Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Open Letter to Mr. Barack Obama: DEAR MR. PRESIDENT

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on April 6th, 2009- 

-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 6 Nisan 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

Mr. President, I am very pleased to see an American president is visiting my native country, Turkey, in the very early days of his administration. I am writing this letter to you to provide some additional insights about the current Turkish state of affairs, with the hope that they will assist in maximizing your Excellency’s Turkey meetings. President Obama, your administration must have noticed by now that Turkey has been accomplishing some positive results by reaching out to its neighbors in recent years. New Turkish foreign policies such as disentangling historic conflicts with surrounding countries have started to bear fruit. Turkish officials now visit any country in the wider region and can shoulder an exhausted US in the region.

            The Turkish government also has been making a lot of progress when it comes to reestablishing its relationship with its Kurdish population. Until only 18 years ago, the Kurdish language was prohibited in Turkey and Kurdish identity was mostly denied. Today, an official State television channel broadcasts in Kurdish.  However, much more work needs to be accomplished in regards to other minorities. "The threat is growing nationalism and frustration with the US and Europe", a new U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Philip H. Gordon wrote as a co-author of a book on Turkey and if the upcoming Armenian Genocide legislation passes in the House, this would further vent the chauvinistic flames in Turkey and could set back possibly newly improving relations with Armenia.

            You should be aware of the fact that, Turkey’s full membership ambitions have been somewhat discouraged and disappointing. It is true that, especially after the EU granted official-candidate status to Turkey for full EU membership in 2005, the Turkish administration has slowed the much-praised reform agenda. Turkish officials have given many reasons for this sluggishness though none of them are sufficient to explain this attitude. After all, these reforms are essential Turkish citizens who strive to live better.

Today, Turkey is trying to turn yet another important corner toward fostering its democracy, with facing its own recent history. The judicial investigation into a shadowy ultranationalist group known as Ergenekon is continuing. In order to prove that democracy and Islam can properly function hand-in-hand, the Turkish democratic escapade must reach its final destination as a fully democratic, secular and modern country.  Though still a mix of politicization and disinformation has disheartened many observers whom wish to see the trials as a step toward an accountable, and democratic Turkey, not a day for vengeance.

All the same, the Turkish democratic struggle is not moving forward linearly. First off, laws that govern Turkish political parties give utmost power to party leadership. This dysfunctional process enables party leaders to become impervious party dictators, who can annul local party organizations, cherry- pick the MP candidates and hold hostage the party members by various means to keep themselves “voted in” forever. For example, Mr. Deniz Baykal, a leader of the main opposition party, is a great illustration that in the face of the decades long ballot defeats, including the one on Sunday, he is still the strongest man in his party.

Mr. Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is another example.  Mr Erdogan has been running a one-man show in the government, as the other founding fathers of the AKP have been eliminated one way or another in the recent years. The Turkish NGOs, think tanks, and colleges would have filled a big chunk of this vacuum; sadly they are neither equipped nor self-reliant enough to execute this historic role. Though the local elections promised some hopes for the future of balance equation amid dwindled support for AKP. Yet, AKP is still the winner and whether AKP collected necessary lessons or the opposition parties can resonate this new election results with the people remain to be seen. 

And there is the Turkish free press. In recent months there have been many disturbing episodes that have distressed many spectators who follow Turkey closely. First, Mr. Erdogan irately targeted the outspoken Dogan Media group urging people not to buy their newspapers. Then, tax inspectors decided to fine the same media outlet at a historic figure, which unsurprisingly overlapped with the local elections. The freedom of speech, tolerance and harsh humor are also under fire, as Mr. Erdogan persists on suing writers and caricaturists. This state of emotion prompts another sample of untouchable psychology and many Turkish experts now echo Erdogan’s authoritarian ambitions during the off the record talks.

Mr. President, from your cabinet appointments and some of the recent policies, it is clear that you value science very much. Though things are different in Turkey. It is reported that a top official at Turkey’s science agency, TUBITAK, forced the editors of its science magazine “Science and Technique” to remove a cover story on the work of Darwin. This incident comes into sight to be a sign of the discomfort with the theory of evolution. It is acknowledged that Darwinism is a powerful theory, yet it shouldn’t be taught as a scientific certainty. However, Turkish youngsters have right to know and discuss this theory as well as others.

