Die Welt versinkt in Angst, Blut und Tränen!

In den vergangenen zwei Monaten starben bei Terroranschlägen in der Türkei (10. Oktober), in Ägypten (31. Oktober), im Libanon (12. November) sowie im Irak und in Frankreich (jeweils 13. November) insgesamt mehr als 500 Menschen, weit über 1.000 wurden zum Teil schwer verletzt. 14 Jahre nach Verkündung eines vollumfänglichen „War on Terror“ müssen sich nun endlich alle Verantwortlichen eingestehen, dass man den damals noch regionalen Feldzug im Nahen Osten verloren hat und möglicherweise erst am Anfang eines weit verheerenderen globalen Krieges steht.

Viele Jahre und Jahrzehnte lebten wir weitestgehend unbehelligt auf der „Insel der Seligen“ inmitten der „Festung Europa“. Krieg kannten wir nur aus den Erzählungen unserer Großeltern – Terrorismus assoziierten wir lediglich mit zwei eingestürzten Wolkenkratzern in Übersee und einem bärtigen Mann in den Höhlensystemen des Hindukusch. Empathisches Kopfschütteln oder leise geäußertes Mitgefühl über die Schrecken in fernen Ländern waren alles, womit wir auf die dann doch immer gleichen Bilder in den Nachrichten reagierten.

Diese Zeiten sind vorbei! Vor allem die Anschläge in Paris haben uns vor Augen geführt, dass wir Europäer uns nun endgültig selbst im Krieg befinden, ob wir das wahrhaben wollen oder nicht.

Terror 2.0

Vereinzelte und opferreiche Terrorakte auf europäischem Boden sind grundsätzlich kein neues Phänomen – man denke hier beispielsweise an die Madrider Zuganschläge vom 11. März 2004 mit 191 Opfern oder jenen auf ein Verkehrsflugzeug im schottischen Lockerbie (1988) mit 270 Toten. Die politischen Rahmenbedingungen waren damals jedoch vollkommen andere. Während die Täter in Spanien nicht eindeutig zugeordnet werden konnten und die Boeing 747 mutmaßlich von libyschen Geheimdienstlern gesprengt wurde, gehen die Anschläge in Ankara und auf Flug 9268 auf der Sinai-Halbinsel höchst wahrscheinlich – die Anschläge in Beirut, Bagdad und Paris sogar zweifellos auf das Konto der Terrormiliz „Islamischer Staat“. Zwischen den drei letztgenannten Anschlägen lagen sogar nur etwas mehr als 24 Stunden. Dabei hätten die Opferzahlen sogar noch weit höher liegen können, wenn dem (Selbst-) Mordkommando in Paris der Zutritt in das mit rund 78.000 Zuschauern gefüllte Stade de France gelungen wäre oder der 32-jährige zweifache libanesische Familienvater Adel Termos in einer wahren Heldenaktion nicht sein Leben für jenes von Dutzenden anderen Menschen geopfert hätte.

Paris wird zum traurigen Symbol

Die mediale Berichterstattung über die Anschläge in Beirut und Bagdad wurden von der Mehrheit der Bevölkerung kaum wahrgenommen oder in grenzenlosem Euphemismus als „alter Hut“ abgestempelt. Den Wenigen, die trotz der Überlagerung verschiedenster Terror-Meldungen noch den Überblick behielten, verschlug es letztlich vor allem mit den Berichten aus Frankreich den Atem. Besonders fassungslos machen die Anschläge in der zweitgrößten Metropolregion der EU deshalb, weil dort seit Jahresbeginn (Anm. Charlie Hebdo) nicht nur tausende zusätzliche Soldaten stationiert und die Geheimdiensttätigkeiten ausgeweitet wurden, sondern auch, weil es den selbsternannten Gotteskriegern trotz aller Sicherheitsvorkehrungen gelungen ist, Gräueltaten parallel an gleich sechs Schauplätzen zu verrichten. Da scheint es fast lächerlich, dass sich im Nachklang der Ereignisse weiterhin Menschen versammelten und Banner mit Slogans wie „not afraid“ hochhielten, die Augen fest vor der Realität zugekniffen. Eine Realität, wo es psychisch kranken Fanatikern immer öfter gelingt, sich in organisierten Netzwerken zusammenzuschließen und jederzeit und überall zuzuschlagen. Das zuvor angeschnittene mediale Ungleichgewicht ist jedenfalls auch und vor allem darauf zurückzuführen, dass die Anschläge in Paris besser als jemals zuvor die Verwundbarkeit der „Grande Nation“ und der gesamten „westlichen Welt“ offenbarten.

