Declines and fall of empires are built into their exploitative constructions: they create problems that can only be solved by changing those exploitative constructions. Communities and unions, being big, also create problems they cannot solve without cooperation, even the deep cooperation of membership.
By 2020 the membership of the European Union will probably have expanded from the present 27 far toward the membership of the Council of Europe (44), or even the European members of the OSCE (50+). It is already the world’s No. 1 economy, counting not only as the USA does, the eurozone, but all 27 members; No. 2 being the USA and No. 3 China with which EU relates much better than the USA.
By 2020 the « C » in the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, OIC, may have moved from « conference » via « countries » to « community », downgrading borders mainly drawn by the West. The EU, with, say, 750 million inhabitants, is a West-East belt from the Atlantic to China (1.3 billion). The OIC, with, say, also 1.3 billion inhabitants, is a parallel West-East belt further South, also starting from the Atlantic, Morocco, but ending much further East, at the Pacific, in Mindanao, the Philippines, where the Muslims landed centuries before the Spanish Christians.
Relations have not been peaceful between the two belts, with Turkey as a linchpin geographically, with one foot in either. The Omayyad expansion westward changed the map, so did the Ottoman conquest of the East Roman empire in 1453. But the Crusades eastward, the land battle at Kosovo Polje 1389, the sea battle of Lepanto 1571 and the land battle of Wien 1683 stopped Ottoman expansion. Habsburgians and Ottomans settled in an unstable equilibrium still shaping Balkan politics, only to be beaten, both of them, by the Anglo-American-French First World War alliance in general, and the Sykes-Picot 1916 betrayal and Balfour 1917 Declaration about a Jewish home in mandated Palestine in particular.
Added to this comes the problematic Turkish-Kurdish-Armenian triangle within which the expulsion and murder of Armenians took place, and the long-lasting war between Turks and Kurds.
And then there is the ally of most EU countries, the USA, with its attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan, its alliance with Israel and joint threat against an also threatening Iran, its use of Pakistan probably up to a civil war and disintegration of that country, its CIA-Rand and Corporation inspired massacre in Indonesia 1965-1966.
And yet: Turkey holds the key to an active peace between the two belts, with Istanbul as linchpin within the linchpin. Turkey straddles the continents. Turkey straddles the religions, both European-secular and Asian-Muslim. The Ottoman Empire straddled the crucial divide between Arab and non-Arab Islam, being the seat of the last Khalifat. Without Turkey being member of both camps, as important in the EU as in a coming dynamic OIC, the two West-East belts might easily develop frictions, sparks, fires. With Turkey cooperation covering more than 2 billion, almost a third of humanity is feasible. A condition is that EU countries distance themselves from the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. That is coming.
Turkey also holds the key to Germany’s serious depopulation problem: whereas a US, French and UK mother on the average gives birth to 2.1, 1.9 and 1.7 children respectively, a German mother gives birth to only 1.3 (reproduction assumes 2.1-2.2). Turkish babies with German education from Day 1 is the answer to that.
Who can fill the gap to run the impressive German machinery? Immigrants, of course. How about Eastern Europeans, Russians? Too much crime, too much mafia. Why are Turks better? Because they are Muslims and Muslims are today more moral than Christians, professing the shahadah, praying, practicing the Ramadan, Zakat and the Hajj when Christians maybe go to church once a year.
According to public opinion data only 3 percent in the Netherlands voted No in the constitution referendum because of Turkey, and in France only 6% (the issue was the constitution itself). The French problem is not Turkey, but how after Turkey to say no to Tunis-Algeria-Morocco. But they are not European, and not bridges to more European countries in Caucasus and Central Asia.
Turkey has an alternative to EU membership: a dynamic OIC, not an unstable US-Israel alliance. But the EU has no alternative. The road to a truly European Union passes through Turkey, but it has to give the same autonomy to their Kurds as EU will give to Turkey.
What factors will pave the way out of the present stalemate?
First, the decline of the US Empire. The USA has lost in Iraq and will do the same in Afghanistan; hopefully EU countries will pull out before that. Without the USA peace is the by far better alternative. The EU may be ready for small military operations, but not for US size wars that in addition are clear failures.
Second, the Turkish-Kurdish-Armenian triangle is loosening up, reducing that argument – which also applies to EU many members.
Third, the China factor. Turkey may hold some of the keys to a solution to the Uighur situation in Xinjiang: balance between Beijing and Ankara. EU, soon to border on China, could be helpful and be a party to something encompassing half of humanity; but only with Turkey both in EU and the OIC.
Finally, there is France, the cradle of human rights and the home to a state secularism forbidding textiles, hijab, in schools. They see Turkey offending the former – maybe more the Ottoman Empire than Turkey – and they see Turkey straying away from the state secularism of the Father of the country, Kemal Atatürk. The first factor will improve and the second factor will dwindle in importance, as France itself will stray away, joining the neo-religious wave all over, more in search of a moral base secularism never produced than esoteric dogma. But this will take some time.
By that time Iceland and Norway will also have joined. And Istanbul will become the glittering center of a vast postmodernity.
20 July 2009
(1) See Johan Galtung, The Fall of the US Empire – And then What? Transcend University Press, 2009