Dear Mr. President, this letter is written in light of a Turkish phrase, which is common in my culture, “I am telling my daughter, so the bride will hear it.”  The real audience of this letter should be the Turkish politicians and Turkish people I mention within. If the people of my country covet to attain a modern democratic and secular state with fully functioning elements, no one can stand against this will. Nevertheless, one never know how a miracle happens: Perhaps hearing some of Turkey’s shortcomings from a popular and transformational American president might just do the trick and assist to prepare the groundwork: this time for our ‘change’

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Talking with Bob Woodward as Party Lines Tighten

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on March 24th, 2009-
-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 24 mart 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

There is much more anger than hope, teetering than beaming in the US Capital these days. The party lines are drawing tighter, rhetoric is getting harsher and attacks are becoming viler. Despite all of Obama’s promises to change the old way of politics, an adverse weather seems to be brewing, to the concern of many.
The Center for National Policy, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, DC, recently organized a discussion about the roots of the cruel attacks by parties that are apparently sucking away all the goodwill that was supposed to be around by now. Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, pointed out at this discussion that so many of today’s policy issues are not artificial; on the contrary they are real and create divergence in American politics. The new administration has a mandate based on a great majority in the House, which has not been the case in America for a long time. Mann continued: “The Obama Administration is setting out new policies and changing the direction of the country with this mandate.” Hence the current political outlook is that this administration, headed by a very different president and the worse economic crises in decades is creating panic, a little in some people, and very much more in others. Nevertheless, whether one likes it or not, ballots are still the most fundamental part of democracy and it showed last November that they matter even today.
On the other hand, Obama’s promise to reach to the other side of the isle is clearly failing. Norman Ornstein, from the American Enterprise Institute, elaborated thus during the same discussion: “In Washington, DC, advisories became enemies now.” There is very little willingness from the Republicans to get involved with the current legislative process and their motive to stay aside makes new legislations even more discordant.
I participated, together with about two dozen people, in a casual meeting in Washington, DC, and listened to the iconic investigative reporter, writer and journalist Bob Woodward. As we all know, Mr. Woodward, together with Carl Bernstein, another Washington Post reporter, unearthed a series of cover-ups in the early 1970s which later came to be known as the Watergate Scandal that eventually led to the resignation of an American President, the first time in history.
Last September, Mr. Woodward published a book called The War Within, which talked about the era before the troop ‘surge’ in Iraq and how the decision-making process toiled within the White House. Though nobody wants to remember that phase anymore, Woodward, for almost 3 hours, guided us through those days in the West Wing, told us about the face-to-face interviews he conducted last summer with President Bush and his senior aides, hinted at some juicy incidents during the last 8 years of the Bush White House, a period that was legendary for its furtiveness.
During the series of interviews, Bush told Woodward that he never asked the opinions of his closest advisers, including the Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about going into the Iraq War. Woodward concluded that there were practically no “come to Jesus meetings” with these policy makers about the war decision because Bush said: “I already knew what they think about going into the war.” Woodward’s other interviews also concurred that during the same period Pentagon as well lacked strategic leadership. For instance, Pete Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Woodward that he never doubted or second-guessed about invading Iraq. It is hard to believe that even the uppermost military leadership asked no solid questions prior to such a crucial decision.
After this extended conversation with Woodward, it became even more apparent that during the Bush era the decision mechanisms did not work properly: the intelligence agencies reported what the senior administration officials wanted to hear, the military leadership neither asked the right questions, nor prepared after invasion plans, many senior officials weren’t part of the debate and the whole country was ready to kick some butts. During the conversation, Woodward himself also took part of the blame: “I did some reporting and claimed that the reasons were too weak for going into war, though I didn’t push as much as I was supposed to.”
Clive Crook of Financial Times recently argued: “Mr. Obama’s effort to fold the wider agenda of healthcare reform, new investment in education and a tax on carbon emissions into the short-term plans for addressing the economic crisis is not at all convincing.” But these matters should be separated. It seems that Obama utilizes the economic crisis much like Bush treated 9/11: using the period to do things that you cannot do in other times. A former presidential appointee official recently described the present situation to me as ‘every decision Obama administration takes looks like a gamble.’
Woodward says that it is almost impossible to attribute any tough challenge or objection to the superiors in Washington, DC. People see many issues as ‘above their pay grade’ and are unwilling to get involved with a decision making process “to keep their nose clean.” This was the case pre and during the Iraq War, and that is the case today for many critical decisions regarding the economic crisis and the Afghanistan war. The administration and the legislatures once more are caught in extraordinary times and are abiding the orders without reservations or second-guessing. Example, the humongous stimulus packages debate at the Capitol Hill that many American lawmakers signed the bill without knowing most of its clauses and specifics, while the Republicans acted like they ‘didn’t want to play the game.’
Every indication in the US Capital shows that the Afghanistan war will be Obama’s learning experience, much like the Iraq war was Bush’s. Woodward asks: how was it possible that Obama so quickly made a decision to send 17,000 troops to Afghanistan? When and how did he reach this conclusion? Was there a real debating process? Voices in the room, some of whom can know the policy that takes shape behind closed doors, supported Woodward and agreed that there is indeed no grand strategy in Afghanistan today and nobody knows what the end goal is.
The American way of governing best appears when it relies on its famous checks and balances: constant push-and-pull between the three branches of the government and especially not trusting the executive one. Today, many are looking back to the post-9/11 period and wishing that there should have been more of skepticism and tough debate before taking many serious decisions, which would affect the whole world in the years to come. The hope is that at least this time around America will remember the checks and balances bestowed upon by their founding fathers are as the best way to govern. If they really want to make sure and double check on how precious this gift is, they should study Turkey, a country that president Obama will soon be visiting. Surely there can be found many lessons of what happens when there are no checks and balances in the system of governing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

