It is great to be on an island where hardly anyone knew November 6 was the Election Day in America, or cared much about who won it. It’s like being on another planet on Earth. In fact, it is not surprising that no more than a few people here feel indebted to the Americans for generously electing the president of the world: After all, the famous “Damn your curiosity, Colombus!” is a slogan invented in these lands.
The “devil we know” thinks that “Turkey is a great Islamic democracy.” He never told us why he does not think Turkey is a great democracy without a religious prefix. Could that be because in this great Islamic democracy the prime minister thinks that spectators who booed Cabinet ministers after a tennis tournament are “terrorist hooligans” and prosecutors think that a pianist’s atheist tweets can “lead to a collapse of public order?”
The Americans have their own good reasons to think that “Yes, we can!” And we in this part of the world have our good reasons to wonder “Yes, but can you?”
This is an account of how Election 2012 may resonate in our lands in the narrative of an American friend:
“He does not think he is a rock star... He understands that you cannot ‘help’ a country by forcing [its people] to adopt democracy according to a 12-step plan... Perhaps some of the growth comes within a country taking responsibility for the conflicts within their borders. And perhaps if men and politicians don’t want to fight those battles, the next generation, led by 12-year-old girls, will have a dream worth fighting for. I hope for their sake that they do. I hope that the one thing that they don’t take from America is the silly idea that girls have value when they are a size two and sexy. Maybe we should start shutting up and stop spreading our superficial idiocy around the world. Yes, I believe that we should help struggling nations, but we should also know when to stop.
“I would have preferred that [Barack] Obama be more concrete about the Armenian genocide and call it what it is. But, honestly, let’s look at the cost/benefit. We need Turkey. It’s the only Muslim country that we can rely on. It may be a dysfunctional relationship, but it’s a relationship – like it or not.
“Personally, I think that Obama has improved our status with other nations... [We] don’t want a cowboy. [We] don’t want a president who threatens war/military action at the drop of a hat. I remember reading a columnist months ago when the Syrian conflict was getting out of control. He recommended that the U.S. bomb them. I thought that it was very kind of him to loan out our military so we could, once again, in the future be accused of supporting the wrong side. I want a president who can be firm, but not vindictive.
“Yes, I think Obama will make mistakes. I expect him to make mistakes. But I also expect him to learn from them because he is humble enough to learn. If things don’t go his way, he will not blame the working class, or the Muslims, or the immigrants or the Iranians or the Syrians or the Turks. He will look for a solution. I don’t agree with all his policies or his decisions. But I do agree with his qualities... Here’s to the next four years…”
But can he? The Middle East is still the slippery surface it always has been. According to the Greek analyst Nicholas Biniaris, “Obama has no plans for our beautiful area... The changes in the Arab world were and are too abrupt and unpredictable to organize under one rubric. The factions, sects, nationalities... social, economic and gender oriented grievances are too complex to be even comprehended, not least addressed. The human volcano has erupted and the magma is still sizzling hot.”
Mr. Biniaris thinks that “Islam this time is heading for its Thirty Years War (or most probably its Hundred Years war), but this may be the catharsis it needs to be ushered into the 21st century.” Welcome back, President Obama. Here’s to the next 30 (or 100) years!
(This article was published in Hurriyet Daily News online on Nov. 9, 2012.)