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US – TURKISH Cooperation Based on Shared Values

Since 9/11, the US unilateralism has been widely interpreted as a projection of hard power to enhance own interests, rather than defending and disseminating values such as human rights, democracy, secularism, freedom of trade and liberal economy. This had the result of diminishing goodwill of the global citizens.

No one can dispute the US role as the only super power of the world. In addition, the gap between the might of the US and those of her followers is so significant that the US may maintain such a position of power during our lifetime. However, erosion of goodwill in winning the hearts and minds of world citizens is very costly, even for the only super power.

For example, recent polls clearly indicate that the US brands are under the threat of rising anti-americanism throughout the world. Perhaps more important is the spread of terrorism that is becoming more difficult to contain without winning the hearts and minds of people from different civilizations.

Turkey, a long standing friend and ally of the US, sincerely shares common values such as human rights, democracy, secularism, free trade and a liberal economic system with the US. Furthermore, her tradition of managing different civilizations under the Ottoman Empire presents an opportunity for a serious partnership to demonstrate that civilizations can and do share common values. Anatolia has been a melting pot of cultures, for much long a period than the US.

During the 21st century, organized crime networks gain global dimensions in traffic of drugs, arms, humans, and organs. Mankind is under threat of chemical, biological, and nuclear mass destruction weapons. In the future, we may have to protect ourselves from spatial threats. Understandably, the superpower of the world, the US is taking actions to preempt such threats. However, those actions will be more effective if taken jointly with other nations sharing similar values, such as Turkey, and if they are targeted not only to the threats themselves, but also to their root causes.

Globalization of threats has common root causes:

(i) Ease of attaining technology. Big governments started to lose their monopoly in many areas as a result of technological developments (like biological weapons), and they are trying to preserve their superiority in other areas through international agreements.

(ii) Imbalances on earth. About one-fifth of people living on earth are trying to survive with $1 a day income, whereas nearly half of them manage with $2 a day. Developed countries spend $600 billion for military expenditures; provide agricultural subsidies of around $300 billion, while their foreign aid budgets do not add up to $60 billion. Furthermore the proportion of humans living in developed countries is decreasing every year. Another imbalance arises on use of water, which form the basis of life. An average person needs 5 liters of water daily in order to survive, and need 50 liters of water when other vital activities such as cooking and washing are taken into consideration. However, while an American citizen consumes 250-300 liters of water daily, one of five people around the world are not able to attain safe water. Each year more than 5 million people die as a result of diseases caused by lack of access to water (ten times the number of people lost in wars.) A similar situation is relevant on world energy utilization. The refusal of the highest per capita user of energy to participate in the Kyoto Protocol causes reaction. The US is seen as the most important contributor to global warming and is one of the countries with the cheapest energy utilization.

(iii) Developments in communication technology: Developments in technology is bringing the dictum of “God sees everything” into reality by enabling “The global society to see everything.” Information not given through CNN, reaches people through El Cezire; information not provided there, reach wide communities through the internet. Consequently, all personal, corporate, and social secrets disappear. Era of superiority, gained by those with information, shortens. Whether we want or not, technological developments and democratic way of life increases transparency in all aspects of life. Increased transparency directs communities to be consistent in both internal and external principles. In summary, governments, no matter how much power they have, will not be able to deal with global threats on their own. Consequently, it is essential to organize on a global scale to deal with global threats.

We should be aware of the main threat originating from the nature of globalization-localization dualism and its potential for both integration and exclusion at the same time. This threat is the ethnic, national or religious conflicts, which display a tendency to spread, and in some cases turn into ethnic cleansing. Stopping that nightmare will doubtlessly be one of the top priorities of a new global governance structure committed to the vision of democracy and equity.

If we are successful in including rather than excluding all the communities into global governance structures, we have to improve our ability to cooperate. Turkey, the proud custodian of the land and the civilizations flourished on Asia Minor throughout thousands of years, is such a cooperation partner for the US.

