking to the streets for the last few days to let their dictator hear they have had enough. At this critical weekend, no soothsayer-expert of the region is able to predict whether President Mubarak will continue his hold on power.
United States President Barack Obama gave his much anticipated State of the Union Address this week, trying to spark a “Sputnik” moment to push Americans, citizens of the oldest living democracy in the world, to leap forward once more to take the lead. While China's rivalry worldwide has been giving U.S. confidence the jitters, the U.S. isolationists at home are making a comeback. Strengthened by the conservative Tea Party movement, whose members urge dramatic and rapid budget cuts, some members of the U.S. Congress who are identified with this movement are now calling on the White House to cut all U.S. foreign aid, in addition to slashing the budget of the State Department.
Whether it is because of the unbearable lightness of being a senator or leading congressman and having a considerable voice without any responsibility, or whether it is plain narrow-mindedness as far as international affairs are concerned, the U.S. isolationists seem to not understand that today’s world would neither allow the U.S. to withdraw from other parts of the world nor dominate them. Therefore, the only choice today left for U.S. is to find its regional partners around the globe to carry on its missionary approach in a way that its super power status continues at a manageable cost.
By the end of World War II in 1945, the U.S. was producing 35 percent of the world’s total goods and had an immense sway in all corners of the globe. Since then it has, for the most part, managed world affairs as an unchallenged leader – with the exception of the Cold War with the Soviets.
In 2011, with about $14 trillion of budget deficit and rising, along with two continuing wars, the U.S. is looking for many shoulders and brains to co-manage conflicts around world.
Since the beginning of Arab street revolts across the Middle East and North Africa, Washington has tried hard to strike a balance between President Mubarak, a U.S. ally three decades, and Egypt’s protesters. Washington, as usual, first took the Egyptian revolt cautiously, but shifted tone in the following days to signal openly that it takes no side. By Thursday, various spokespersons from the White House and the State Department were openly calling for political reform and promoting the inalienable rights of the Egyptian people.
While the U.S. administration is challenging Mubarak publicly, one must ask where Davutoğluism fits into the picture and what is hoped to be a ramping juncture for the Muslim world?
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s vision and pro-active policies are being discussed widely across the international spectrum, though Davutoğluism insistently shied away from articulating the manifestation of its universal values and democratic rights toward the Muslim and Arab worlds.
Davutoğluism ignored the Green movement, following rigged June 2009 elections, and ran to congratulate the Iranian leadership. Now it continues its merciless disengagement from what has been taking place in Tunusia and Egypt.
It is hard to comprehend why “energized” Ankara, which runs to get involved with almost every single political conflict in the region and has much to say about them, cannot produce a level-headed statement for the future of the Middle East. Is this the "wise city planning" Davutoğlu was talking about just a few weeks ago in Erzurum in front of Turkey’s ambassadors?
Without question, Turkey’s foreign policies display pragmatism rather than idealism when it comes to the surprisingly good relations with Russia, Iran or the newly found ally in the Kurdistan Regional Government. Increasing trade with the Arab world, mending a strategic alliance with energy-rich Azerbaijan and striving to reach out to the Turkic world in Central Asia, Davutoğluism offers many indications to skeptics that it has a mercantile fever in its blood, much more visible than an Islamist one, to become part of the Muslim East against the West.
Even though it has been almost a decade that Davutoğluism has been engineering Turkish diplomacy to lead a sort of independent-minded “non-aligned” posture, it has yet to manifest itself clearly how the ethical ingredients of this posture complement the rest, if there are any.
İbrahim Kalın, top foreign policy adviser to Erdoğan and one of the leading pupils of Davutoğluism, spoke at Seta Turkey’s inaugural Insight conference a month ago in Washington and once again failed to elaborate on the matter when he was asked about his administration’s moral leadership by saying that his administration does not believe that conveying such moral messages in public works best.
We might be at a critical time and great opportunity for followers of Davutoğluism to get out of this vicious circle of remaining emotionless toward the rapidly changing landscape of the neighboring region. A wide range of social networking websites and the active engagement of people are here to stay and promise to be part of a daily life.
Therefore, a significant opportunity lies ahead for Davutogluism to shift itself from its cold-blooded pragmatism, which seems to be reaching an atheistic level.
It is becoming a shameful idleness for Turkey, as one of the oldest and best democracies in the Muslim world, for not having the courage to speak up for Muslim people’s universal rights, even though it seems to have enough moral authority when it is compared to its peers in the region.
The only reason that comes to my mind for the lack of attention on the matter is that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, own insecurity when it comes to its record of promoting freedom of expression and assembly at home.
A couple of months ago when I asked Davutoğlu at a conference in Washington why Turkey's ranking continuously sinks every year in various indexes regarding the freedom of the press, his lack of preparation was crystal clear. Davutoğlu, a bright public speaker who never seems to have difficulty to astutely answer any foreign affairs questions, scrambled for a few minutes to construct a meaningful answer to my simple question, and concluded by saying “once we have established a code of conduct ... [and] we have established principles of freedom of expression, we will have a much better situation than today. We need to work together. I don’t say we don’t have any problem, but we have to understand the source of the problem as well, in all senses.” In his long remarks, Davutoğlu argued that the administration and media, as two parties, should sit and talk together to improve the freedom of the press in Turkey.
Instead, sharp witted Davutoğlu should have known that freedom of expression is a natural and universal right that is bestowed upon every human being when his or her life begins and it is not a matter up for negotiation, nor a gift that can be given by authorities.
Some of us are lucky to find it effortlessly, thanks to those who came before us and fought the fight, and some of us not, as is happening in Egypt, and they take the matter of creating their own and future generations' destiny into their own hands.
Once the inherently poisonous flavor of freedom is tasted there is no going back.
That is why, no matter how dangerous it is, it would be best for the Egyptian rulers to ride on this beast of freedom, not look for ways to foolishly block it.
Followers of Davutoğluism should also ride on the beast, both at home and abroad, if they are serious about becoming an indispensable force in the region’s future.