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"Turkey and America: Partners at the Crossroads of History"

"Turkey and America: Partners at the Crossroads of History"

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, Conrad Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, July 14, 2002.

I’d like to say something about an event that literally upset the customary international order and overturned sleep schedules, even in my part of the world. Of course, I’m referring to the recent World Cup soccer tournament.

When Turkey faced Senegal in the quarterfinals, a wide-open game that went into overtime— now that was a game worth losing sleep for. In the Pentagon, we were thrilled—first, that the United States qualified for the World Cup this year, of course; and second, that our old friend Turkey really managed to shake things up. So, here’s to the next World Cup: Turkey and the United States in the finals. But, when we get to the questions, please don’t ask me to predict the winner.

I can’t help noting that football or soccer—whatever name you call it—is a team sport. So is democratic government. And Turks have shown a passion and an aptitude for both.

Just like when Turkey’s football team takes the field, there’s an energy and dynamism in Istanbul that is electric, magnetic. It is without doubt one of the most fascinating and beautiful cities in the world, and I am delighted to be here once again. Here, where the waters of the Bosporus, the Marmara and the Golden Horn meet, is also where so many other forces come together, where East meets West and Europe meets Asia and great sources of creativity result.

At the outset, let me try to combine good intentions with the little bit of Turkish I know: Sayin Arkadashlar Merhaba: hello friends. My Turkish leaves much to be desired: but, fortunately, Turks are endlessly polite.

That great Turkish kindness is just one of the reasons I have wanted for some time to come back to Turkey. Before President Bush asked me to take on my present duties, I had been scheduled to take my graduate students from Johns Hopkins University to visit Gallipoli last March. I wanted them to understand—as they stood on ground so bravely contested many years ago—that Gallipoli might have gone down in history as a brilliantly successful strategic gamble on the part of the allied nations, were it not for the bravery and tenacity of Mustafa Kemal and his men – who continued to fight even when they and their ammunition were exhausted.

The other lesson I wanted them to take away from Anzac Cove was the lesson of Ataturk’s magnanimity and generosity. In the impressive monument to Johnnies and Mehmets alike, they would read: "[Mothers,] wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are at peace." Ataturk offered generations of students and statesmen alike this powerful lesson: move forward; build up what was torn down … and do so with your sights set on the future.

Ataturk displayed the same generosity of spirit and breadth of vision in the way he came to terms with Greece after Turkey’s war of independence. He stopped far short of what Turkey’s military successes placed within his grasp—even accepting that his own birthplace, Thessaloniki, was a Greek city and should remain in Greece. Indeed, the peace terms he offered Greece were so generous that Greek Prime Minister Venezelos nominated Ataturk for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ataturk’s magnanimity was also an act of enlightened self-interest. With his sights on the future, Ataturk guided Turkey forward. He saw the republic through a period of extraordinary challenge and change. Today, we face another such period. And now, as Ataturk would certainly understand, Turkey is the cornerstone for building peace in Southeastern Europe and preserving peace in the Black Sea Region – key elements for building a Europe that is undivided, democratic and at peace. Equally important, Turkey stands on the frontlines in the war against terrorism, and – with its legacy of secular democracy, equality for women and a vibrant market economy – it has a crucial role to play in bridging the gap between the West and Muslim world.

In short, Turkey is crucial.

And our partnership—the partnership of Turkey and the United States—is crucial as well. It is a partnership that was forged when President Truman sent the U.S.S. Missouri to show support for Turkey against Soviet demands and on the hard battlefields of Korea – where Turkish troops fought side by side with us, to stop aggression in a distant land, and reconfirm their reputation as the bravest of the brave and the toughest of the tough. It was a partnership reinforced by Turkey’s perseverance as a staunch NATO ally through forty years of Cold War that eventually brought a new era of peace and freedom to large parts of Europe. It is a partnership that continues after the Cold War, with U.S. and Turkish troops working together in Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan. And since the attacks of last September, there is a new recognition in both our countries of the importance of the U.S.-Turkish partnership.

At this historical juncture, our two nations, Turkey and the United States, face great challenges. In the United States, we define the challenge as the threat of terrorism and the need for a global war against it. In Turkey, the political and economic problems are evident in each day’s newspaper headlines. But the underlying challenge is much greater – how to continue the process of modernization begun by Ataturk and extend it through the world. These challenges, along with the dangers they pose, also present great opportunities. They have placed our nations at an important crossroad in history. As we move forward, we can choose the path that will bring us out of crisis and danger to unparalleled opportunity. In this time of great uncertainty, I come here as a friend of Turkey, and I come here to tell you that in the United States, you have an ally and a friend. In the United States you have a true partner at this crossroad in history.

