Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gul Again

It seems Gul is to be the sole AKP candidate for President - and hence the next President of the Republic of Turkey. A week ago this had not seemed the most likely outcome. In the first abortive round the story is that Gul had not been the initial candidate suggested by Erdogan. Erdogan had agreed on two compromise candidates acceptable to the military and other secularist forces. However, Bulent Arinc, the speaker of parliament and a prominent member of the conservative wing of the party had balked suggesting that if Erdogan himself was not going to stand for the presidency the party should nominate either Gul or himself. In the event Gul was nominated leading in the end to the new elections. For these elections Erdogan had brought about a significant reorientation of the AKP parliamentary cadre and a number of moderate women and other mildly left of center politicians were elected on the AKP list. It was assumed that this meant a weakening of the conservatives within the party and because of that the nominee of the AKP for president would be a compromise candidate. Erdogan himself seemed to give support to this view suggesting that the AKP was looking for compromise. Then he backed off and suggested that the AKP would put forward multiple candidates who would campaign for votes from the opposition. In the end it seems the conservatives would not settle for anything but total victory and today the party executive committee with the support of Erdogan nominated Gul as the sole nominee of the party. Given the current numbers in Parliament, and an earlier promise by the nationalist MHP not to boycott the presidential election, this means that Gul will be the 11th president of Turkey.

I don't know how well Gul will do as president but all in all I don't think this was a good result. Firstly, with the same party controlling both Parliament and the Presidency the election of a partisan reduces checks on the government. And we have all seen in the last six years how well that works. Second, it means that AKP is still an ideological party, or at least the ideological forces are the dominant force within the party, which is a dangerous sign for a party that so thoroughly dominates the political scene. Finally, while Erdogan made no explicit commitments he certainly dropped enough hints both before and after the elections that he would be looking for compromise. Now, that he has in some sense gone back on his words, he loses some of his stature and his ability to work with the opposition suffers. Turkey faces some tough times ahead - not the least because of Iraq - and she will need the different forces within the parliament to pull together.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A day late...

Brian Ulrich at American Footprints links to an article in the Christian Science Monitor about a proposed US campaign to win hearts and minds in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. (The campaign had been reported on earlier as well). I had posted something on this in the comment section at Newshoggers which got butchered by haloscan. Here is a slightly updated version of that post.

Musharraf also saw the danger from the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) early on and the necessity for a hearts and minds campaign in the FATA. This is from a 2003 article from the New Yorker:

The Pakistani government has tried to advance this argument in Washington, encouraging a less confrontational strategy in the tribal regions. In December, 2001, according to several knowledgeable sources, Musharraf met with Wendy Chamberlin, then the American Ambassador to Pakistan, and asked for American support in helping him extend his control over the tribal areas. He argued that, unless the borders were cauterized there, the flow of fighters from Afghanistan would be impossible to stop. Musharraf told Chamberlin that the local Pashtun people could be bought off with basic government services that their tribal leaders had never provided—such as schools, clinics, roads, and water. Large cash awards could be offered to locals who helped track down fugitive Arabs.

“How much do you need?” Chamberlin asked. Musharraf’s answer was forty million dollars.

Chamberlin told Musharraf that she would back his plan. But when her funding request reached Congress, it was derailed. Charlie Flickner, the powerful Republican clerk of the foreign-operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, felt that the expenditure was a waste of money . He had travelled to western Pakistan, and concluded that the tribal areas were essentially sinkholes. On his recommendation, Chamberlin’s proposal was rejected. Instead, the committee agreed to give fourteen million dollars to the tribal areas, in the form of law-enforcement assistance to the local constabularies.

“It’s not something you throw money at,” Flickner told me. “It’s the typical thing that the bureaucrats in Islamabad think of. I don’t think everything in the world is susceptible to American money.” Members of the Democratic minority on the committee refused to respond to questions on the record. One Democrat, however, told me, “We blew it. There was a window of opportunity, but we lost it by not funding them adequately.” Soon after Chamberlin’s proposal was dismissed, the North-West Frontier Province fell into the hands of Musharraf’s Islamist opponents; in the tribal areas, fundamentalists further expanded their influence. (emphasis mine)

Musharraf also tried to get the US to fund a campaign against the Madrassas.
He got an agreement from Bush who then reneged.

Commenting on a different report with similar components Brian said:

In Pakistan, by contrast, the influence of tribal leaders has seen a sharp decline for perhaps a decade, with the balance tilting toward religious leaders linked to the Taliban movement. ... I'm skeptical that these tribal leaders can really make a comeback against the religious movement which operates under the general "Taliban" label,

I agree with the general thrust of Brian's comments. The nature of the political landscape has been changing since 2001. And what stood a good chance of working in 2001 may not be feasible any more. Even as late as 2003 there were tribal leaders in FATA talking with the generals about "regularizing" the status of FATA and removing it from, what the tribal leaders saw as, the tyranny of the political agents. The impotence of the tribal leaders was a significant part of the attraction of the jihadis. It makes one heartsick to see the record of wasted opportunities and because of them the lives that have been wasted and will continue to be wasted.