Globaler Dschihad

So erschreckend die Ereignisse des vergangenen Monats in jeder (un-) vorstellbaren Hinsicht waren, passen sie doch nur allzu genau in das aktuelle internationale Klima. Mit seinem „Global Terror Index“ zeichnete das angesehene „Institute for Economics and Peace“ vor kurzem ein ganzheitliches Bild über diese völlig neue Dimension der Gewalt. Den aktuellen Daten zufolge starben allein 2013 weltweit 18.111 Personen im Zusammenhang mit internationalem Terrorismus. Ein Jahr später stieg diese Zahl dann nochmals um 80% (!) auf 32.685. Mehr als die Hälfte der Opfer (51%) seien demnach den islamistischen Netzwerken Boko Haram (siehe Kommentar in der Februarausgabe der UNIpress) und dem IS zuzurechnen. Während Erstere sich weitgehend auf Nigeria beschränken, wo ihr enormes Gewaltpotenzial allerdings umso geballter in Erscheinung tritt, ist Letzterer seit einigen Monaten eine internationale Bedrohung. Dazu kommt noch die Tatsache, dass die islamistische Miliz neben den rund 6.000 Terrortoten im Jahr 2014 gleichzeitig auch auf dem „regulären“ Schlachtfeld für mindestens 20.000 tote Soldaten verantwortlich zeichnet. Dies führt dazu, dass die Grenzen zwischen Terror und traditionellem Krieg faktisch immer mehr aufgelöst werden.

Böse Vorahnungen

Insgesamt deuten alle Ereignisse der letzten Monate sowie Trends der letzten Jahre darauf hin, dass der Terror auch in Europa zunehmen und im schlimmsten Szenario bald zum ganz normalen Leben dazugehören wird, wie es etwa in Beirut und Bagdad schon lange der Fall ist. Der IS ist waffentechnisch (noch) nicht dazu im Stande, uns konventionell den Krieg zu erklären – soweit die einzig gute Nachricht. Wenn den Vereinten Nationen – im Falle einer Weigerung Russlands eher der NATO und der EU – nicht bald der große Wurf gelingt, also ein genialer Mix aus militärischen und zivilen Gegenmaßnahmen, steht uns bald das bevor, wovor das renommierte deutsche Handelsblatt schon jetzt warnt – ein „Weltkrieg III“. Momentan allerdings bleibt uns nicht mehr übrig, als für alle Opfer weltweiten Terrors zu beten, unabhängig von Herkunft, kultureller oder religiöser Zugehörigkeit.

Why not at least the European flag?

A critical comment.

From a cynical point of view Hashtags like #PrayForParis and the Tricolour-Feature for profile pictures on Facebook seem like marketing strategies to profit from a momentary social media buzz. As well as other (news) media cycles, the Web 2.0 deals in numbers of traffic, views, clicks and hits. So, from an unemotional – maybe even heartless – position these aspects of a tragedy seem like opportunities to indirectly cash in on grief. But for those posting, liking, sharing and changing their profile, it represents a statement of solidarity with victims, their families and the city of Paris in this case.

