Posted January 2, 2007

Categories: Articles

Name the country in the Middle East that is most anti-American. Egypt? Palestine? Lebanon? Try again. Try instead our key NATO ally, the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid, and one of the countries in line for membership in the European Union.

Try: Turkey.

According to a new poll from the Project on International Policy Attitudes, 64% of Turks believe that the United States poses the greatest threat to their own country’s future. That compares to 48% for the Palestinian territories, 39% for Egypt, and 38% for Lebanon. And sentiment within Turkey has only gotten more anti-American over the last five years.

There are three possible reasons for this seemingly bizarre disconnect between Turkey’s traditional alliance with the United States and its high anti-Americanism. There’s the easy answer, the wrong answer, and the interesting answer.

Let’s start with the easy answer: the Iraq War. The Turkish government was not enthusiastic about the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In fact, the Islamist government in Ankara refused the U.S. request to use Turkey as a staging area for the invasion. Subsequent events bore out Turkey’s fears. The Kurdish areas of the north grew stronger and more independent as a result of Saddam’s fall, and Kurdish separatists were emboldened to launch more cross-border attacks into Turkey. Many Turks believe that the United States is on the side of the Kurdish independence movement. This is a radical turnaround from the 1990s, when most Turks had nothing but positive things to say about the Clinton administration (belatedly) coming to the aid of Bosnians and Kosovo Albanians, both predominantly Moslem peoples. And Turks also believe the CIA helped deliver the Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan into Turkey’s hands in 1999. The Iraq invasion wiped out all that good will.

So, big surprise, the United States is still suffering the consequences of its ill-advised invasion of Iraq.

Now, let’s look at the wrong answer: the Turks are becoming increasingly fundamentalist in their Islamic beliefs and that’s why they hate Americans. In fact, as I point out in Postcard from … Istanbul, Turkish support for the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism. The AKP supports European integration, market liberalization, and key civil reforms. As a fascinating report from the European Stability Initiative puts it, the AKP is a party of “Islamic Calvinists.” Party support comes from traditionally conservative central Anatolia, where a new business class has emerged that has replaced the trading ideology of the bazaar with the production ideology of the bourgeoisie. These are global firms, like a jeans manufacturer in the newly energized city of Kayseri that sends its management teams to U.S. and UK discos to “read the minds of teenagers” in order to compete with suppliers elsewhere in the world.

Since Islamic Calvinists should get along with American Calvinists in the global marketplace, that can’t be the answer. But here’s the interesting part. According to the PIPA poll, Turks not only dislike U.S. policy, they don’t much like the American model either. Over 80% of Turks don’t like American ideas of democracy and ways of doing business. Nearly 70% dislike American culture (TV, movies, music).

Part of the answer, then, lies in the fact that Turkey is no longer a bazaar and the United States is no longer a Calvinist nation. We’ve been pushing our democratic ideas like an insistent carpet salesman. Our way of doing business is far from Calvinist, for it is no longer about prudence and restraint, but more about speculation and conspicuous consumption. And while our Puritan forebears would probably agree with Turkey’s Islamists about the need to rein in our more exhibitionist tendencies, the current cultural czars in Hollywood can’t help but offend the religiously more conservative overseas just as they do at home.

So, perhaps it’s not so bizarre that Turkey has become anti-American. Perhaps the more relevant question is: what took them so long?

Changing Partners

As one strategic partnership withers, another becomes stronger. India’s position vis a vis China is similar to that of Turkey bordering the Soviet Union. The new nuclear deal is part of the U.S. attempt to ” facilitate U.S. access to Central Asian oil and gas reserves, reduce its dependence somewhat on Pakistan, and tactically confront Iran if needed,” writes FPIF contributor Saira Yamin in the U.S., India, and the Elusive 123 Deal. “A strong alliance with India would also deter Russian influence, giving the United States an edge over its erstwhile rival in the region. In terms of monetary gains, the 123 agreement could reap over a hundred billion dollars of business to U.S. firms selling nuclear technology.”

