The new enemy of the West seems to be ideological Islam. If NATO wants to be a useful instrument in defending the West against this enemy it needs to accept a new member state - Israel - and stop groveling to Turkey.
Last week, Bernard Kouchner, the powerful Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, announced that he is no longer in favor of admitting Turkey to the European Union. Mr. Kouchner changed his mind, he said, at the recent NATO summit in Strasbourg on April 4th. There, Ankara threatened to veto the appointment of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, as NATO’s new Secretary-General. The Turks objected to Mr. Rasmussen they said because in 2005 he defended the freedom of expression of Danish cartoonists who had depicted the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Turkey is governed by the AKP, a popular Islamic party in Central and Eastern Anatolia. The AKP’s voters feel more strongly in favor of the Islamic law which prohibits depicting the Muslim prophet than about basic Western values such as freedom of expression. These voters already feel “hurt” by the mere depiction of their prophet, which in Islam is blasphemy. The Turkish threats in Strasbourg jolted Mr. Kouchner into realizing what the future has in store for the European Union if Turkey becomes a member. “I was very shocked by the pressure that was brought on us,” Mr. Kouchner said. “Turkey’s evolution in, let’s say, a more religious direction, towards a less robust secularism, worries me.”
Turkey only dropped its veto against the Danish politician after US President Barack Obama brokered a compromise. Mr. Rasmussen is obliged to have a Turkish deputy and to issue some sort of apology to the Islamic world. Lo and behold, within a week Mr. Rasmussen rushed to Istanbul where he declared: “I would never myself depict any religious figure, including the prophet Muhammad, in a way that could hurt other people’s feelings. [ ] During my tenure as the secretary general of NATO I will pay close attention to the religious and cultural sensibilities of the different communities that populate our increasingly pluralistic and globalized world.”
Prior to Mr. Rasmussen, President Obama had also traveled to Istanbul to declare that “The United States is not at war with Islam” and to express American support for Turkish EU membership. While Mr. Kouchner, a liberal European, was shocked by the behavior of the Turks in Strasbourg, Mr. Obama, a liberal American, clearly was not. He did not find it worrying in the least. “If Turkey can be a member of NATO and send its troops to help protect and support its allies and its young men are put in their way, I don’t see why you should not also be allowed to sell apricots to Europe or have more freedom to travel,” Mr. Obama told his AKP hosts in Istanbul.
Perhaps Mr. Obama does not realize that for ordinary Europeans the European Union is about more than selling apricots and tourism. Ordinary Europeans expect the EU to defend European identity. Unlike Mr. Obama, ordinary Europeans doubt whether Turkey is “bound to Europe” and “shares Europe’s history and culture.” The current wave of distrust of the EU by ordinary Europeans is caused to a large extent by their fear that the EU institutions in Brussels are pushing for Turkish-EU membership. This would make Turkey the most populous of all EU member states, with the largest number of seats in the European Parliament, and turn the AKP into the most powerful political party in Europe. What this would lead to suddenly dawned on the secularist Mr. Kouchner in Strasbourg, but it had already been clear to many of his compatriots when they rejected the EU Constitution in a referendum in 2005. Indeed, one of the main reasons why the French rejected the Constitution was their concern about Turkish accession to the EU.
While perhaps Mr. Obama no longer considers America to be basically a Christian nation, polls in secularist Europe show that most ordinary citizens in Europe seem to consider the EU as basically a “Christian club,” thereby implicitly acknowledging that Europe’s history and culture was shaped by its Judeo-Christian heritage. According to a Eurobarometer survey, taken shortly after the 2005 referendum, opposition to Turkey’s entry to the EU runs as high as 80% in countries such as France and Germany.
While Mr. Obama proclaims in Istanbul that “The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans,” Europeans, who have seen a massive flow of Muslim immigration to their continent in the past decades, take a different view. The Pew Center’s Global Attitude Polls indicate that citizens in EU countries with high percentages of Muslim immigrants adopt negative attitudes towards Muslims. These Europeans have noticed how their neighborhoods, cities and countries are losing their traditional European identity based on the erosion of European values due to the immigration of large numbers of Muslims with entirely different views of how people should behave and what liberties they should have.
“We are not at war with Islam,” Mr. Obama said in Istanbul. He seems to have forgotten that Europe and America were never at war with the Soviet Union either. Indeed, the purpose of NATO was to ensure peace and stability in Europe by maintaining a level of deterrence which restrained the Soviet Union from attacking NATO or any of its member states. NATO ensured that we were never at war with the Soviets by preparing itself for war against the Soviets. In doing so, NATO successfully preserved the freedoms of the West.
Today, ideological Islam seems to have replaced Marxism as the main threat to the freedoms of the West. If sixty years after its foundation, NATO wants to continue serving its purpose, it should stand strong against every attempt at intimidation including by ideological Islam. Instead of giving in to AKP threats it should forcefully reject them. If this means that Turkey leaves the organization, so be it. NATO should have shown Turkey the door in Strasbourg instead of giving in to the whims of the AKP.
NATO serves no purpose if it does not include all countries which, because they stand for basic Western values, are threatened by ideological Islam. Israel is in the frontline in this battle. NATO serves no purpose if it does not include Israel. An attack by ideological Islam on Israel should be considered an attack on the entire free world. Perceptive European politicians are aware of this. In a recent interview the Belgian politician Filip Dewinter advocated the accession of Israel to NATO “because NATO defends freedoms and democratic values characteristic of European civilization, and I have always said so and will repeat it again, that Israel is an outpost of the free West surrounded by Islam-occupied territory.”
Mr. Obama went to Istanbul to grovel at the feet of the AKP and speak out in favor of Turkey’s EU admission. As America is not a member of the EU, however, EU affairs are none of Mr. Obama’s business. Ordinary Europeans are justifiably offended by Mr. Obama’s arrogance, which is an indication of the unilateral approach of the Obama White House when dealing with Europe. If Mr. Obama wants to serve the free world he should go to Istanbul to speak out in favor of Israel’s admission to NATO.