American Military Leaders and Experts are Unhappy

-Published on Hurriyet Daily News on March 17th, 2009-
-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 17 mart 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

It is reported that the Obama administration has asked the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon's budget request for fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent. Following all the stimulus packages and augmented budget-spending bills, it seems that there is only one federal department receiving a cut: the American Department of Defense, or DoD.
The Pentagon has an annual budget of about $800 billion a year, however amid escalating national deficit and dues, defense cannot be invulnerable to cuts, many authorities concede, though it seems these cuts will probably be sweeping ones with the new administration. Also the other US ally countries, including Britain and especially Eastern European ones, have the same resources problems. Therefore, the US will have to deal with its shrinking operating defense budget as well as many allies’ indisposed attitude when it comes the joint operations including but not limited to the Central Asian conflicts. In a couple of private conversations lately, I was told that there is a growing concern among some military leadership that the new administration might consider being soft on Eastern Europe to Russian sway after many years of political and strategic investments to this region, and this leeway is another matter that seems to infuriate many in the field.
In the US capital, whilst the current economic downturn is being discussed, numerous frightening scenarios about exploding China and Russia and would-be upshots of such episodes around world are also other chatting points in the different panels. Many experts perceive the current economic instability as the biggest threat to many countries’ national security outlook, including the US. The Washington Post reported recently that new Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told Congress that instability in countries around the world caused by the current global economic crisis is the primary near-term security threat to the United States, rather than terrorism, Iraq’s fragility or the blackening situation in Afghanistan-Pakistan.
I participated in a series of conferences at several places in America in recent weeks and had a chance to listen to many of the active military leaders, academics and experts, both from the private and public sectors. Keep in mind, America is still fighting two wars, and also many other troubled regions and countries are being dealt with at present.
Notable discussions show that the Pentagon military leadership and defense experts are unhappy with the current cuts. The debate is continuing amongst the authorities and connoisseurs fiercely, and many suggest that, with the mammoth deficit ominous before Congress, the DoD will have to cut many of their projects, future ambitions and hopes in the imminent future, and this situation prompted many defense experts to call outright for profound changes in the US military forces. For example, among the ideas, despite the ongoing wars, cutting the Naval vessels by half or third in the coming years is gaining support. Some others say that there is an urgent needs to focus on a cadre system in the Navy – reduced Navy with enhanced mobilization readiness. One of the biggest reasons for that, simply, is that the US Treasury might not have enough money to sustain current Navy expenditures, staff numbers and their pensions. Therefore today’s deficit problems are already pushing the Pentagon to reflect on proposed intense adjusting policies in their future attitude.
It is reported that the British Navy is already overstretched and is short of funds, and the British Government doesn’t have a lot of options to borrow more capital. Thus the British military forces are already about to shrivel, and will have to also withdraw from many theaters of the world behind “an era dominated by a Blairite philosophy of active interventionism, characterized by the promotions and pursuit of values in shaping a globalised World”. And it seems that if the current economic downturn goes on, “within two or three years time”, American Military missions might catch the same choking end.
Scores of today’s challenges before the US Armed forces were not in place when the National Security Act, 1947, was written and approved after the Second World War. There is a “need for organizational changes that bring the original National Security Act of 1947 in line with reality and the redundant competing decision-making authorities in the Pentagon.” For example, nation building is one of these new contests that the US Army has been increasingly focusing in recent years that were not in the what to do list a few decades ago. US Army’s mission is getting more sophisticated and multifaceted, spending time and money in different ways and means to reach peace, without having an up-to-date road map.
Many defense experts also are worrying about the culture in the US Army. It seems that taking risk, saying ‘no’ to superiors or making ‘out of the box’ decisions is not popular in the current US Army culture. Another worry that the Army culture might be defiant to the change and also resistant to adopt new techniques and ideas, and this probability also poses a great peril for evolving new threats from different corners of the globe. Pentagon and Defense Department are having a great difficulty to attract bright people to their organizations, because it seems that the US Army doesn’t promise a dazzling future for the competent young minds; maybe promoting young risk taker lieutenants early would be one way to attract them. Though “if you were facing your third yearlong combat tour in five years, what would you do?” one said when I talked about these problems, “everyone would be worn out and fatigued” continued; and it seems the American Army is no exception to that.
Brains of the Obama administration support the current budget cuts for the DoD as “things are not as bad as Vietnam era” and call the last 8 years of bad management as reasons of today’s troubles. One expert said that military leaders’ politicization is one of the weaknesses of today’s US Army, and some military commanders coming out to defend politic decisions of former administration publicly was a worrisome point in recent times. “Actually it is hard to argue that the military has been politicized any more than other times in history. It is not heard for an active duty officer to criticize the current administration,” one retired Army personnel told me in an email exchange.
The problems are acute in the American Defense outlook, concluded another prominent defense expert. Defense strategists call for quick cut and change for the Defense staff and the culture in the system. It has been discussed in many books in the last years that the decision making process in the Pentagon is alarmingly slow and is very painful even for urgent circumstances. The much-praised recent ‘surge’ policy for the Iraq war was a proof of this slow process and it took a very long period of discussions and endless meetings. And it was a sober warning to many who already worry about the procedure. “It is not enough to make good decisions, you need to make them timely and fast” one defense specialist said at another panel. Nonetheless how the reduced Defense budget would help to drive needed changes in the Army is not known.
The US was hit by the economic crises despicably first. And it seems America’s mighty Army will be taking another batter in the coming months and years. The War on Terror has been winding down by the new administration; the fists are expected and asked to be unclenched, and US diplomats are wandering around the globe promising to listen and learn more, instead of telling and arranging. This divergence in attitudes will soon be felt across the world, though whether this transformation has been a necessity or voluntarily can be another topic to be discussed with the newest America’s state of economic uncertainty.
Ilhan Tanir lives in Washington, DC and works for a private consulting firm as a Research Director. He can be reached at:

Monday, March 09, 2009

United States of Socialistic America (USSA)?

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on March 10th, 2009-
-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 10 mart 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

In America, amid worsening economic signs and increasing unemployment rate, the worst since 1983, such anticipation has geared up the American people that they started to call for ‘real’ and ‘big’ changes louder than ever. Consequently, these deafening calls were heard by the Obama Administration to drive through its agenda even harder, larger and more revolutionarily than even the most liberal lawmakers expected. Two Tuesdays ago, Obama presented sort of a State of the Union stump speech to the joint session of the American Congress packed with optimism, hope and ‘we can do’ rhetoric following a couple of calamity centered bitter tongued talks. The beautifully delivered speech was much liked by a majority of the American people, though since then the economic picture has grow even more grim and the stock market further tumbled to the lowest point since 1996.
Obama told the fretful Congress and American people in that speech: “History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas… It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now.” The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said last Friday during her Europe tour that: “never waste a good crisis,” and Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel pre-elaborated: “This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”
So the escapade started. The $787 billion stimulus package was signed into law by President Barack Obama after $700 billion for a financial markets bailout, and $410 billion for a proposed end-of-2009 spending plan (omnibus), which includes 8500 earmarks to give hand-outs to Democratic constituencies, that have been on the table to seize such a ‘good crisis’ for a long time. Earmarks have been around for so long, and it is considered a part of the Washington, DC politics. However, it just doesn’t suit an administration that got voted on the very idea of promising to ‘change’ this way of politics and works to negate the whole idea of Obamania. Another $1 trillion is projected to go for universal healthcare. A total of almost $4 trillion deficit forecast is looming for the American Congress and many legislators are not happy with this picture, including many prominent Democrat ones.
The Obama administration’s huge spending spree budget has shows elements of redistribution of wealth patterns that would shift “much of the tax burden from middle- and low-income families to the rich.” It is a very serious budget proposal, and you can bank on it that it has made many Americans angry. Unsurprisingly, Wall Street is getting more agitated and frustrated by it, along with seeing every day one of their goddess bankers is getting grilled, ridiculed and accused of everything that went wrong with the economy, next to innumerable hard working men and women of the sector. “We’ve seen a carnival of greed here, and we need strong financial reform,” Senator Byron Dorgan said; “It can’t shut down all risk, but it certainly must prohibit the greed that we’ve seen.”
Greed is a human nature, and if it is allowed to relish, it will do so, regardless of one’s religion, nationality or country. I suspect, everybody agrees that the Wall Street CEOs and financiers have been voracious in recent years, and they deserved to be punished. What I don’t understand is how they can exclude the lawmakers that have allowed and nourished this terrain. The history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac alone shows enough evidence of these legislators’ self-indulgence and ravenousness.
Former President Bill Clinton said, on Sept. 25, 2008: “I think the responsibility the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in Congress or by me when I was President to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” Though it is known also that the Bush White House, during these years, encouraged home owning policies for everyone, including those who do not have enough money to start with.