One critique often brought forward, is that especially the Tricolour-flag feature represents a nationalist narrative. A narrative that is one of the reasons that Europe, Middle East, Asia, indeed the whole World faces (civil) wars, terrorist attacks and international conflicts. On the one hand representing empathy and kinship towards somebody, on the other hand excluding others from that empathy. As the “World mourns 129 dead in worst-ever Paris terror attacks1 some pointed out, that attacks in Lebanon on 12th of November2 went relatively unrecognised. (Which is now made up for, but strangely in relation to the Paris attacks3.)

The Beirut bombings and other aggressions, like the attacks in Ankara in October4, did not get the same attention from the world. There were no Facebook-features that could change your profile picture and Hashtags were not as heavily used around the world. While Ankara’s tragedy was relatively well covered by news media, western populations could easily miss reports about the explosions in Beirut. Therefore, in this context, the world is limited to certain societies – (Western) Europe, US, UK, Australia. Which is very concerning, as one and the same group claimed responsibility for the killings in Ankara, Beirut, Paris and many others. So, while this world has certain limits, it’s issues go beyond those limits and borders.

Seeing the bigger picture and global relations of these incidents is vital to coordinate actions for a peaceful future. It might not seem relevant on first glance, but in order to understand broader connections and the need for cooperation, solidarity across borders is necessary. Solidarity helps us see other’s problems, identify with their suffering and search for solutions together. It is the fundamental starting point for the search of sustainable socio-political solutions and the basis for not giving into blind hate and terror.

As the European Union is facing tremendous challanges (Schengen, Dublin 3, refugee treatments etc.) to its core principles today – part of which are threats from violent groups – and a World-flag is not at hand, I suggest that we at least ditch the Tricolour – may it be representative of an old revolution – and paint our profiles at least in blue and yellow stars, representative for the start of a new revolution of global understanding and worldwide companionship, that crosses political borders. Although the European flag broadens solidarity, it is still an excluding symbol – unfortunately we currently lack meaningful global symbols for all humans. Refugees, Europeans, Arabs and Peoples of the World would need a solidarity-stance and the global awareness that comes with it. Maybe a new substantial symbol that shows even broader solidarity and empathy can originate from these critiques.

1 The Times of Israel 14.November 2015, “World mourns 129 dead in worst-ever Paris terror attacks”. Available from: http://www.timesofisrael.com/hollande-accuses-islamic-state-of-act-of-war-declares-national-emergency-as-127-killed-in-paris-terror-bloodbath/. [15.11.2015]. Highlight by author.

2 Botelho, G. 2015, “Beirut suicide bombings kill 43; suspect claims ISIS sent attackers”, CNN International 13.November. Available from: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/12/middleeast/beirut-explosions/. [15.11.2015].

3 Levine, J. 2015, “A Day Before the Paris Attack, Suicide Bombers Killed 43 in Beirut”, Mic World, 14.November. Available from: http://mic.com/articles/128551/terrorist-suicide-bombing-attack-on-beirut-lebanon-kills-43-and-injures-hundreds#.oI5GEd2TO. [15.11.2015].

4 Girit, S. 2015, “Ankara bombings: Turkish lives traumatised by twin attacks”, BBC News, 17.October. Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34536974. [15.11.2015]

 

 

Post’s picture was taken at the start of France’s EU presidency on June, 30th 2008. Source: looking4poetry on flickr. Available from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/looking4poetry/2626949379. [15.11.2015]

Power Politics, Norms and International Society : A Neoclassical Realist Interpretation

Norms in Constructivist Tradition

Beginning with Alexander Wendt’s famous article “Anarchy is what states make of it” (1992: 391-425) the theory of constructivism has increasingly become more important in the study of international relations. Apart from meta-theoretical issues, including epistemology or ontology, constructivism also deals with independent variables which might affect the behavior of states. One of these independent variables is the impact of identity and norms on states‘ decision making.