How fortunate we are that a nation like Turkey occupies one of history’s great strategic crossroads—a responsibility that brings with it both blessings and burdens. Managing the two is a challenge made for Turks. It is the great good fortune of the United States, of NATO, the West, indeed the world, that occupying this most important crossroads we have one of our strongest, most reliable and most self-reliant allies. An ally that sees its strategic role in the manner of Ataturk, who saw each nation as a part of one body. As Ataturk said, a nation should never ask, "'What does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?'" Rather, he concluded, "If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we were having that illness."

When the "illness" of international terrorism struck the United States last September, Turkey quickly offered unconditional support for the United States, including the deployment of ground forces in Afghanistan. Turkey has assumed another tough responsibility as the leader of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul under the leadership of General Halmi Akin Zorlu, whom I am looking forward to meeting tomorrow in Kabul. It is a role that Afghanistan’s leader, Hamid Karzai welcomes, for he knows the success of ISAF is critical to ensuring that terrorists no longer find Afghanistan a hospitable place. Turks, in typical fashion, are doing a superb job – a fact I hear repeated quite often from a friend of mine, Robert Finn, the American Ambassador in Kabul.

Working with Turkey and the other members of the coalition, the United States is committed to helping Afghans establish long-term stability, so their country will never again become a sanctuary for terrorists. But we approach this mindful that we must not come to be regarded as another foreign invader of Afghanistan. Ours is a mission of liberation, not occupation.

Afghans are an independent, proud people. And we have worked from the beginning to keep the number of our troops there small, and emphasized helping the Afghan people to help themselves in their journey to representative self-government. If that type of government is to take hold, Afghans themselves are the only ones who can make self-government a reality. President Bush has said, "It is up to the Afghans themselves to determine their future." As they do, we will continue to support them, with the help of allies like Turkey. And their success will contribute, not only to the long-term stability of Afghanistan, but to the peace and security of the region and the world.

Turkey offers a unique model to Afghanistan as it embarks on its own road to representative government. As the great American scholar of Turkish history, Bernard Lewis, has observed, Turkey’s experience shows that democracy is difficult but also that it is possible. When Ataturk considered the journey facing the new Turkish republic, he said: "The success of what we have won until today has done no more than open a road for us, towards progress and civilization. It has not yet brought us to progress and civilization." But he remained undeterred, adding, "The duty that falls on us and our grandsons is to advance, unhesitatingly, in this road."

Turkey’s openness, its dedication to finding truth and reaching compromise are the very foundations, not only of democracy, but of civilization itself. What we sometimes erroneously call "Western" values, Ataturk called "the civilization of our time" and he understood it to mean a common, universal civilization built on universal values.

Turkey’s courage to embrace both tradition and modernity offers great promise for all Muslims today—especially as we consider the war on terrorism. The fight against terrorism is not just a fight of the Western countries. It is a fight of all those who aspire to peace and freedom throughout the world and, most emphatically, in the Muslim world itself.

As I have been pointing out to American audiences, the terrorists target not only Americans, but they target their fellow Muslims – upon whom they aim to impose a new kind of violent tyranny, a tyranny that owes more to the totalitarian impulses of the twentieth century than to the great religion the terrorists are attempting to highjack. You can appreciate better than most that hundreds of millions of Muslims who aspire to freedom and prosperity are, in many cases, on the frontlines of the struggle against terrorism.

We in the West have an obligation to help them—and a self-interest in doing so. By helping them to stand against the terrorists without fear, we help ourselves. As President Bush said in his State of the Union Address last January, "America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate [the values that will bring lasting peace] around the world, including the Islamic world, because we have a greater objective than eliminating threats and containing resentment. We seek a just and peaceful world," the President said, "beyond the war on terror."

Turkey has a uniquely important role. Fashioning and sustaining democracy and free markets can be a difficult road, as history attests—there are bound to be ups and downs. But the ultimate benefits make the sacrifices and struggles worthwhile.

With creativity and tenacity and a willingness to sacrifice for the common good, Turkey can recover from its economic and political challenges. We understand the extraordinary difficulties that now face Turkey’s economy. But, from this crisis Turkey has the opportunity to emerge even stronger than before, if it makes the reforms that are necessary. And these reforms must come, not only in economic policy, but in the fundamental institutions that are critical for Turkey to fully enter the 21st Century.

With the support of the International Monetary Fund, Turkey has formulated a reform plan that has stabilized the economic situation and corrected long-standing weaknesses in the economy. Turks have endured considerable pain, but they also have shown the courage to correct these weaknesses, and there have been encouraging signs that the economy is beginning to turn the corner toward growth. Turkey’s current political uncertainties have created new question marks for the economy, but as the political situation stabilizes the economic improvement should continue.

