There are a minimum of “four on the porch” when discussing bilateral relations between nations. And in the current geopolitical environment, there is perhaps no more imminent need than the maintenance of strong and cohesive policy consensus between the United States and the Republic of Turkey.
Why do I use the analogy of “four on the porch”? It is because in any discussion of our bilateral agreements there are a minimum of four perspectives.
- How the average Turk views U.S. policy toward his nation and values.
- How the average American views Turkish policy with regard to our nation and values.
- How does the Turk view his nation’s domestic policy goals?
- How does the American view his nation’s domestic policy goals?
We cannot separate out what we have experienced on native soil when making a leap to a foreign policy front. So even when two individuals join into earnest dialogue regarding foreign policy, their understanding of domestic policy is also seated on the porch.
We are created beings of the highest order. Part of our hierarchical superiority in the animal kingdom is based on our ability to capture and process our observations on levels which far exceed our lesser counterparts. The Anatolian Shepherd may understand that he is at the top of his game with superior speed, agility and eyesight. But the Anatolian Shepherd will not discern if he is herding the sheep in Turkey or protecting a flock in West Texas. He is an Anatolian Shepherd and understands he is amir of the range. But he does not recite the Pledge of Allegiance or the Shahada.
We are both strengthened and burdened with the gifts bestowed upon us. We know where we were born, our genealogy and exactly what we think of any current political climate. King Solomon acknowledged our uniqueness in the first chapter of the book of Proverbs. He noted that we are capable of wisdom, insight, discretion and seeking guidance. We can understand riddles and make a leap from proverbs to conceptual arches. I was introduced to the world of Nasreddin Hodja by a Turkish friend and in listening to the stories, I understand a bit more about the culture of the Ottoman Empire. So we all come to the table with our gifts. But we also offer up our foibles.
Embracing Kantian ethics is all good and fine, of course. This deontological theory, bursting forth during a time of Enlightenment is multi-faceted in application. With an anchor in moral law which bridges over to a humanity which recognizes that humans must never be treated as a means to an end but always as an end in themselves, a Kantian posture presents the best of all worlds. What begins with moral imperative compliments aspects of human autonomy. Law is necessary because law is the beginning point for human freedom. In knowing how our government works on our behalf for both safety and well-being, we can pursue our employment and leisure activities.
Beyond the Kantian ethics and a realm of human desire for freedom of choice and the right to self-determination lie the Department of State for two very unique nations; countries organized under different principles of governance and certainly, colorful histories in their own right.
In actuality, the United States and Turkey have a friendship which spans nearly two centuries. We established diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire in 1831. After World War I, we cemented a diplomatic relationship with the Turkish Republic in 1927. We forged agreements under the umbrella of the Truman Doctrine and your nation became a NATO ally in 1952.
Beyond what is happening with domestic policy in the Republic of Turkey are the important bilateral movements of your nation and her firm ally (suck in your breath!), the US. On an international level, both nations work within the confines of law. We do the hard work of policy under the mandates of legal frameworks, trade agreements and treaties. Lesser tools, such as MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) are also deployed. Whilst not legally binding, the MoU’s are based on mutual respect. They are “gentlemen’s agreements” in a nicely tailored suit. These understandings represent a convergence of will between the parties to act in concert for an intended line of action. Just as an example, when I traveled to Ghana, West Africa as a military officer supporting a joint military mission, my entrance to the nation was dependent on a MoU.
Beyond the basic agreements of which many of us are aware, there is a “Cloud” of information available regarding the acronymic organizations with a membership of nations. The Republic of Turkey is a member of WTO, OSCE, OIC, BSEC, the IMF, World Bank and a Dialogue Partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
There are Turkish nationals who would perhaps desire a more active role of the United States within your domestic front. We all wish for the Good Fairy to wave a wand and turn our pumpkin into a celestial carriage. But in the end, domestic policy and governance belongs within the hands of those who reside on native soil. The Republic of Turkey faces many challenges. The nation has avoided an “Arab Spring”: a largely failed model which your president and prime minister sincerely hope will not be replicated on home soil. The failure was not in the rising up. The failure always resides in the “sitting down” after the fact. All are capable of tumult. But not all are capable for restoration of calm.
Your nation also faces immense challenges due to the diaspora from the Syrian battle space. Resources are taxed, mouths must be fed, and vigilance maintained. The Anatolian Shepherd has recently acquired a substantial flock. And the human migratory herd crossing your borders remains in need of assistance. Behind our simple hopes, dreams and conversations regarding the nature of bilateral agreements lies a greater reality. Vast frameworks are in place. They dictate the boundaries of our relationship.