The term norm can have different meanings within the scientific literature. For this purpose, however, it should be focused on the term as what Finnemore and Sikkink (1998: 887-917) call “evaluative or prescriptive norms”, meaning that norms imply some sort of collective moral judgement about what “proper” behavior is. The adoption of a norm by a state, as the argument goes, is closely related to a certain “state identity” within an “international society”, meaning that states adopt norms because they want to be a member of this international society. One famous example of the impact of international norms is Nina Tannenwald’s study of the  “nuclear taboo” (1999: 433-468), arguing that instead of nuclear deterrence an international norm has affected states‘ decision for a non-use policy. Other studies try to explain how norms affected regimes of chemical weapons (Price 1995: 73-103) or the abolishment of slavery (Ray 1989: 405-439).

The following essay will demonstrate how the complex links between international norms and power politics fit into a neoclassical realist approach. In doing so, two main arguments should be presented: First, norms and morality might be expressions of an international society but they only matter for a state as long as they are compatible with the regime’s survival (external and internal) and power considerations. Secondly, neoclassical realism can bridge the gap between power politics and international society by arguing that political elites actively construct norms and identities in order to mobilize material and human resources, in fact, not only from their society but also from other states.

Norms and Identity as Power Politics by Other Means

Neoclassical realism emerged as a theoretical response to liberalist and constructivist criticism to structural realism. Unlike neorealism, neoclassical realism considers anarchy as a “permissive condition” (Taliaferro et al. 2009: 1-41) under which governments can conduct a variety of grand strategies and foreign policies. This brings domestic politics and the state-unit level back into the pool of intervening variables, by emphasizing that states‘ behavior is not only determined by anarchy and the structure of the international system, as neorealists argue, but also by a government’s capability “to extract material and human resources from society for whatever purposes state elites determine are in the […] regime’s interests” (Schweller 2003: 311-348). Another important constructivist idea, which is incorporated into neoclassical realism, is that a foreign policy executive perceives international threats as well as its ability to mobilize material and human capabilities (2003: 311-348).

For neoclassical realists, governments are not only faced with different types of threats, as the balance of threats theory suggests (Walt 1987: 21-26), but also with different levels of threats which highly interact with each other, in particular threats at the systemic level (global), sub-systemic level (regional) or the state unit level (Lobell 2009: 42-74). The issue hierarchy of neorealism – survival comes first – remains, but not only in regard to external but also in terms of internal survival. Norms, therefore, cannot just be adopted as long as they are no threat to a country’s external security and the power distribution at the international level but also as long as they are no threat to a regime’s domestic power. In essence, Morgenthau’s famous assertion that “all politics is power politics” (cited in Williams 2004: 633-665) is nowhere else better suited than in neoclassical realism.

Basically, neorealists would argue that norms matter as long as they are no external security threat to a state’s survival or as long as they enhance a state’s security. It is hard to imagine, for example, that Hitler abstained from using chemical weapons during World War II because he had some moral obligations. For Hitler chemical weapons did simply not have any military strategic importance because of the blitzkrieg strategy (Legro 1995: 195). North Korea’s nuclear program, for instance, illustrates how a state can use an international norm as a tool to guarantee its external security. By joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985 North Korea could receive international support to develop its civil nuclear program. But after its civil nuclear program attained a level which allowed the leadership to build a nuclear weapon, the state left the NPT regime in 2003. Today no state would attack North Korea because of the fear of an escalation.

The case of Israel’s policy on chemical weapons shows how a government can be faced with external as well as internal threats. The Israeli government refused to ratify the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) – externally, because Israel considered itself as being too weak towards its surrounding threats and, domestically, because the ratification of the CWC would need the approval of the Knesset, which could entail high political costs in the eyes of any ruling government. A similar point is made by Mark Purdon’s (2014: 301-338) neoclassical realist analysis on international climate change politics, arguing that states‘ climate change policy is not merely driven by international norms and awareness but rather by international and domestic constraints.

