Learning From Turkey

I meant to mention this when I spotted it in the Turkish press, but this NY Times article is even more informative. In conjunction with Turkey’s ongoing military response to the PKK, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just announced a $12 billion initiative aimed at addressing some of the socio-economic grievances of Turkey’s domestic Kurdish population. The move makes obvious political sense, and is part of a well-conceived diplomatic-military campaign against what Turkey perceives as a national security threat.

I’ve thought for a while that America could draw some lessons from the way Turkey maneuvered its way towards achieving its strategic goals in northern Iraq through a very challenging playing field. This announcement reinforces that. The point isn’t that America hasn’t integrated stabilization and reconstruction efforts into its response to global terror. To the contrary, the U.S. military has increasingly embraced such operations as part of their mission.

But when was the last time President Bush publicly announced a major humanitarian mission in the Muslim world? When has America’s name been so publicly attached to a significant development initiative in the regions that are feeding the extremist threat? Compare that to the President’s AIDS initiative in Africa where, regardless of how much funding has actually been appropriated, the simple fact of having put the spending into the budget has had an enormous impact on perceptions of American involvement on the continent.

Reception of Erdogan’s initiative has apparently been mixed among Turkey’s Kurds, who emphasize that the platform as announced is a good first step, but the economic investment needs to be reinforced by more concrete cultural initiatives. So obviously public relations alone won’t do the trick. But it counts for something.

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