As I started research to write this article, I was angry at Bush’s economic policies, and I was more than ready to dump all of the blame on them. I have been very! critical of new President Obama lately, and had some early admonitions about it from my dear friends. Thus, I must have been unconsciously leaning towards blaming Bush over this jumble to show my objectiveness. Though as I researched more, the color of the story also has changed.
This subprime crisis, which is considered to be the cause of the current economic meltdown, seems to have started with the regulatory changes to the Community Reinvestment Act, that “makes possible for banks to make loans to people that were clearly unqualified to receive them.” The place was Chicago, years between 1990-1995, organized by ACORN, the largest community organization in America, defended by lawyers, including Barack Obama. The story is long; what needs to be known is that ACORN won the battle, and across America, this act pushed banks to give these risky loans aplenty, with Fannie/Freddie leading.
And then the story comes to Freddie/Fannie’s spending spree to make sure that there is no one to regulate and impede their great enterprises. To do this, these institutions spent over $200 million hiring firms to lobby the lawmakers and giving campaign donations to these same lawmakers. Apparently the effort was not wasted. There is abundant evidence out on You Tube, web and newspapers archives that would prove “the [lawmakers] have repeatedly fought back [any] efforts to reform the two mortgage banking giants” during the 2000s, and repeatedly denied any problems with these institutions.
“A review of Federal Election Commission records back to 1989 reveals Obama in his three complete years in the Senate is the second largest recipient of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae campaign contributions, behind only Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn...” who has been in the House for decades. Next we see that former Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac top executives were being hired as top advisers to Obama’s campaign and the transition team.
And there are other well-known actors who helped to deregulate the industry. Before the inauguration, had threads to beg Obama not to hire Bob Rubin and Larry Summers. In 1998, today’s Obama’s top economic advisers, Rubin and Summers, along with FED Chairman Alan Greenspan, “[were] proponent[s] within the Clinton administration of the Gramm bill to deregulate the banking industry, and as such, bears responsibility for [today’s] economic failures”. In addition, the new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, former head of New York FED, was the man in charge of Wall Street since 2003 and during the meltdown. So America has an economic team, which was formed by some of the biggest economic actors behind the current catastrophe. It would be very unfair to blame these actors ‘only’, though I cannot stop thinking that their mistaken policies should have at least stopped them from being promoted to steer the country’s economy, once more. If I were to be drawn in by the conspiracy theories, I would have said the bankruptcy of Freddie/Fannie and other giant banks was long ago projected and the chief architects of them were being rewarded by the Obama campaign.
So my analogy goes like this: if you leave a little boy in a room filled with chocolates and candies, without any kind of supervision for a long time, it is hard not to imagine of the damage that kid would do to himself. Wall Street, left alone so long, with almost no regulation, and encouraged by the Government, created mortgage institutions to play with risky loans.
Responsible Wall Street executives starting with Fannie/Freddy should be punished, harshly, but as the new president says: ‘Day of reckoning’ is here, and everybody should have a piece of it, no exceptions to those legislatures who oversaw the melting down phase. They, too, should say sorry, and better to leave the theater now. Enough damage has been done already.
If the responsible politicians at the beacon of democracy do not show enough ‘audacity’ and accountability to leave the scene, I am not sure how the citizens of countries like mine, Turkey, with its new and young democracy, lacking watchdog institutions and many transparency regulations would have hope of having conscientious politicians and accountable times. It is time for America to guide and set an example, so the rest of the world would follow, and to tell their own selfish politicians that their ‘days of reckoning’ also have come.