Before the deal goes through, Yamin argues, the United States must bring India into the Non-Proliferation Treaty: “Above all the deal must not be antithetical to the United States commitment to non-proliferation. India must assure the U.S that it will neither test nor expand its nuclear weapons arsenal in exchange for nuclear fuel and technology for peaceful purposes. But this is easier said than done. The United States may have to offer incentives to India such as unconditional support for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.”

Victims in Iraq and Sudan

This week marks more than just the sixth anniversary of September 11, it is also the anniversary of the overthrow of the Salvador Allende government in Chile. And September 9 marks three years since Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the deaths of innocent people in Sudan a “genocide.” According to FPIF contributor Nii Akuetteh, more than 100,000 people have died in Sudan after this declaration of never-again genocide.

The Bush administration has certainly appeared to act forcefully on the issue. Bush “helped broker the 2005 cease-fire; provided millions of dollars to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS); supplied most of the humanitarian aid; punitively sanctioned Sudanese perpetrators; encouraged Save Darfur rallies; assisted the AU in winning the Abuja peace agreement; and pushed the Security Council to start the accord’s convoluted implementation,” Akuetteh writes in Darfur: The Other Anniversary. “Later he persuaded Congress to allocate an additional $60 million for expanded peacekeeping.”

But appearances can be deceptive. “In 2005, long after announcing that Sudanese leaders were committing genocide, the United States ignored its own anti-genocide obligations to arrest such leaders,” Akuetteh writes. “Instead, it secretly flew one of those very leaders, Major General Salah Abdallah Gosh, into Washington, met with him and then flew him back out. Since that meeting, Sudanese and American intelligence officials have exchanged secret “‘liaison visits every day.’” And in a May 2007 report to Congress, the Bush administration heaped praise on Sudan, calling it ‘”a strong partner.’ These facts lead to one conclusion: The Bush administration regards secret intelligence provided by Sudan as much more valuable and important than saving hundreds of thousands of African lives and ending the suffering of millions more, as much more valuable and important than ending genocide.”

Meanwhile, in Iraq, much ink is spilled about how much blood is spilled, but a great deal of attention is focused on military casualties. Far less attention is paid to Iraqi civilians, particularly children. As FPIF contributors Adil Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker write in Who Will Cry for Innocent Iraqis?, “it is difficult for citizens in the U.S. to empathize with those in Iraq. The United States has suffered over 3,700 deaths and 27,000 wounded. Multiply these numbers by 100 and you can get a sense of the impact of the war inside of Iraq — a country one-tenth the size of our population.”


Too much corn in our diet making us obese? Too much car exhaust making our planet too hot? What better solution than take the corn ordinarily slated for high fructose corn syrup and turn it into biofuels to power our cars.

Hmmnn, maybe not such a good idea, argues FPIF columnist Laura Carlsen. On the environmental end, the uptick in demand for raw materials is already having its effect. “In the Americas, Ecuadorian agribusiness plans to expand sugar cane production by 50,000 hectares and clear 100,000 hectares of natural forests for oil palm production. In Colombia, oil palm production is already dubbed the ‘diesel of deforestation,’” she writes in The Agrofuels Trap. Then there’s the impact on farmers, as biofuels tend to encourage the cultivation of monocrops on large plantations, and thus discourage small farming.

And then there’s the geopotlitical aspect. “The new alliance between the U.S. government and its allies in the region to convert Latin America into a source of agrofuels not only benefits transnational corporations and big business; it also helps counteract the growing influence of Venezuela and other countries seeking to break away from U.S. hegemony,” Carlsen writes. “The ethanol alliance seeks to consolidate a new power line in Latin America that runs directly between the United States and Brazil, with the dynamic force being the transnational corporations. This could undermine efforts to consolidate Mercosur, and erode recent regional integration efforts such as the Bank of the South and the Union of Southern Nations.”

FPIF, September 11, 2007

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