Argument

The Tears of Somalia

Turkey is redoubling its efforts to end the suffering of the Somali people. The world should follow.

Somalia is suffering from the most severe drought and famine in the last 60 years, which has already resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and endangers the lives of 750,000 more Somalis. This crisis tests the notion of civilization and our modern values. It reveals, once again, that it is a basic human obligation to pursue international cooperation and solidarity to provide solace for those suffering from natural and man-made disasters.

It is not realistic to consider Somalia's plight as caused solely by a severe natural disaster. We cannot ignore the fact that, in addition to the drought, the international community's decision to leave Somalia to its own fate is also an underlying factor causing this drama. Twenty years of political and social instability, lawlessness, and chaos have added enormously to the problems in Somalia. The horrifying truck bombing of the Transitional Federal Government's ministerial complex on Oct. 4 is just the latest evidence of this. The international community must not respond to this act of terrorism by retreating from Somalia, but by redoubling its efforts to bring aid to its people.

Nobody with common sense and conscience can remain indifferent to such a drama, wherever on Earth it may be and whichever people have to bear it. Our urgent intervention as responsible members of the international community can contribute to the alleviation of the Somali people's distress. However, the establishment of lasting peace and stability will only be possible through long-term, far-reaching, and coordinated efforts.

Turkey mobilized last month to help end this suffering. We consider this solidarity a humanitarian obligation toward the people of Somalia, with whom we have deep historical relations. Many of our institutions, NGOs, and people of all ages have made an extraordinary effort to alleviate the suffering of women and children in Somalia. We are proud of the sensitivity and cooperation displayed by the Turkish people during the holy month of Ramadan. In the last month alone, approximately $280 million worth of donations for Somalia were collected in Turkey. The Turkish people's generosity has served as an example to other donor countries as well as the international community, offering hope for the resolution of the crisis in Somalia.

The Turkish government has also moved decisively to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis. Turkey took the initiative to hold an emergency meeting of the executive committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the ministerial level on Aug. 17. At this meeting, which was attended by the president of Somalia and high-level representatives from 40 member countries of the OIC, $350 million was committed to help relieve the famine in Somalia, and the participants agreed to increase this amount to half a billion dollars. The Turkish Red Crescent is also standing shoulder to shoulder with international aid organizations and is working to meet the needs of those in all the camps in the Mogadishu region.

Following the emergency meeting of the OIC executive committee, I -- along with a number of Turkish ministers, some members of parliament, bureaucrats, business people, artists, and families -- visited the country on Aug. 19 to tell the people of Somalia that they are not alone. We visited the camps. We tried to give hope and encourage people who live in very different conditions from ours. We took note of the lack of such a high-level visit from outside of Africa to Somalia for the last 20 years, and informed the international community of this fact.

Turkey has decided to launch a major humanitarian effort to help restore normalcy to Mogadishu. To this end, we are preparing to provide assistance in the fields of health, education, and transportation. We will inaugurate a 400-bed hospital, provide garbage trucks for the streets of Mogadishu, build a waste-disposal facility to burn the accumulated garbage in the streets, pave the road between Mogadishu's airport and the city center, renovate the parliament and other government buildings, dig water wells, and develop organized agricultural and livestock areas. Our embassy, which will be opened in Mogadishu shortly and headed by an ambassador who is experienced in the field of humanitarian aid and familiar to the region, will coordinate these activities.

By supporting the restoration of peace and stability efforts, we will work with the Transitional Federal Government and other institutions in Somalia in order to launch the development process of this shattered country. To this end, we expect all Somali authorities to demonstrate an extraordinary effort in unity, integrity, and harmony.

The success of aid operations is directly linked to the establishment of security. The withdrawal from Mogadishu of armed elements in the al-Shabab organization is clearly a positive development for security in the region. But this is not sufficient. Moving the Somali-related U.N. offices currently located in Nairobi to Mogadishu will be a positive step to support this process and one that should be taken without delay.

Neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya bear a special responsibility regarding the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union will also share this responsibility, and Turkey supports them in their tasks. In line with the Djibouti peace process, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government should intensify efforts at reconciliation by maintaining dialogue with all fighting groups and pledge prosperity, brotherhood, order, and prosperity in return for peace.

The military contribution provided by Uganda and Burundi within the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to prevent chaos and terror deserves appreciation. With this opportunity, I would like to issue a call to all neighboring countries, including Eritrea, to increase their existing efforts for the establishment of peace and security in Somalia and to enhance long-term regional stability.

In Turkish culture, it is believed that something good will come out of all bad experiences. In Somalia, too, this disaster can mark the beginning of a new process by focusing international humanitarian efforts and global attention on the plight of the region. However, this situation will only be sustainable if we continue to be sensitive to the needs of the Somali people.

The tears that are now running from Somalia's golden sands into the Indian Ocean must stop. They should be replaced by hopeful voices of a country where people do not lose their lives because of starvation and where they express their eagerness to develop and restore peace and stability. Regardless of which culture we come from or where we live, I am confident that our common heritage as human beings will motivate us to ease the suffering of Somalia.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Argument

Tilting at Windmills

Mitt Romney's new, muscular foreign policy isn't new at all. And his GOP standard-issue scaremongering misses the fact that Democrats are no longer foreign-policy weaklings.

For more than six decades, Republican presidential aspirants have had a very simple but consistent message for explaining how they differ from Democrats on U.S. foreign policy: We're tough; they're not.