Sosyalist Amerikan Birlesik Devletlerine Dogru mu?


Amerika’da, hızla kötülesen ekonomik sinyaller, ve 1983’den beri en kötü seviyeye gelen issizlik oranları, Amerikan halkının daha temel ve büyük degiˇimler istemesine yol açmiˇ durumda. Bu yüksek sesleniˇ, öyle görunüyor ki, Obama ve takımı tarafından duyuldu ve yeni yönetimin ajendası daha cesaretli, buyuk ve hatta devrimci kriterleri ile itilmeye baˇlandı. Iki Salı öncesi, Obama’nın Amerikan Kongresine verdigi konusma umit ve ‘yapabiliriz’ nosyonlari ile dolu idi. Harika hitabet tarzı ile Amerikan halkının begenisini toplayan Obama, daha sonrasindaki haftalarda ise hem ekonomik resmin daha kötüleˇmesine hem de Amerikan borsasının 1996 da gordugu noktayi gormesine engel olamadi.
Obama Kongreye yaptıgı konuˇmada tarihin her tarihteki her ekonomik krizde Amerikan halkının cesaretli ve büyük fikirlerle cevap verdigini ve ˇimdi de ekonomiye yeni bir ˇekil vermenin zamanın geldigini, ‘degisimin’ ˇimdi baslayacagını duyurdu. Dıˇleri bakanı Hillary Clinton ise geçtigimiz Cuma günü: iyi bir krizi hiç bir zaman bosgeçme’ dedi. Obama’nın müsteˇarı ise: “Bu kriz bize daha önce yapamayacagımiz seyleri yapmamız için imkan saglayacak” dedi.
Ve böylece macera basladı. 787 milyar dolarlik ekonomiyi canlandırma paketi kanun haline geldikten sonra, 700 milyar dolarlık finans marketlerini kurtarma paketi ve sonrasinda 410 milyar dolarlık 2009 yılı bütcesi. Bu son kısımın icinde 8500 tane earmark olarak adlandırılan, kısacası kongre üyelerinin geldikleri bölgeleri kollayan harcamaları Kongre’de tartısılmaya mahal vermeden geçirmek. Bu earmark harcamalari Washington, DC politikasının uzun yılardır ayrılmaz bir parcasıdır. Bununla birlikte, eski tarzla yapılan bu politika oyunu, bütün secim sloganını ‘degisim’ üzerine kuran Obama’nin verdigi butun sozleri gecirsiz hale getirmekte. Bunlar dıˇında 1 trilyon dolarlık saglık harcaması ve toplamda 4 trilyonluk bütce acıgı Amerikan Kongresini beklemekte ve bu durumdan memnun olmayan bircok kanun yapıcılar parti ayrimi gozetmeksizin Kongrede beklemekte.
Obama yönetiminin bu büyük harcama iceren bütcesinde ülkedeki zenginligi yeniden dagıtmaya yönelik bazı politikalar da göze carpmakta: “ verginin büyük cogunlugu orta ve düsük kazançlı ailelerden zenginlige kaydırılmakta.” Ve bu çok önemli ve ciddi degisim birçok Amerikalının canını sıkmıs durumda. Wall Street ve Amerikan Borsası da bu durumdan memnun degil ve ayrıca hergun baˇka bir büyuk bankerlerinin cagirilması ve rezil edilmesi ve aç gözlülükle suçlanması ayrıca bu sektörün canını sikiyor.
Dogru, açgözlülük bir insanlık eksikligi, ve izin verildigi takdirde, din, dil, ülke ve yer tanımadan her yerde büyüyecktir. Sanıyorum herkes Wall Street patronlarının son yılarda yaptıklarından dolayi suçlayacaktır ve haklıdır. Ama bu ortamı hazırlayan ve devam etmesini saglayan Amerikan kongre üyelerine neden kimse hesap sormamakta?
Obama yönetimi 1990 ların sonunda Amerikan ekonomisini yöneten ve o zamanlar yaptıgı reformlarla bugünlerdeki ekonomik krize zemin hazırlayan birçok ekonomik aktörü yeniden kabinesini alarak, bir kez daha Amerikan ekonomisini yönetmesi icin imkan verdi. Larry Summers, Bob Rubin and Tim Geithner sadece birkacı. Bu insanları tabi ki baˇımıza gelen bütün kötülüklerden sorumlu tutmuyoruz. Yalnız, en azından yaptıgı yanlıslıkların kendilerini yeniden atanmalarına engel olmasıni beklerdik.
Bu nedenle bu benzerligi söyle özetleyebiliriz: Eğer çikolata ve şekerleme ile dolu olan bir odada, uzun bir süre için hic bir türlü denetimi olmadan küçük bir çocuk bırakırsanız, bu çocugun kendisine yapacagi zararı tahmin etmek zor olmaz. Ayni sekilde Wall Street, uzun bir süre hicbir duzenleme yapilmadan yalnız bırakıldı, ve Hükümet tarafından kurulan morgage banklari basta olmak uzere, riskli krediler ile oynamak için teşvik edildi.
Sorumlu Wall Street Yöneticileri Fannie/ Freddy ile başlayarak, sert biçimde cezalandırılması gerektiğini inaniyoruz. Ama yeni baskanının da söyledigi gibi: 'hesaplaşma' günu geldi, ve herkes, bu hesaplasmadan üstüne düseni almalı, Amerikali kanun yapıcılar da bundan mustagni olmayarak. Sadece üzgünüm demeleri yeterli degil, bu tiyatrodan bu kadar diyip cekilmeleri gerekiyor.
Eğer demokrasinin parlayan yıldızı olan Amerika’daki siyasetci ve Kongre üyeleri bunu yapamazsa, yeni ve genç bir demokrasi sahibi olan Türkiye gibi ülkelerin vatandaşları, daha sorumlu ve şeffaf günlere yakınlaˇcagı hayal haline geliyor. Amerika yeniden örnek olmali ve rehberlik etmeli-ki diger ülkelerde de hesaplaˇma zamanı gelen siyasetcilere kapıyı gösterme imkanımız olsun.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Old Rivals Meet at the Throng of an Unexpected Vestibule: Bush's War-On-Terror Policies

