The most important issue of 2009, was indeed, the global economic crisis that began in the fall of 2008. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the tragedy in Gaza, all of which were inherited from 2008, continued as they were.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who took over the presidency in 20 January, made various speeches on different occasions and locations, but they are considered to be nothing more than lip service without any significant outcome.
With two days left before we say goodbye to 2009, we are all trying to evaluate the passing year and to understand the prospects of the New Year. In this sense, using diplomatic reasoning, we will try to revisit the events of 2009.
As mentioned above, the most important issue of 2009 was the global economic crisis. Throughout the year, a number of reports about the level of the crisis were rampant in news agencies. While some analysts were claiming the worst part was over, others claimed the repercussions would be felt later on. The most frequent comment about the crisis was in regards to the ineffectiveness of national policies to limit the effects of the crisis without international collaboration. Throughout the year, a number of meetings were held in order to facilitate this collaboration. Both at the G-20 summits in London and Pittsburgh, as well as at the World Bank-IMF meeting in Istanbul, states discussed the possible measures against the crisis. Just as the understanding of collaboration began to be replaced with the taking of measures at the national level again, with the slowdown of the crisis, this attitude may re-enflame the yet unresolved crisis, and pave the way for the establishment of a more cautious approach towards 2010.
The fact that the concept of global collaboration is still only rhetorical can be clearly observed in the World Water Forum held in Istanbul in March and the Copenhagen Environmental Summit organized in December. We had the chance to clearly observe the differing priorities of developed states vis-à-vis developing states on issues that concern the future of the human race and demand collective action to be dealt with. None of the states managed to go beyond peaceful and collaborative messages that did not produce any material outcomes. Similarly, none of the states were eager to undertake any measures that may even slightly undermine their national interest in order to overcome these global challenges. Therefore, it is quite obvious that the overrated process of globalization is in fact a process shaped by the interests of the business circles, corporations, political leaders and academicians of the developed countries, in parallel with the interests of these countries.
PROMISES WITHOUT ANY RESULTS
In this respect, 2009 is full of examples that prove the existence of the dependence of weak states towards powerful states instead of a mutual interdependence among states. The fact remains that international collaboration can only take place once it is in line with the interests of developed countries.
Three of the aforementioned lip services that did not produce any significant outcome were given by U.S. President Barack Obama. On January 20, in Washington D.C. where he began his duty as the President, on June 4, while he was addressing the Muslim World in Cairo and on September 24, while he was addressing the UN General Assembly; the main theme of his speeches were the U.S.’ ambition to become the leading actor of global multilateralism. According to Obama, we had to “understand each other”, “eliminate our prejudices”, and “produce solutions to issues that concern us all”. The year 2009 was below average in terms of the multilateralism Obama was speaking of.
TRAGEDY IN GAZA PERSISTS
On the other hand, many issues inherited in 2009 from past years persisted to be problematic. We have completed 2009 with the relentless Gaza operation of Israel. There is no sign of a possible settlement for the Palestinian issue that has come from the newly elected coalition government headed by Benyamin Netanyahu.
Iran maintained its place in the global agenda with its unrevealed nuclear ambitions. Although from time to time shadowed by the missile tests of North Korea, Iran maintained its place as primarily a threat perceived by the Western world. Mahmud Ahmedinejad, who was accused of rigging the June 12 elections while beating his closest competitor Mir Hussein Mousavi, continued to claim that Iran is not producing nuclear weapons and it will not yield to international pressure. Mousavi’s greatest misfortune was to be presented as a Western agent who was contemplating to overthrow the regime by the supporters of the government. The year 2010 is likely to become a year of increasing international pressure on Iran and continuing confrontation between the different sides of the election.
Yet, another controversial election was held in Afghanistan in 2009. Backed by the U.S. and the EU, and regardless of the countless corruption accusations against him, Hamid Karzai managed to beat the former minister of foreign affairs, Abdullah Abdullah. The fact that counting the votes took almost three months, however, casted a shadow on the properness and legitimacy of the elections. Of course the results of this election will not set the future of Afghanistan. The country is still under occupation and the Taliban grows stronger. The new Afghanistan Strategy proclaimed by the U.S. President indicates that the U.S. did not learn from previous experience and portrays the belief that increasing the number of soldiers would be enough to eliminate the Taliban. The fact that the date of withdrawal for foreign forces in Afghanistan was set as 2011 already indicates defeat for the U.S. Unfortunately, there is no development that may seem positive for the Afghan people on the horizon.
EU AND OTHER MATTERS
Among other important issues of 2009, the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as the next step of EU integration should be listed. Also, the U.S. decision to give up the establishment of missile systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, the continuation of the activities of Somali pirates, the proclamation of bankruptcy by the Sheik of Dubai and his eventual claim that he was “misunderstood”, and the election of the Yorgo Papandreu government and economic crisis in its aftermath.
While leaving the important events of Turkish Foreign Policy in 2009 to next week’s article, I would like to indicate the most important event of 2009 as Prime Minister ErdoÄan’s reaction to Shimon Peres at the Davos World Economic Forum.
Prof. Dr. Çagri Erhan: Coordinator of USAK and the President of USAK-Transatlantic Research Center.
*This article was first published on December 29, 2009 at the Diplomatik Muhakeme column of Türkiye Newspaper.
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