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Challenging Times

Ali Günertem –
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In August 2000,  United States President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker at a charity event held in order to get Congress member Richard Gephardt reelected for another term. Bill Clinton came to this event, held in Washington DC at the Mayflower Hotel, fresh from the Israeli and Palestinian Peace Talks with Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak.  In fact, he was a little late because of that.
I was among those there who was waiting impatiently for President Clinton. In his speech President Clinton spoke about the differences in thinking between Al Gore and George Bush; he reiterated that there would be a big change in the United States and in the whole world if the Republicans won the elections. I made some predictions as to what these changes might be and I put down my thoughts in an article I wrote in 2002 for TURKOFAMERICA.

I evaluated the post 9/11 United States and the world. Now when we look back at the past 8 years we can see what these changes were. In this time period the risks are great and the world is divided, there is a divided structuring of “you are either one of us or one of them,” hardly any semblance of trust and an economic crisis, which we are unsure of how deeply it goes.

When Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President on a cold day in February 2007, Hillary Clinton was seen as a sure thing even before the Democratic Party had its primaries. I was one of those who thought, “How can Obama be elected in times like these?” I was wrong! The people of the United States were sick and tired of the Republican rule for the past eight years and they had first given this signal by voting for Democrats in the 2006 House and Senate races.

I was expecting a strong Democratic candidate to be chosen but I was not expecting a result like this. Newly elected president Obama understood during this whole voting process what the people of the United States were unhappy about and he built bridges with voters who all had different views but had met in the center. Furthermore, he had even gained support from voters more to the right on ending the war in Iraq.

The people of the United States, whether Democratic or Republican, had become fed up with the war and they were all on the same page when it came to the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq while there were financial problems to be solved back home. These problems were education, fair income distribution, healthcare problems, retirement, an aging infrastructure and the two most important subjects: independence when it came to energy politics and the slowing down of the economy. However, what was on every person’s mind, thought it was rarely spoken about, was a black man becoming President of a white America.

This subject was paramount till the very last day and though the polls showed Barack Obama with a major lead, political experts were not voicing any guesses on the election’s outcome. Speculations were made and polls were discussed but no one really expected the people of the United States to punish the Republican Party in such a way, even though the polls were showing just that. Or maybe everyone was waiting for this but no one was saying it. In the end everyone witnessed a historic election and were all tired. We are witnessing the change that Obama spoke about and promised during his campaign. 

This change is coming from Obama himself.  His cabinet members seem to be old faces but Obama is bringing together all experienced names under his presidency. Those choices show us how Obama believes in himself. With Hillary Clinton, who knows very much about Turkey and its problems, as Secretary of State; and Rahm Israel Emanuel, who was instrumental in blocking congressional efforts to pass an Armenian genocide resolution being selected by President-elect Obama to be his Chief of Staff, and with  retired general James Jones as National Security Advisor, the promises made to the Armenian diaspora during the election may not be so easy to fulfill.

The new president's world politics is based on compromise; he had stressed this point during his entire campaign. He will try to rebuild the reputation of the United States, which has been eroded for the past eight years. While he is doing this he will also be communicating with world leaders that have not been allies in the past. While these liaisons are on diplomatic terms in the beginning, if there is the potential, then they may also be executed on a presidential level later on. How will these changes might effect Turkey is a question on everybody’s mind.  It is only natural that there is such a curiosity since President-elect Obama has made promises to the Armenian diaspora during the election campaign that have never been made before.

In the very beginning he may have been influenced by his closest advisors, who had biased opinions. It could be; up till now many presidential nominees in the United States have made such promises but then after seeing important information on national security every day, they have walked away from such positions.

Let me repeat, newly elect president Obama may have said these things knowing all of this. During the campaign he said numerous times that he would withdraw from Iraq, that he would make a strong presence in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, that he would solve the problem with Iran diplomatically and that he would shift the war from Iraq to Afghanistan. Now when we look at this foreign policy, even though it has not been so declared, we see that these things cannot be done easily without Turkey.

For this reason I believe that the Obama government will create problems for Turkey, more on the Kurdish issue rather then the Armenian issue. When it comes to withdrawing from Iraq, the issues of “Motion 2”, (Motion 1, allowing US troops to use Turkish soil to invade Iraq, was rejected on March 2003 in Turkish parliament) and “What will happen to the Kurds” will be issues that will cause Turkey some headaches. Turkey should not get locked into the genocide issue and leave the solutions to the other problems to time; instead we must take an active role and also take precautions.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07