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    Will Turkey risk fighting with Syria?

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD29 June 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 1560

    U.S. taxpayers have spent $ 1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many Western soldiers have lost lives there as well. No one in the United States or in the Europe wants to waste money and lives anymore. The politicians and generals are under serious pressure. In Western democracies, citizens have demonstrated in the elections that they do not want to fight.

    However, U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron have promised to encourage and support the "democratic" opposition in the Middle East. They encouraged the societies to revolt in expectation of support. Nowadays, those who have faith in what they have promised are holding protest marches on streets, shouting, and being hit by bullets.

    We have to find answers for two questions about Obama's statements. First, which country's taxpayers will pay the costs of supporting the insurgents? Second, which countries' armies will run the risk of sacrificing soldiers for the sake of that protection?

    Ending out-of-date regimes necessitates a price to be paid. Nevertheless, as the mission is not accomplished, the character of the insurgencies has rapidly been changing, which makes the issue more complicated, adding to its cost.

    As seen in Libya, it is difficult and time consuming to try to topple a government solely by using air forces. The generals and politicians feel comfortable for the time being, since the casualties are at a minimum with this strategy. However, as the burden on the national defense budgets of the interventionist countries increase, the taxpayers will inevitably raise their voices more loudly.

    The generals and politicians, thinking that they are unable to tolerate a larger number of casualties, will not consent to an intervention led by land forces.

    The issue in Syria, however, is a bit more complicated. "The West" is only able to send "harsh messages" to President Bashar al-Assad (i.e. "If you do not make reforms, a military intervention might be an option"). Yet who is going to handle such an intervention is unclear. Is it Obama, who is choosing to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan? Is it the U.K., which is dramatically cutting its military spending? Is it France, which is whining already? In this sense, it seems a good idea for the West to unload the burden on others, especially on those who are interested in "establishing democracies."

    When a small Syrian military unit approached the Turkish border, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "The two countries may fight."

    In my opinion, there is no need to worry about such an event for two reasons: First, historical experience, and second, developing democracy in Turkey.

    Turkey's recent history is full of such "worrisome" statements. For instance, when the Kingdom of Iraq was toppled, there were many statements in the Western media calling on Turkey for action. Also, after the Iranian revolution in 1979, similar statements were frequent. Similarly, nowadays, there is anxiety about Syria. Turkey's steps toward democratization and liberalization should also eliminate worries. The Turkish people, just as in other Western democracies, are not happy paying taxes for small-scale wars. They have enjoyed a high-quality and comfortable life. They have discovered the meanings of the liberal economy and new consumption patterns thanks to the economy and trade. They have also learned to reward and punish politicians with their votes.

    To conclude, military interventions in the Middle East may replace politicians in the near future; yet whether these politicians are going to be in the Europe or in the Middle East depends on the increasing costs and what time brings.


    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 30.06.2011