Friday, April 24, 2009

Kouchner's About-Face on Turkey

Ron Tiersky calls my attention to a story I had missed: Bernard Kouchner has changed his position on Turkish membership of the EU. Apparently, Kouchner was "shocked" by Turkish opposition to the appointment of Anders Rasmussen to the post of NATO secretary general. The Turks objected to Rasmussen because he is Danish, on the grounds that the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons deemed offensive by some Muslims should be reason enough to exclude a Dane from the top NATO post.

Indeed, the Turkish amalgame is an excellent example of how foreign policy should not be made. It was petulant, illiberal, and profoundly irrelevant to both NATO's mission and the question of Rasmussen's competence to serve. But I'm not sure that Kouchner's response is an exemplary countermeasure, either. It seems equally petulant and equally irrelevant to the deeper arguments both for and against Turkish membership.

Unless of course Kouchner is extrapolating from this incident of symbolic politics to draw deeper conclusions about the nature of Turkish society and the character of the Turkish government. If so, he ought to spell out his thinking, given the importance of the change. I grant, however, that an improvised response to an unanticipated question prompted by an off-the-cuff use of the imperfect tense was probably not the ideal occasion to embark on such a reflection.

3 comments:

Tom Holzman said...

Maria - this a serious site. Please do not post inappropriate, irrelevant material.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Tom,
Thanks for the assist. I've deleted "Maria's" comment. I don't know how the spammers get through, but they do.

Boris said...

I am surprised you never mentionned Obama's support for Turkey's admission in the EU during his recent trip there, and the outrage it created in France.