Neoclassical realism shows under which international and domestic conditions norms can be adopted by a government, however, it can also explain why governments actively pursue or construct norms. The construction of national identity, for example, has always been a product of rational calculations by political actors in order to mobilize the masses, whether to compete with other states for domination at the international level (Schweller 2009: 227-250) or to compete with other sub-state groups for domination within a state (Sterling-Folker 2009: 99-138). Why should international identity be an exception? Neoclassical realism could explain why states adopt, construct or pursue international identities and norms. Political elites, as I would argue, construct international identities, norms or ideologies with the intention to mobilize not only domestic resources but also to extract resources in foreign countries.

Lawrence Rubin’s study “Islam in the Balance” (2014) provides a perfect example of how states try to extract resources in other countries by creating an international identity. Egypt’s former President Nasser, as Rubin argues, used pan-Arabism in order to “mobilize domestic opposition in Western-aligned monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan as well as Iraq, whose monarchy was overthrown in 1958 due to this pressure” (2014: 26). Another example would be the “cold war” between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Threatened by Iran’s intention to “export the Islamic revolution”, Saudi Arabia has, in return, actively promoted its own interpretation of a proper Islam. In doing so, the Saudi government simply tries to extract domestic resources in foreign countries in order to increase its own influence and, at the same time, to reduce the influence of Iran. A similar logic can be seen within the context of NATO’s and EU’s containment policy on Russia and the Ukraine crisis that followed. In addition to the politico-military expansion towards Moscow, the EU and NATO have supported liberal values in Ukraine by financing and supporting civil societal organizations and other oppositional groups, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, intending to reduce Russia’s sphere of influence and to drag Ukraine into the Western orbit (Mearsheimer 2014: 1-12).

Neoclassical Realism as a Dialectical Approach

The theoretical divide between realism and constructivism is first and foremost due to different epistemological and ontological positions (Mearsheimer 1994/1995: 5-49). Whereas constructivists assume that power is a product of ideas, realism states that ideas are a product of power – a thinking that dates back to Machiavelli, Bodin and Hobbes (Carr 1949: 64). Nevertheless, divergent ontological and epistemological perspectives do not necessarily mean that the theories are mutually exclusive, but it needs neoclassical realism to resolve the contradictions because it emphasizes the complex relationship between the international and domestic level and between power politics and norms.

Constructivism has definitely brought a fresh perspective into the field of IR theory by re-emphasizing the importance of ideas and norms. But, as it is the case with neorealism, the greatest strength of constructivist theory, in particular its reductionism, is the biggest weakness at the same time. Neoclassical realism, which largely renounces a reductionist approach, comes into play as a bridge builder because it can solve open puzzles which neither of the two theories can severely tackle, while it acknowledges important insights of both neorealism and constructivism. In regard to neorealism it can give answers to why ideas and norms matter despite the anarchic structure of the international system. Concerning the weaknesses of constructivism, neoclassical realism can place identities and norms into a structural context. However, the biggest strength of neoclassical realism, in particular its complex theoretical framework, is its biggest weakness.

 

 

References

CARR, Edward H. (1949) The Twenty Years‘ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. Macmillan & Co LTD, New York.

FINNEMORE, M. & SIKKING, K. (1998) International Norm Dynamics and Political Change. in: International Organization, Vol. 52, No. 4, September, pp. 887-917.

LEGRO, Jeffrey. W. (1995) Cooperation Under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint During World War     II. Cornell University Press, New York.

LOBELL, Steven E. (2009) Threat Assessment, the State, and Foreign Policy: A Neoclassical Real-      ist Model. in: Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy, Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, Steven  E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, pp. 42-74.

MEARSHEIMER, John J. (1994/1995) The False Promise of International Institutions. in: Interna-     tional Security, Vol. 19, No. 3, Winter, pp. 5-49.

MEARSHEIMER, John J. (2014) Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions that Provoked Putin. in: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 93, No. 5, Sept./Oct., pp. 1-12

PRICE, Richard M. (1995) A Genealogy of the Chemical Weapons Taboo. in: International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 2, Winter, pp. 73-103.

