How close are we to war?
When the US was attacked by al-Qaeda militants on that fateful day of Sept. 11, the reaction of George W. Bush was to wage a war against Taliban forces in Afghanistan right away and against Saddam Hussein in Iraq a couple of months later. A mere soldier kidnapped in Palestine urged the Israeli Armed Forces to retaliate against the Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
Now many in Turkey are demanding the same kind of military action against the Kurdistan Workers'' Party (PKK) militants who have struck three times in the last two weeks, killing as many as 40 people, 24 of them young soldiers.
People all over Turkey have taken to the streets, chanting and calling for immediate action in the American or Israeli style -- a deep incursion inside Iraqi territory, destroying terrorist dens there and making terrorists repent for their actions.
Can you blame them? I do not think so. The similarities are obvious -- a terrorist threat coming from outside was the excuse for both the US and Israel, and “war against terror” is a globally accepted concept for terrorist activities that Turkey has also been prone to use. The Turkish Armed Forces is as capable as the others of conducting cross-border operations. The PKK, Turkey''s archenemy, has been labeled officially, like Taliban and al-Qaeda, a “terrorist organization” by the US and the European Union.
So why the fuss over Turkey''s intention to do exactly what its allies, like the US and Israel, did in the past?
I myself may have found it very difficult to answer this question negatively, if I had not opposed the military actions of the US and Israel when they decided to retaliate against countries that had no direct involvement in terrorist actions targeted at them. I am not fond of the “pre-emptive strike doctrine” formulated by George W. Bush, who himself adopted it from the Israelis. I believe in the old-fashioned system which looks to the international community and a strict adherence to the rule of law.
Turkey has been taking exactly what I believe to be the right approach to a multi-layered problem concerning more than one country. The government has extracted from Parliament the mandate to send troops for cross-border operations if it deems it necessary. The president has received leaders of all the political parties to hear their opinions. The prime minister has been talking, sometimes face-to-face, with world leaders, briefing them about the seriousness of the situation. And the Turkish Armed Forces is ready to act when the necessity arises.
This is a results-oriented approach for a country that faces a terrorist threat from outside its borders, and it intends to settle the account justly and intelligently. I know it is not easy to control national anger, especially in Turkey, for the Turks are known to be hot-tempered and quick to react; truly, this is the most difficult part of handling a crisis of such enormity. The people protesting every day against PKK atrocities on streets in every Turkish city, waving flags and singing the national anthem, are a testimony to this reality.
There is nothing wrong with demanding that the terrorists be brought to justice, especially the cold-blooded terrorists that killed 12 young soldiers who had taken up arms because of our compulsory military service. Without such military service they would have been elsewhere enjoying their lives as 20-year-olds do. When their coffins are on the shoulders of family members and close friends in their hometowns, people express their great anger by demanding revenge.
But the state, or rather politicians who take decisions on the people''s behalf, cannot be revengeful. What the citizens expect from them is to deliver what is right for the people and not to engage in unnecessary adventures while keeping the national pride intact. That is exactly what the Turkish government is doing right now.
However there is a snag -- the government has been trying to refrain from the adventure of sending Turkish troops into Iraq, doing what is right, but the government has not yet started to do anything to keep the national pride intact.
The national pride can only be restored after the PKK terrorists lose definitively; their bloody actions inside Turkey must be stopped; the offices in northern Iraq belonging to the PKK must be shut down, and the leaders who gave the orders for the atrocities must be apprehended, either by the Kurdish authority in the north of Iraq or the American occupying forces there, or else...
Which one will seize the day? As for the American military officers of CENTCOM who have not gotten over their resentment over the Turkish Parliament rejecting a resolution for allowing the US to use Turkish territory as a springboard during the Iraqi invasion in 2003, what will they do? How about the Kurdish authority in the north under the leadership of Massoud Barzani, who prays constantly that the neocons will remain powerful in Washington? Will they act to deliver what Turkey expects from them? Or they may very well leave the account to be settled by the Turkish Armed Forces.
I think you can answer my initial question easily now -- how close are we to war?