The United States sees our partnership with Turkey extending to the economic field as well. We want to help in Turkey’s recovery; we want to help promote Turkey’s economic growth, and we want to help Turkey become competitive in the global economy. President Bush has raised our economic relations with Turkey to a strategic level; we are pursuing every effort to increase our trade and investment from a base that is currently too low.

Reforms to ensure effectiveness and transparency in regulations concerning foreign investment and settlement of investment disputes will make Turkey even more attractive to outside money, especially American investment. It was an essential part of President Ozal’s great vision for Turkey that it should be a place so open to competition and offering such a level playing field to investors that they would flock to Turkey. Foreign investment and the declining role of the state in Turkish economic life can help propel this thriving economy to new heights. There is no question that Turkey’s continued economic success will serve as a model for other countries that want to raise standards of living by relying on private sector-led growth and a more robust role in the world’s economy.

The process of economic reform is closely linked to the question of Turkey’s aspiration to join the European Union. When Ataturk created the Turkish Republic nearly a century ago, he envisioned a Turkey that was modern, western and secular. Turkey has traveled very far along that road, and he would be proud to see the Turkey of today. Turkey is now at a crossroads. As profound as our friendship with Turkey may be, it is even more profound when added to Turkey’s fundamental relationship with Europe. Turkey’s full integration into European institutions is in the best interests of the people of Turkey, the people of Europe and of the United States.

There are certainly some Europeans who are open to Turkish membership in the European Union and wish to nurture Turkish progress on the Copenhagen criteria. But there are also Europeans who are inward looking, parochial and rejectionist. They fear competition from Turkey. They fear diversity. But, a European Union that includes Turkey will be a stronger, safer, and more richly diverse EU. In many ways, Turkish EU membership is as much a benefit to Europe as it would be to Turkey.

Turkey’s aspiration to join the European Union is a development that should be welcomed by all people who share the values of freedom and democracy that grew out of European civilization and suggest the name "Western values." But they are not just Western values or European values. They are Muslim and Asian values as well. Indeed, they are universal values. Europe has a strategic opportunity, by helping Turkey realize its aspirations to join the EU, to demonstrate to 1.2 billion Muslims in the world that there is a far better path than the one offered by the terrorists.

We understand some Europeans may grow weary of having Americans tell them about the importance of bringing Turkey into the EU. These Europeans think perhaps that this is not our business, and we should mind our own. But, in fact, it is a contribution Europe can make to all of us. It is in Europe’s enlightened self-interest—as well as the interest of every country that recognizes that the way to fight terrorist extremists in the long run is to demonstrate that the values that we call Western are indeed universal; to demonstrate that the benefits we enjoy—the benefits of a free and prosperous and open society—are available equally to Muslims.

Today, visitors to Turkey are struck by internet cafes alongside ancient architecture; companies on the outskirts of the old sections of Istanbul that write software for firms in Silicon Valley; Turkish manufacturers who are joint partners with American, European and Japanese firms that produce all manner of goods, from luxury automobiles to sophisticated military systems. Indeed despite the current disarray, Turkey’s private sector is holding remarkably well.

Turkey faces enormous problems today. But, it is always important to remember how far along the journey Turkey has progressed. Bernard Lewis has observed that Turkey looks very different, depending on whether it is viewed from the Middle East or from Europe, viewed from where it has been or viewed from where it is heading. There is no doubt Turkey will continue to move forward. For, as Ataturk understood so deeply about the Turks: they have an enormous ability to survive—through their patience and, above all, through their pride, their courage, and their openness.

With such courage, Turkey is seeking with all those concerned a solution for Cyprus. We support the good offices of the Secretary General. We believe that a negotiated settlement can and should be found. Such a solution is in the interest of Turkey and Greece, and in the interest of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. This is a difficult challenge, but I believe it can be met.

To win the war against terrorism, and, in so doing, help shape a more peaceful world, we must reach out to the hundreds of millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world. We must speak to those people around the world who aspire to enjoy the blessings of freedom and free enterprise. Turkey offers a compelling demonstration that these values can be compatible with modern society — that religious beliefs need not be sacrificed to build modern democratic institutions.

One nation for whom Turkey’s democratic model can serve as an inspiration is Iraq, which currently suffers under the rule of a tyrant who oppresses and slaughters his own people and threatens his neighbors with the most deadly of weapons. Iraq’s educated, industrious population – with the aid of its large endowment of natural resources – could rapidly build a modern and wealthy society that would be a source of prosperity, rather than insecurity, for its neighbors. That is why the United States continues to look for new leadership in Iraq—united ethnic and religious leadership that will preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq, committed to a democratic Iraq in the future.