PURDON, Mark (2014) Neoclassical Realism and International Climate Change Politics: Moral Imperative and Political Constraint in International Climate Finance. in: Journal of international Relations and Development, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 301-338.

RAY, James L. (1989) The Abolition of Slavery and the End of International War. in: International Organization, Vol. 43, No. 3, Summer, pp. 405-439.

RUBIN, Lawrence (2014) Islam in the Balance: Ideational Threats in Arab Politics. Stanford Unversity Press, Stanford.

SCHWELLER, Randall L. (2003) The Progressiveness of Neoclassical Realism. in: Progress in International Relations Theory. Appraising the Field, Colin Elman, Miriam Fendius Elman (Ed.), MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 311-348.

SCHWELLER, Randall L. (2009) Neoclassical Realism and State Mobilization: Expansionist Ideo-      logy in the Age of Mass Politics; in: Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy, Jef      frey W. Taliaferro, Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, pp. 227-250.

STERLING-FOLGER, Jennifer (2009) Neoclassical Realism and Identity: Peril Despite Profit Across the Taiwan Strait. in: Neoclassical realism, the state, and foreign policy, Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 99-138.

TANNENWALD, Nina (1999) The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis of  Nuclear Non-use. in: International Organization, Vol. 53, No. 3, Summer, pp. 433-468.

TALIAFERRO, J. W. & LOBELL, S. E. & RIPSMAN, N. M. (2009) Introduction. Neoclassical Realism, the State and Foreign Policy. in: Neoclassical Realism, the State and Foreign Policy, Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman (ed.),  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, pp. 1-41.

WALT, Stephen M. (1987) The Origins of Alliances. Cornell University Press,  New York.

WENDT, Alexander (1992) Anarchy is What States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics. in: International Organization, Vol. 46, No. 2, Spring, pp. 391-425.

WILLIAMS, Michael C. (2004) Why Ideas Matter in International Relations: Hans Morgenthau, Classical Realism, and the Moral Construction of Power Politics. in: International Organizations, Vol. 58, No. 4, Autumn, pp. 633-665.

 

 

Social entrepreneurship – capitalist social business or pragmatic win-win?

After hearing a talk from Kilian Kleinschmidt about refugee treatment and his work in the world’s 3rd biggest refugee camp in Jordan, I couldn’t help but wonder about the concepts of social entrepreneurship. In talking about his work as “the mayor of Zaatari”1, he described how the UN treated refugees as victims, who had to be feed (2100 kcal a day), a right to water access, sanitation and 4,5 m2 of space. All of these the UN provided for the inhabitants of Zaatari, everything a human being needs, it seems. But the “victims” revolted, had nasty fights with the staff, police and each other. They opened illegal shops, stole equipment and built by themselves in-house sanitation and kitchens, taped the electrical supply, moved and rebuilt their tents and so on. Based on his experiences Kleinschmidt’s message was, that refugees claim to be seen as individuals who are able to build a new life for themselves instead of being treated like a homogenous mass of victims. Thus, defining on paper what a human being needs to survive and the attempt to systematize the refugees lives could be regarded as a strategy from those outside of the camp: in order to keep an eye on the refugees more easily.

This view from above tries to arrange the camps and refugee handling neat and manageable from the outside. In an analogy it can be described as the bee-keeper’s need for organising the bee hive, so that s_he can extract honey – the bee’s needs are secondary to this venture2. Inhabitants of Zaatari revolted against the neat order provided by UN, NGOs and political actors. He continued that we have to see refugees foremost as individual people who want to provide for their own lives. We need to understand, he argued, that what we can do is providing them the possibilities to recreate a normal life. This should be a life that is build on work and integration (into a new society). Right now, the German government is changing – at least to some extent – its perspective on migration and refugees with possible changes in laws, integration and education programs, underpinned by an understanding that refugees can be seen as already needed work-force3. Although there is much political discussion and by far no consent on how to handle the refugee crisis in Germany – with special focus on border control – the idea that these refugees are much-needed workers for the national labour market is not questioned as much by (political) elites. The new attitude is that people who got asylum status are being integrated into the German economy and trained in order to benefit the economic market. Kleinschmidt stressed that on this course a win-win should be possible for the country’s economy, the state’s taxation and welfare system and refugees who want to build a new living away from life-threatening situation.

