Hollande & Erdogan

What a delectable collection of links, thank you.

Francois Hollande… I do think a President Sarkozy would have decided to follow the exact same course. French intelligence in West Africa is solid, as events in Mali have demonstrated. Yet despite reassurances it was Hollande’s call to make and he made it. The world ought to be grateful that he did intervene in Mali. The alternative would have been to send the message that the west doesn’t understand and doesn’t care at all about West Africa. Le Monde sums up French policy rather well, portraying Mali as an exception to the rule of maintaining clientist regimes in Africa not because of any post colonial strategy but rather because it is the least they can do. Colin Powell said “you break it, you own it”, and France feels it still owns much of Africa since breaking it with its colonial rule.

Francophone Africa is a world apart. Its capital cultural city is Paris; musicians, artists and bohemiens of Françafrique head to Paris; it is their Sinatra’s “New York, New York”. Africans line the streets to wave French flags in Mali, knowing that their bottom line interests are aligned with Paris, because in the end French politicians are elected and need to pay attention to a French electorate that is by and large Afrophile and feels responsible for what transpires in Francophone Africa. In the end, France intervenes in Africa out of a human decency, no matter how flawed some of its interventions may be.

Daniel Dombey’s Turkey piece is excellent. For Erdogan the stars continue to be aligned almost perfectly. Turks admire him, he embodies a time of Turkish reawakening and reassertion that is historic. He has outmanoeuvred the Kemalists, turned the tables on Israel and Syria, shrugged off earlier cozy bonds with Gaddafi and Al Assad. And now that he has largely neutralized the Turkish military brass, may feel the time is right to expand the Turkish identity away from the Kemalist nationalist interpretation towards one that would make the Kurds and perhaps even Armenians feel at home in Turkey too. Turkey now has marvelous relations with Iraqi Kurdistan: if the Kurds in Turkey can be given enough concessions the PKK may unwind and stop blocking a deal that makes everyone happy. Except of course Baghdad. Erdogan is an expert player though, and this game is his to lose. Turkey is poised to become the leading local hegemon in two or three decades hence largely thanks to Erdogan. If he can continue these policies for another decade Turkey will be the primus inter paris of all of the Middle East again. And for no reason other than following a rational and reasonable course. The greatest danger he is facing is the increasingly Islamic-extremist nature of the opposition to Al Assad. If Islamic extremists prevail in Syria the border with a new Syria will be extremely unstable and Turkey can’t afford to have Radical Sunni Islam defeat Al Assad. But apparently that is what will happen.


This in response to http://blogs.ft.com/the-world/2013/01/smart-reads-january-29-2013/