Iraq was heavily being discussed at every corner in Washington, DC, on the radio programs and TV networks across the America in the years between 2003 and 2008. At the same period, the Afghanistan war, the first war on the other hand, was long forgotten after the initial quick and sounding victory, ousting the Taliban forces from power, and installing the Karzai interim government in its place.
Nowadays the picture in the US capitol seems to be changed completely. Washington, DC’s think tanks are busying themselves with Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) talks along with countless TV discussions and comments in the daily papers.
There is practically no one left today that is defending the start of the Iraq war. That was a wrong war, with flawed intelligence and strategy, as we know it today. After the early period of ‘cake walking’ to Baghdad and toppling Saddam’s sculpture first and capturing him later, the unpredicted chart of the war started. Later on, it turned out with the vast recollections in forms of published books, interviews or chronicles that the violence in Iraq was out of control, Al-Qaeda was gaining control in many places, and Shia militias were effective in the south of Iraq and also parts of Baghdad while the ‘stay in the course’ claptrap was being preached in Washington, DC.
On the other hand, the Democrats, the opposite force that was supposed to prove the legislative power’s independency, and to oversee the executive branch, were rallying with the Republicans. People still remember those days when the Senate was 50-50 divided between the two parties, and the Democrats indeed had the power to stop the “joint resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq” in 2002. However, about all of the leaders of the Senate Democrats went ahead with the ‘yea’ vote and subsequently, Mr. Obama's presidential candidacy was bolstered in both the primary and general election by his early opposition to this war. His primary rival Sen. Hillary Clinton also voted ‘for’ for this resolution, and doubtlessly it was this position that cost her the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Opposing most of the Bush Administration’s war policies was in fact working well up to one point. While Obama was not in the American Senate and out of sight, he was against the Iraq war, rightly so; when he was under the spotlight and on the road to the White House, he was challenging the ‘surge’ policy; the policy that practically did not have a substitute course of action. If Obama’s anti-surge stand and suggestion of pulling out of Iraq had been listened to, it would have had dreadful consequences as such to create a power vacuum in the region and pull many neighboring actors into the conflict. By the time it was near to the presidential elections of November 2008, it was clear that the surge policy, which was preliminary proposed by the rival Republican nominee Senator McCain, was making headways and paving the way for the unanticipated success in Iraq.
Affirmative: Obama’s anti-surge stance, under normal circumstances was supposed to be a fatal blow to his presidential prospects and was enough to hand out the election victory to McCain. Nevertheless, deepening economic crisis, and American people’s weariness of the Republican presidency emerged with McCain’s being old and out of e-mailing state, and brought him to the “wrong side of the history”. It was a time for change and Obama was there to seize the moment.
All the same, since his election, Obama has already disappointed many of his supporters with his appointments and pronouncements. During a panel last week at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, DC, Jeffrey Rosen, George Washington University Law Professor, and “one of the most influential legal commentators in America”, told the audience that “tremendous pressures both economic, constitutional and political already pulling Obama” in opposite directions from the Obama we knew during the campaign. Dr. Rosen elaborated his stand: Obama’s new national security team already is defending many of Bush’s ‘war on terror’ pillars. For instance, Obama’s CIA director pick, Mr. Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, endorsed CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ policy, under which agents seize terrorism suspects and take them to other countries without extradition proceedings. Panetta also reported saying, if necessary, he would further seek additional authority to use harsher interrogation techniques on a person to reveal information. The Nation, a leftist magazine, said ‘not a single member of Obama’s foreign-policy [and] national-security team opposed the war.” New York Times reported that Mrs. Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, the president's representative before the US Supreme Court, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al-Qaeda should be subject to the battlefield law, meaning indefinite detention without a trial, even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.
Amid Obama’s ordering the troop increase in Afghanistan, invoking State Secrets Privileges in anti-torture lawsuits, green lighting more missile attacks in tribal areas in Pakistan, changing the mind on the aggressive surveillance program even before the elections and holding up many of Bush’s war on terror policies, the new administration seems to be “embracing” and “endorsing” of Bush’s National Security cautions, that once found so odious. Mr. Bush took Iraq as his central war and he had forgotten the one in Afghanistan, while Mr. Obama seems to take on the Afghanistan war, as announcing pulling out from Iraq, a year before the previous administration estimated. Though still, Obama projects more flexibility, and openness to the adjustments of the timetable, and leaving a relatively vast number of non-combat troops until the end of 2011 in Iraq. A night before Obama announced the timetable for Iraq, McCain and the Republicans met with him and showed support for the plan. This uncanny convergence made it more evident that the realities of the office already has changed Obama’s many promises into “stay on the course” principal when it comes to the national security issues.
I have participated in many discussions on Afghanistan-Pakistan these days in different panels and circles of Washington, DC. One of the latest talks was by Sen. McCain at the American Enterprise Institute, or AEI, or known as ‘the bunker of the neo-cons.’ Leaving aside the conspiracy theories for people who know-it-all to talk, I thought the person who predicted the early-accurate but bitter solution for Iraq should have meaningful analysis about today’s troubled country as well; so many of the world’s renowned news agencies and newspapers had the same idea, in the room, as I saw.
McCain talked about 30 minutes and answered many unscreened questions; contrary to the new habit in town of taking only the gingered questions. McCain’s strategy for Afghanistan for success was: reapply the counterinsurgency principles, help the Afghans to surge, increase and reform non-military assistance, get control of the narcotics problem, work regionally with the AfPak’s neighbors, talk and explain to the American people about the occurrences in the region, timely and honestly.
The talk seemed to have more of military solutions than reconciliation and civil ones. While answering questions, the Senator emphasized that the war in Afghanistan will be a long one, and it is not enough to find extreme militants who kill only; there are other civilian solutions that also need to be put in place. At the same time he was also asking ‘nicely’ for more help from the Transatlantic alliances: pointing out their collaboration over the years, rather than complaining about them as so often has been the case in the center of the talks in Washington, DC recently. Lastly, McCain clasped Obama’s additional troop decision, however he added that the White House doesn’t have a grand strategy for Afghanistan yet. So far though, in Afghanistan as well, it seems there isn’t any big difference between the old rivals or the succeeding administrations.
In short, these early days of the new administration in Washington, DC, some of the issues that were powerful enough to define the primaries and even the presidential elections just a couple of months ago, now seem to be glib, lost and forgotten; though the faces have changed and the rhetoric too, along with more elegant utterances.