Aside from changes in the political field, seeing refugees as people with private interests, an argument for civilian involvement can be put forward for example Social Entrepreneurship. Some of my colleagues at this talk were enthusiastic about this idea. So was I. However some critical considerations stopped my initial call for immediate action and launching an initiative right away. It wasn’t the thought that a state actor should provide the basic means for refugees that made me consider social entrepreneurship less favourably. On second thought the whole concept of social entrepreneurship started to look flawed. If you are a social entrepreneurship your goal is to change something in the world, some injustice or social problem that bothers you – for money. On a small scale that means that your time, other resources and maybe the employees, you need to get things done, will be paid by a classical capitalist exchange model. The product produced will be paid with money from the consumer’s income. Although most social entrepreneurship businesses get some funding from other sources, they will try to achieve that kind of exchange. So you will model a business based on a social problem you are passionate about.

The first problems I see with Social Entrepreneurship are the lines between solving an issue or living off of it. Not just Kilian Kleinschmidt, but many others are pointing to the growingly public issue of Help organizations that need human or animal misery in order to survive as an organization. Along with that, comes an ever growing professionalism in these organizations that might even hinder direct and quick help or solving problems, which usually is the initial intention behind a Social Entrepreneurship model. Inflexibility, and a huge bureaucratic organizational apparatus is evidence to this as it restricts not only direct help but also regulates every action and contact on-site from above4.

Other issues lay in the core of the concept: Making money. Once any business model is successful and gets attention for that, others might try to copy it. Most of the time, companies, that have more resources, will be able to sell or offer the same product for a cheaper price or more convenient. Nothing different is happening to social entrepreneurship businesses. In the case of the “Micro credits” or a “Laptop per child” initiatives, bigger companies are taking over the business or change its initial plans5. Small social entrepreneurship models thereby become some sort of scouts for new markets and niches. Often even creating new products, that later on can be sold primarily to make profits instead of tackling a social issue. Although bigger companies are marketing taking over such a small social business as beneficial to the consumers (by that point people using the product will be viewed as nothing more), the problem with becoming a model for profit instead of solving social problems becomes evident: Solving something becomes secondary to either making money or image improvement. So decisions about the business, the product, labour and so on will be based foremost on these principals and not about answering a social issue.

Looking at the thousands of refugees currently seeking a better life in Europe, one social entrepreneurship business model might be to give these people work in your factory or shop, so that they can provide for themselves. Not only would this help to start a new live in a new society for them, but it could also help your business if you act like a clever entrepreneur. But is this really a win-win for all? Would you expect your refugee-employees to be extra grateful because you gave them a job? Maybe you would expect them to pay you more respect, invite you to dinner, do you a small favour or get paid less when times are though. After all, you where the one helping them. When is social entrepreneurship still about helping people and not exploiting them?

However, not all social business models try to give work to refugees or get caught up in money-making, but it highlights the big problem: Social Engineering models are still businesses. This means that they want or need to make money, at least in order to pay for resources. In a way Social Entrepreneurship businesses might be trying to make a difference, but they could end up creating new social problems.

With all these issues I pointed out, (social) problem-solving could become a secondary venture and economic considerations a primary goal for social entrepreneurship. Still, it doesn’t mean that social entrepreneurship or civic involvement are to be avoided. It just means that we have to question our/these initiatives and to critically look at the consequences of our/their (business) actions. What is written bigger in our/their model: SOCIAL or ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

1 Würger, Takis (2013): Chaos and Crime: The Trials of Running a Syrian Refugee Camp. Der Spiegel. Available under http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/kilian-kleinschmidt-profile-running-a-syrian-refugee-camp-a-908146.html. [16.10.2015]

2 Scott, James C. (1998): Seeing like a state. How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press (The Yale ISPS series).

