Analysis: Two Worlds Cracking Up

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

For many years, strategists have debated whether Turkey would be a “bridge” or a “gully” between predominantly Christian Europe and the Arab/Muslim Middle East. If Turkey were admitted to the European Union, it would be a bridge binding these two worlds. If it were kept out of the E.U., it could become a gully separating the two. It turns out that Turkey these days is neither a bridge nor a gully. It’s an island — an island of relative stability between two great geopolitical systems that are cracking apart: the euro zone that came into being after the cold war, and the Arab state system that came into being after World War I are both coming unglued.

The stresses are getting to everyone. The reactions range from the truly horrific murders perpetrated by the Assad mafia family clinging to power in Syria to the disturbing fight that broke out last Thursday on a morning TV talk show in Greece, where the spokesman of a far-right party tossed water in the face of a woman from the left-wing party on the show and then smacked another woman panelist in the face three times.

The island of Turkey has become one of the best places to observe both these worlds. To the east, you see the European Monetary Union buckling under the weight of its own hubris — leaders who reached too far in forging a common currency without the common governance to sustain it. And, to the south, you see the Arab League crumbling under the weight of its own decay — leaders who never reached at all for the decent governance and modern education required to thrive in the age of globalization.

Europeans failed to build Europe, and that is now a big problem because, as its common currency comes under pressure aTo put it another way: In Europe, the supranational project did not work, and now, to a degree, Europe is falling back into individual states. In the Arab world, the national project did not work, so some of the Arab states are falling back onto sects, tribes, regions and clans.

In Europe, the supranational project did not work because the European states were never ready to cede control over their budgets to a central authority that would ensure a common fiscal policy to back up a common currency.

In the Arab world, the national project did not work — in many, but not all cases — because the tribes, sects, clans and regional groups that make up these Arab states, whose borders were drawn up by colonial powers, were unwilling or unable to meld genuine national communities.nd the E.U. goes deeper into recession, the whole world feels the effects. The Syrians failed to build Syria, the Egyptians failed to build Egypt, the Libyans failed to build Libya, the Yemenis failed to build Yemen. Those are even bigger problems because, as their states have been stressed or fractured, no one knows how they’ll be put back together again.

So the E.U. today has many citizens, but no single supranational nation state to which everyone is ready to cede economic authority. And the Arab world has many national states, but few citizens. In Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Bahrain, you have one sect or tribe ruling others by force — not because they forged a voluntary social contract with one another. In Egypt and Tunisia, you have more homogeneous societies and a stronger sense of citizenship, which is why they have a better chance at transitioning to more consensual politics.

In fairness, in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, you have many people, particularly young rebels, who want to be citizens. They want to live in states where people have rights and obligations and multiethnic parties. But it’s not clear they have the leadership and educated middle classes needed to forge modern political identities out of atavistic ones.

One question historians will puzzle over is why both great geopolitical systems fractured at once? The answer, I believe, is the intensifying merger of globalization and the information technology revolution, which made the world dramatically flatter in the last five years, as we went from connected to hyperconnected. In the Arab world, this hyper-connectivity simultaneously left youths better able to see how far behind they were — with all the anxiety that induced — and enabled them to communicate and collaborate to do something about it, cracking open their ossified states.

In Europe, hyperconnectedness both exposed just how uncompetitive some of their economies were, but also how interdependent they had become. It was a deadly combination. When countries with such different cultures become this interconnected and interdependent — when they share the same currency but not the same work ethics, retirement ages or budget discipline — you end up with German savers seething at Greek workers, and vice versa.

And us? America’s flexible federal system makes it, theoretically, well-suited to thrive in a hyperconnected world, but only if we get our macroeconomic house in order and our education up to par (or better). We should be the world’s island of stability today. But we’re not. As Mohamed el-Erian, the chief executive of the bond giant Pimco, puts it, “We’re just the cleanest dirty shirt around.”

NY Times

  • Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

    Turkey was never going to work. To be fully accepted in the west, they’d have needed to withdraw from occupied Northern Cyprus and admit genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Arameans and Assyrians.

    • dateam

      Not true…turkey will never be admitted into eu even though it’s the 16th largest economy in the world purely because the Europeans don’t want 70 million Muslims running around Europe freely….look at Serbia they handed mladic in after hiding him all these years in order to get accepted…eu was always destined to fail…as the article says it joined countries together without taking into consideration all the internal workings of each country in order to have the same systems running throughout….further why didn’t the English pound join the euro???

      • 5thDrawer

        England is a real island dateam. One good reason, I suppose, besides the fact the people didn’t like the idea.
        For Northern Europe, the economic benefit of borderless commerce could have been accomplished without tying it all into inventing the ‘Euro’ which was simply an economic benefit to all banks … who then obviously had problems with some incompetent people and greedy stock-market ‘entrepreneurs’ who even more stupidly got involved with unregulated Americans.
        Southern Europe certainly saw the benefits of the ‘hand-out’ loans promised by the northern banks who wished to expand the ‘business’ – tied in with ‘believers’ that ‘Global-American-Business-Concepts’ were the way of the future.
        And you’re right … not all peoples think or work the same way. No-one wants to modify their ‘culture’ to the same extent that bankers wish to modify their vault-sizes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565030528 Adam Yonatan Ben Yoel

    Turkey was never going to work. To be fully accepted in the west, they’d have needed to withdraw from occupied Northern Cyprus and admit genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Arameans and Assyrians.