Friday, Oct. 7's major foreign-policy speech by GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney follows this rather familiar path. According to Romney's speech, he will adopt a very "different" approach to foreign policy than that of the current occupant of the White House: "I will not surrender America's role in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today." 

How does Romney define American power? He may speak of values and economic strength, but like so many of his predecessors, it's the military. As part of his plan for lifting America from the depths of its current "weakness," Romney has pledged to increase the size of the Navy, enhance U.S. efforts to militarily deter Iran, recommit to a more robust missile defense, defend the United States against cyberthreats, review the current plan to withdraw from Afghanistan, and reverse the Obama administration's "massive defense cuts." If there's any doubt about what's forefront in Romney's mind when it comes to how to build the American Century, just look at the choice of venue: His most significant foreign-policy speech to date was given at the Citadel military school in South Carolina -- another reminder that the GOP stands with the symbolic elements of American strength. If Romney believes that the soft power of American diplomacy and statecraft have been shortchanged or de-emphasized over the past 10 years, he certainly wasn't making a point of it.

On the surface, this muscular foreign policy -- and its attendant costs -- might seem surprising in the context of a growing national debt and a new age of austerity in Washington. Where, after all, is Romney going to find the money for such an expansion of U.S. military power?

More importantly, why? The United States is enjoying a period of relative peace in the world; is in the process of moving away from one of the most disastrous periods in U.S. foreign-policy history; and lacks any significant great-power rival. According to the recent Human Security Report, there has not been a major power conflict in six decades, "the longest period of major power peace in centuries."

So who exactly is the enemy, and where are the "grave threats" that Romney believes America needs a renewed spate of military spending to confront? This is always the challenge for a candidate who wants to argue that his incumbent rival is not protecting America -- hype up the nature of foreign threats (whether its John F. Kennedy's mythical "missile gap" or George W. Bush's warning of terrorist "wolves" that threatened America).

But Friday's speech isn't the first time Romney has made this pitch; in late August, speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he argued that it "is wishful thinking ... that the world is becoming a safer place. The opposite is true. Consider simply the jihadists, a near-nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, an unstable Pakistan, a delusional North Korea, an assertive Russia, and an emerging global power called China." In Friday's speech, Romney added the specter of "failed and failing states" and those in the Middle East who would seek to "crush" the "yearn[ing] for freedom."

Let's ignore for a moment the idea that Romney treats these as serious threats to America rather than as more mundane foreign-policy challenges that U.S. policymakers must handle. What's perhaps more important is what he intends to do about these threats: Romney asserts that there is "no one approach" to keeping America safe, but that sort of nuance is lost in the telling. In Romney's view, America is a unique, exceptional power that leads the free world and, in turn, the entire world. It is a muscular vision of American leadership that is built on the notion that "when America is strong, the world is safer." Romney's language suggests that such things like compromise, even diplomacy, are less important than symbolic elements of American power. Indeed, in listening to Romney's remarks on Friday, one gets the impression that the former Massachusetts governor sees intrinsic value in the appearance of American "toughness" as a policy goal in its own right -- and that this can be utilized to deter future threats.

But again there is nothing terribly surprising about such an approach. (To be sure, when it comes to expressing an exceptionalist vision of American leadership and U.S. power, President Barack Obama is no shrinking violet.) After all, if there is one lesson to be gleaned from the history of foreign-policy discussions on the campaign trail, facts are often less important than stereotypes -- and this is really Romney's key target. Let's be clear: It's not really China or North Korea that Romney wants you to think is making the world more dangerous -- it's Obama. He's hoping to activate the long-held notion that Democrats aren't tough enough to keep America safe from foreign threats, and in doing so Romney is just singing off a much-used GOP hymnal. In the 1960s, Democrats were the candidates of anti-war hippies; in the 1970s they were McGovernites and pessimists; in the 1980s, "blame America firsters"; and in more recent years, "cut and runners." Today, says the GOP, Democrats are apologists for American power. The characters might change, but the script doesn't.

There's one problem, however, with such arguments: They don't stick so easily to Obama. As president, Obama has bent over backward to do away with the image of him as conciliatory to enemies and tough on allies. He's dramatically ramped up the drone war against the remnants of al Qaeda, killed Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, sent surge troops to Afghanistan, and successfully prosecuted a war in Libya. In short, it's hard to be more muscular than Obama has been over the past 33 months.

At a time when Obama's overall poll numbers could hardly look worse, his handling of terrorism and foreign policy are one area where voters seem relatively pleased with his performance. It's a view even embraced, wait for it, by the Republican speaker of the House. In remarks on Thursday, John Boehner suggested that Obama has more aggressively prosecuted the war effort against "the enemy" in the "tribal areas" of Pakistan than President George W. Bush did.

In reality, what Romney is recommending and what Obama is doing as president are not necessarily all that different in practice. They both believe in exceptionalist visions of American power; they both share the view that America has limitless national security interests; they both see the military as a key tool of American power, and neither is terribly interested in embracing a vision of U.S. retrenchment.

There are important differences between the two men: on the size of the defense budget, the role of multilateral institutions, and the need for diplomacy. But these are distinctions that exist along the margins of America's foreign-policy debates -- and truth be told, they are issues that voters are unlikely to care about in a year when the economy is front and center. Rather than a robust national debate about the nature of U.S. power or American national security interests in an increasingly post-"war on terror" world, if Romney's remarks Friday are any indication, campaign 2012 is likely to focus on the issue it all too often does -- who's tougher.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images