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NATO Brawl about Rasmussen: Any Winners?

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Turkish prime minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t like injustices. When he got less time to speak than Israel’s president Peres at the Davos summit this year, he left and told the moderator that he wouldn’t come back.

On a NATO summit, walking out (and not coming back) is hardly an option. Turkey had blocked the election of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary general for a while, acting as the voice of the Islamic world, or as a bridge towards it, depending on how one looks at it.  “We are receiving telephone calls from the Islamic world, telling us: ‘By God, this person should not become the secretary general of Nato’,” Erdogan said in an Al Jazeera interview.

Now, Rasmussen has been appointed after all. U.S. president Obama reportedly held private talks with Turkish president Abdullah Gul and Rasmussen, and Gul finally agreed to accept Rasmussen’s nomination.

Maybe it is good that Erdogan wasn’t there. After his Davos performance, gold-chain Eddie doesn’t really look like the man man you can find common ground with any more.

Today’s Zaman‘s headline: Obama, Germany, France winners in NATO deal.

That’s too easy.  Turkey’s opposition against the choice of all other NATO members – 25 out of 26 – lasted too long and makes Turkey a loser in this matter. But there are no winners either. The  debate between Turkey and other members should have remained behind the scenes.

Yesterday’s final decision was a case of damage control. Dumping Rasmussen at the final stage would have looked like giving in to people who are merciless and cold-hearted when they “defend their faith”, but pity themselves whenever they don’t get their way. The question if it is allowed to depict the prophet should be no matter of debate at all. Depicting the prophet is only forbidden to people (of any faith) who decide to accept such a ban.

But either Turkey didn’t speak up early enough behind the scenes, or the other NATO members didn’t listen closely behind the scene. There is no question that Rasmussen’s position in the cartoon brawl was correct (although he should have shown some more ability to listen to those who complained then, too).

But NATO is abroad. Their soldiers are in Afghanistan – a predominantly Muslim country. That’s not to say that certain Islamic practices there are better than here. But NATO is a guest in Afghanistan when looking through friendly glasses, and an occupying organisation when looking through unfriendly ones. And many Afghans may not have made up their minds about it yet.

At the stage things were yesterday, there was no other way but to appoint Rasmussen. But at an earlier stage, a different choice could have been made, and would have made sense.

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Written by taide

April 6, 2009 at 7:52 am

One Response

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  1. […] ties – through. Does the Turkish government need something that would confirm and justify their own hubbub, in the face of the Turkish public at home? A face-saving operation from Tel […]


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