    • dateam

      Not true…turkey will never be admitted into eu even though it’s the 16th largest economy in the world purely because the Europeans don’t want 70 million Muslims running around Europe freely….look at Serbia they handed mladic in after hiding him all these years in order to get accepted…eu was always destined to fail…as the article says it joined countries together without taking into consideration all the internal workings of each country in order to have the same systems running throughout….further why didn’t the English pound join the euro???

      • 5thDrawer

        England is a real island dateam. One good reason, I suppose, besides the fact the people didn’t like the idea.
        For Northern Europe, the economic benefit of borderless commerce could have been accomplished without tying it all into inventing the ‘Euro’ which was simply an economic benefit to all banks … who then obviously had problems with some incompetent people and greedy stock-market ‘entrepreneurs’ who even more stupidly got involved with unregulated Americans.
        Southern Europe certainly saw the benefits of the ‘hand-out’ loans promised by the northern banks who wished to expand the ‘business’ – tied in with ‘believers’ that ‘Global-American-Business-Concepts’ were the way of the future.
        And you’re right … not all peoples think or work the same way. No-one wants to modify their ‘culture’ to the same extent that bankers wish to modify their vault-sizes.

  • 5thDrawer

    Very good general analysis. If we can’t all agree to be part of the world together with a common goal for humanity, why attempt to ‘join’ in the ‘globalization’ concept? Not everyone ‘needs’ a cell-phone, for instance. What we need to get rid of, however, is the ones who want to ‘take over’ your disconnected and happy but different little spot of land.
    (The misplaced sentence in the middle of this piece due to the wonderfulness of ‘high-tech’, of course. :-)

  • 5thDrawer

    Very good general analysis. If we can’t all agree to be part of the world together with a common goal for humanity, why attempt to ‘join’ in the ‘globalization’ concept? Not everyone ‘needs’ a cell-phone, for instance. What we need to get rid of, however, is the ones who want to ‘take over’ your disconnected and happy but different little spot of land.
    (The misplaced sentence in the middle of this due to the wonderfulness of ‘high-tech’, of course. :-)

  • Constantin7

    Turkey is not as stable as this article may depict. Turkey is watching Syria very closely and see if the minorities are going to disintegrate or eventually come out of the crisis united, because if they do disintegrate, Turkey would become very fragile as it has many ethnic minorities who would want to affirm their identity and territotial limits, like the Kurds, the Alawites (a huge minority who supported the government traditionally), the Turkmen, and the Arabs who live in South eastern Turkey (Antakya, Iskenderun, Diyar Bakir, etc..). As of why they have not been accepted in the EU, which has been a disppointment to Turkey and the ethnic group to which the writer of this article belongs (as these want eagerly to taint the Chrisitian dominance in Europe), because Turkey is a huge population with most of it living way below the European standard of living, basically if they accept them in the EU, they would be a big money suckers. The EU is barely coping with Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland…imagine if they had to deal with Turkey too. Besides, as one of the contributers said here, they need also to withdraw from Northern Cyprus and aknowledge the Armenian genocide, before asking to enter the civilized world of Europe, which they are not ready to do. They would rather bully their neighbors, as they have been doing for the last 500 years.
    Finally, Turkey, after being rejected by the EU, they turned East to exercise their hegemony and influence on the weak, disoriented, disfunctional Arab regimes.

  • Constantin7

    Turkey is not as stable as this article may depict. Turkey is watching Syria very closely and see if the minorities are going to disintegrate or eventually come out of the crisis united, because if they do disintegrate, Turkey would become very fragile as it has many ethnic minorities who would want to affirm their identity and territotial limits, like the Kurds, the Alawites (a huge minority who supported the government traditionally), the Turkmen, and the Arabs who live in South eastern Turkey (Antakya, Iskenderun, Diyar Bakir, etc..). As of why they have not been accepted in the EU, which has been a disppointment to Turkey and the ethnic group to which the writer of this article belongs (as these want eagerly to taint the Chrisitian dominance in Europe), because Turkey is a huge population with most of it living way below the European standard of living, basically if they accept them in the EU, they would be a big money suckers. The EU is barely coping with Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland…imagine if they had to deal with Turkey too. Besides, as one of the contributers said here, they need also to withdraw from Northern Cyprus and aknowledge the Armenian genocide, before asking to enter the civilized world of Europe, which they are not ready to do. They would rather bully their neighbors, as they have been doing for the last 500 years.
    Finally, Turkey, after being rejected by the EU, they turned East to exercise their hegemony and influence on the weak, disoriented, disfunctional Arab regimes.