Turkey’s position as the only secularly and democratically governed Muslim-populated country, its experience in fighting terror, as a reliable ally, her military prowess, and deep experience in managing diverse and wide areas puts her in a special position to enhance the strategic vision of promoting democracy, freedom, and liberal economy.

Such a co-operation will be effective if it extends the depth and breadth of the relationship with the US. In particular, as unemployment is an important issue in Turkey, direct investments and furthering trade with Turkey will be an important step in winning the hearts and minds of Turkish people. A prospering Turkey, will not only be the engine of growth and stability in the Middle East, but will also help the competitiveness of Europe, and the Atlantic partnership. US support for Turkey’s EU membership, has been a very positive step in this direction.

At the same time, the US has to utilize the depth of experience accumulated over centuries in Turkey. For example, when we look at the history of the Ottoman and Anatolian civilizations what we see is great fluidity between religions and communities. Just to give an example, the Seljuk Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus II, whose mother was a descendant of the Byzantine aristocracy, routinely organized in his palace theological discussions between Christian priests and Muslim religious leaders. This tradition, particularly highlighted in its Sufi variant, embodies a philosophy of great tolerance and accommodation. Poets and thinkers like Yunus Emre, Haci Bektas Veli, and Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi are inseparable parts of the cultural make-up of the inhabitants of Turkey. We learn from the historical records that Mevlana Celaleddin, the Sufi religious leader, poet and thinker of the 12. Century, regularly visited the monasteries to exchange views with Christian and Jewish religious people. Prominent Christian clergymen came from Istanbul to discuss with him certain theological issues. It was Yunus Emre, the great Sufi poet and thinker of the 13th century, who preached in one of his poems: “Regard the other, as you regard yourself, this is the meaning of the four Holy Books, if there is any.”

This tradition of accommodation and tolerance is the reason why until late 19th century the Ottoman political order did not experience ethnic discrimination. What marked the Seljuk and Ottoman experience in this field was a very specific definition of the “self” and the “other” and an associated administrative form of social organization considerably different from that in the Western world. In this form of organization, the so-called “Millet” (Community) system, different communities enjoyed a considerably high level of autonomy. This system also allowed non-Muslims to be appointed to administrative positions that required a high level of political and financial trustworthiness.

In the 19th century the rise of race based nationalism in the West had its echoes in the Ottoman territory as well. The course of events proceeded in a chain of reactions, paving way to the great sufferings at all parts of the society. History nowhere in the world proceeds along a straight line. Despite the inevitably irregular advance of history, the fundamental context of life in Anatolia is one of coexistence between different groups. In that sense Anatolia’s legacy to the world is one of great diversity management full of rich experiences. These experiences have, therefore, the potential to make significant contribution to the international process of furthering the progress towards better governance of the world.

To deal with global threats, we need legitimate, global cooperation based on globally consistent principles. To be globally consistent will mean that we should start implementing common values in all aspects of life. This is not as easy as it sounds. Yet, this is exactly what the single super power of the world has to do. Preaching free trade, but protecting uncompetitive local industries; promoting human rights, but dismissing Ebu Garib and Guantanamo Bay; exporting global rules and regulations, but taking exceptions from Kyoto Agreements and jurisdiction of International Criminal Court does not help the credibility of promoting common values throughout the world.

In short, US unilateralism does not fit well with the values that make up the US. Ignoring respect for people and freedoms even when they are not US citizens, or even the existence of such a perception begins to erode the moral superiority of the US. The most powerful nation in the world has to understand that sound governance is serving all humans, not merely the strong.

For sustainable development and peace on earth, the US has to comprehend how her decisions impact others and understand that good governance is, in fact, self-governance. To ensure sustainability of peace and stability, the US has to guard the values that made the US a super power and apply them consistently not only within her own borders, but also globally. In an increasingly transparent world, inconsistencies cannot be sustained, at least morally. Hence, the US has to demonstrate a level of wisdom and “regard others, as she regards her own citizens and her own interests.”

Dr. Argüden