News Ticker powered by Fox News

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Turkey Trip: Right Move for Struggling Obama Foreign Policy

Destination, Turkey
posted at 12:16 pm on March 7, 2009
by Ed Morrissey

During the campaign, Barack Obama promised to visit a Muslim nation in the first 100 days of his administration as a gesture of friendship.  Speculation over the destination has increased since his inauguration, with the early betting going heavily to Indonesia, where he spent a few years of his childhood.  Instead, Hillary Clinton announced today that Obama would visit Turkey, which makes more sense diplomatically as well as symbolically (via William Amos):

"Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, made the announcement on Saturday as she met with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to enlist Turkish help in moving forward the Middle East peace process.

"Mr Obama’s visit to Turkey will be an opening step in his long-standing promise to improve relations with the Muslim world. The visit, which will follow the G20 summit in London on April 2, is expected to coincide with the Second Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, due to be held in Istanbul on April 6 and 7. The forum seeks to 'address some of the ongoing tensions and divides across cultures and religions'.

"Making a major speech there on US-Muslim relations will enable Mr Obama to tick off another campaign promise. Although by choosing Turkey, which is generally regarded a bastion of moderate Islam, he will opting for a less challenging political environment than if he were to travel to the heart of the Arab world."

Unlike the Telegraph, I see that as a feature and not as a bug.  It sends exactly the right message: that the US will engage Muslims who organize in rational ways and allow political freedom ahead of other nations that oppress and radicalize their people.  Indonesia may not have been a bad choice either for that message, but they have not succeeded as well as Turkey in keeping radicalism out of their politics and their governance.  Obama may not be opting for a “less challenging political environment” but instead challenging other Muslim nations to emulate that environment.

Also, it sends a message to other Muslim nations about Israel.  Turkey and Israel have close ties, with Turkey being the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel (1949), as well as a major importer of Israeli arms.  Of late, those ties have been strained by Israel’s operations in Gaza last year, but the links remain strong.  The symbolism of putting Turkey ahead of other Muslim nations in this regard cannot be overlooked, either.

Turkey has long been a friend of the West and the US, and should be recognized for those efforts.  This is an excellent choice.


My Thoughts

Ed Morrissey makes some excellent points about the wisdom of Obama's choice of Turkey as his first contact with the Muslim world.

When many heard of his promise to visit a Muslim country within his first 100 days, there was much worry that he might go to Iran or Syria. Those would have been disastrous on a JFK-Kruschev-Vienna level.

Even other US allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia wouldn't have been as good because of their hostile feelings toward Israel and the human rights violations.

Whether all of this that Ed brought up was actually discussed within the Obama administration is unknown, but it was a stroke of genius on his part. Let's hope that this is the change in his approach to diplomatic decisions that he needs in his administration. He has had too many missteps lately in diplomacy. Then again even a broken clock is right twice a day.

No comments:

Post a Comment