An op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post, quoted below, prompted a disgusted reaction from a smart friend:
An Appeal for Leadership
Why Hasn’t the World’s Lone Superpower Stopped This Tragedy?
By Abdullah Gul
Thursday, August 3, 2006; Page A27
ANKARA, Turkey — The grave tragedy that has been unfolding before our eyes in Lebanon, and the inability of the international community to bring it to an end after three weeks of suffering, unfortunately raise questions about the United States and its proud legacy of leadership for freedom and justice…
The hopes for the democratic transformation of the Middle East that we, together with the United States and other allies, have been painstakingly attempting to cultivate are being shattered, along with the lives of the people of the region.
Does anyone have the right to allow this to happen: the creation of a deep sense of indignation that will inevitably leave responsible governments with the difficult task of managing justifiably outraged public opinion — at a time when radicals and fanatics are looking for pretexts to justify their actions and to widen their influence?
Needless to say, this does not bode well for the much-needed dialogue and understanding between civilizations…
The only way out of the present crisis is determined action by the international community that truly addresses the core issues that have been festering in the Middle East and that lie at the very roots of the conflict. This requires nothing less than genuine leadership, which must adhere to the values that it asks of others in order to be effective.
The writer is foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Turkey.
Some comments that should be obvious. First, this is emblematic of one of the characteristic elements of the relationship between the U.S. and the world, especially our “allies,” namely that the U.S is reflexively denounced for acting alone to handle problems without the prior consent of the international community and then is the subject of whining and criticism when it does not take the lead in acting, even to the point of being criticized for not acting alone. Remember the Europeans and their decades of criticism of the U.S. and their pretensions of an equal and separate role around the world when it came to dealing with the Balkans, their next door and pathetically weak neighbors. Fully capable of handling the problems there themselves (they’re were prepared to resist a Soviet invasion but couldn’t handle Serbia?), they stood back and focused on whining about how the U.S. had abandoned its responsibilities for handling this region and waited for us to take charge. That attitude has remained unchanged.
“Why hasn’t the world’s lone superpower stopped this tragedy?“ I thought our being the “lone superpower” acting unilaterally was the principal problem the world was facing. That’s what is endlessly repeated here and abroad.
“Does anyone have the right to allow this to happen: the creation of a deep sense of indignation that will inevitably leave responsible governments with the difficult task of managing justifiably outraged public“…
This is stomach-turning for its sheer cynicism. It’s not a plea for the U.S. to take the lead. It’s criticism that we have not already done so. “What the f— is the matter with you imperialists? This is your responsibility. We demand you do something now and without us having to lift a finger!!”
I am unaware of a single time the “international community” has handled any problem anywhere without the U.S. What people like Gul and others really want is not to participate in an international effort but to have decisive input into our decision making regarding how to use our forces and influence. That is the sum total of their criticism, and their only objective. We’re fools, they’re wise. They believe that is obvious that they should make the decisions for us. Of how to use our own resources. To which they will contribute nothing.
YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN! Actually, this would be more accurately phrased as: YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN BUT YOU ALSO DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACT ALONE OR WTIHOUT OUR CONSENT!!!!! Which may or may not ever come, and will certainly come with conditions. And without anyone else having to do anything.
The “hopes for the democratic transformation of the Middle East that we, together with the United States and other allies, have been painstakingly attempting to cultivate”? We? Painstakingly attempting to cultivate? What??? I haven’t searched for his past statements on the matter, but I’m pretty sure they would have criticized that objective (it’s an idiotic one to be sure, but that’s beside the point). Certainly, Turkey has done nothing to help. In fact, it stopped us from using its territory for the invasion of Iraq and regards the only quasi-democratic part of Iraq – Kurdistan – as an enemy. Just where has this help been taking place? Syria? Iran? Where?
And as for the “dialogue and understanding between civilizations”: Am I the only one who is genuinely puzzled over what that means, or ever could mean, even though it is reflexively mouthed by the Washington foreign policy herd? Why is no one ever asked what they mean by it — who’s doing this “dialog,” how would it occur, what’s the expected outcome in the real world, etc (Note for the clueless: Ours is a civilization that is open to all and is easy to join. Theirs is one that has spent the last millennium and a half trying to destroy ours, and has had great success in that goal [Who now remembers Byzantium?] The only clash of “civilizations” is between the Islamic world and everyone who is anything else. In what way would a “dialog” magically make them aware of our mysterious selves and benign intent that centuries of overwhelming interaction and decades of media saturation have somehow left them entirely unaware of. Why not a “dialog” between criminals and the police?