During my meetings with Turkish government officials, I look forward to hearing what they have to say concerning the future of Iraq. We value Turkey’s views highly, and my colleagues back in Washington will be interested in what I have to report. Turkey has large and legitimate interests in Iraq, and it has suffered economically from Iraq’s international isolation since the time of the Gulf War. Turkey is naturally interested in the fate of the Turcoman minority in Iraq, which, like the rest of the Iraqi population, has suffered grievously from tyrannical rule. And Turkey reasonably wishes to be assured that events in Iraq won’t have a negative impact on its own unity.

President Bush has made clear how dangerous the current Iraqi regime is to the United States and that it presents a danger we cannot live with indefinitely. But we also understand that Turkey has a vital national interest in the kind of regime that rules in Baghdad. Natural patterns of trade and investment should prevail, not those that Baghdad manipulates today.

It is vital to Turkey for the people of Iraq to govern themselves democratically, with full respect for the rights of minorities, including the Turcomans, and to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq. A separate Kurdish state in the North would be destabilizing to Turkey and would be unacceptable to the United States. Fortunately, the Kurds of Northern Iraq increasingly seem to understand this fact and understand the importance of thinking of themselves as Iraqis who will participate fully in the political life of a future democratic Iraq. A democratic Iraq will stimulate economic growth with neighbors like Turkey and will stabilize the region.

Another great obstacle to the dream of peace is the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Over these many years, after the sacrifice of so many, it is clear that the solution to this conflict will not be achieved by the force of tanks and bombs. A lasting resolution of this conflict can only come through political means. And the outline of a solution has been clear for some time, one based on two fundamental elements: the acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state within secure and recognized boundaries; and, the creation of a Palestinian state that brings to an end Israeli occupation and provides a better life for its citizens and security for its neighbors. Such an outcome can finally make Palestinians free, in every sense—free from external occupation and free from homegrown tyranny.

Here again, the democratic values we share and hold so important also represent the key to progress as we seek to resolve the long-running tragic circumstances in the Middle East. Speaking at the White House a couple weeks ago, President Bush suggested what might seem like a great stride, but may in truth offer the only long-term solution to achieving peace and stability between Palestinians and Israelis. He called upon Palestinians "to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty." He said, "If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts."

Men and women everywhere yearn for peace, for a better life for their children, for security and liberty. Where governments are elected to represent the people, there is hope that they will carry those aspirations to the negotiating table. But governments that aim principally to control rather than represent the people will always look for enemies, internal and external. They are not now – and have never been – the peacemakers who can lead their people to peace.

Building a working democracy will take enormous effort. But, in the end, those who take an active role in forming their destiny are more likely to live in peace and enjoy the fruits of peace.

Turkey’s ability to speak to both sides of this bitterly divided Arab-Israeli issue constitutes an important element of hope in a dangerous and difficult situation. When the process can get back to the point of serious negotiations, Israel’s confidence in its relationship with Turkey will increase its willingness to take risks for peace.

Turkey’s Ambassador to the United States Faruk Logoglu was one of only two foreign ambassadors invited to speak at the White House commemoration March 11 to mark the passage of six months since September 11th. I would like to close with his remarks. "Turkish society," he said, "is living testimony to the proposition that Islam, democracy and modernity are compatible. Our secular society is one where civilizations do not clash," he emphasized, "but where indeed they embrace. As we fight terrorism," he said, "we must at the same time, strive for inclusion and participation, trying to win the hearts and minds of people everywhere for the values we together cherish." I could not agree more.

In Ataturk’s later years, he observed that nations are bound more by sentiment than by treaties. Turkey and the United States are bound by the values we cherish and one other thing: arkadaslik—friendship—a word, I am told, that is among the most important words in the Turkish language. It is a friendship our countries have forged in war and strengthened in peace. It is a friendship of our countries’ leaders who together have faced the challenges of our times. This friendship of ours will continue to be a powerful force in the fight against terrorism, in the battle for hearts and minds, dedicated to peace at home and peace abroad and in the struggle to build a better world after this war on terrorism is won.

For people who cherish freedom and seek peace, these are difficult times. But, such times also can deepen our understanding of the truth. This truth we know: the single greatest threat to peace and freedom in our time is terrorism. So this truth we also affirm: the future does not belong to terrorists. The future belongs to those who dream the oldest and noblest dream of all, the dream of peace and freedom.

Cok tesekkur ederim. Many thanks to you, our esteemed allies, our Turkish friends.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).