3 Jones, Claire (2015): Refugees may ease Germany’s problem of a shrinking workforce. Financial Times. Available under http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/bfd6adfe-47e8-11e5-af2f-4d6e0e5eda22.html. [16.10.2015]
Denkler, Thorsten (2015): Germany’s Refugee Crisis and the remaking of Angela Merkel. Süddeutsche Zeitung International. Available under http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/131092746340/germanys-refugee-crisis-and-the-remaking-of. [16.10.2015]

4 Ebrahim, Alnoor (2003): Accountability In Practice. Mechanisms for NGOs. In: World Development 31 (5), 813-829.
Easterly, William (2002): The cartel of good intentions. The problem of bureaucracy in foreign aid. In:
The Journal of Policy Reform 5 (4), 223–250.

5 Nosowitz, Dan (2013): Has One Laptop Per Child totally lost its way? Popular Science Online. Available under http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2013-07/one-laptop-childs-de-evolution. [27.10.2015]
Velazco, Chris (2014): Google buys design firm behind OLPC and Slingbox. Endgadget Online. Available under http://www.engadget.com/2014/08/22/google-buys-gecko-design/. [30.10.2015]

Karnani, Aneel (2007): Microfinance Misses Its Mark. Stanford Social Innovation Review Online. Available under http://ssir.org/articles/entry/microfinance_misses_its_mark?id=180400002. [15.10.2015}
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Developing Country Studies Vol. 5 (8), 37-45.

Picture source: Tatjana Boczy, Innsbruck 09/2015

Syrien: Drama in fünf Akten von Michael Wolf

Fragt man nach den passendsten Schlagwörtern zur Beschreibung der aktuellen innen- und außenpolitischen Geschehnisse, stünden die Termini „Flucht“, „Asyl“ und „Massenmigration“ im Ranking wohl ganz klar vorne. Politik und Medien jonglieren tagtäglich mit diesen Begriffen und suggerieren der Öffentlichkeit sehr eindringlich, welche Aspekte der Flüchtlingskrise gerade „bedeutsam“ und damit vorrangig zu thematisieren seien. Dabei wird jedoch immer nur ein kleiner Ausschnitt der Realität präsentiert, der dann isoliert vom Kontext den gesellschaftlichen Diskurs konstruiert. Der Versuch, den Ausgangspunkt, Verlauf und Status quo anhand von fünf einzelnen Phasen der medialen Berichterstattung nachzuzeichnen:

1. Akt: Der Ausbruch des Bürgerkriegs
Ab 2011: Als Präsident Baschar al-Assad im April 2011 die reguläre Armee gegen Demonstranten einzusetzen begann und die ersten Zivilisten ums Leben kamen, dachte die westliche Welt vorerst nur an ein weiteres kleines Kapitel in einer ganzen Reihe von Revolutionen, die zusammengefasst als Arabischer Frühling bezeichnet wurden und heute ein hohes Maß an Ernüchterung zurücklassen. Weil weder Regierungs- noch Oppositionstruppen jemals einen wirklich entscheidenden Schlag landen konnten, die internationalen Bemühungen um eine diplomatische Lösung immer wieder scheiterten und die Ausbreitung des sogenannten Islamischen Staates die Lage noch weiter destabilisierte, sahen sich seit Beginn der Kampfhandlungen nach Schätzungen der UN und verschiedener Hilfsorganisationen rund 12 Millionen Menschen (ca. 55% der syrischen Gesamtbevölkerung) gezwungen, ihre Heimat zu verlassen – mehr als 4 Millionen in Richtung Ausland. „We don’t have a strategy yet“, tönten noch im August 2014 sehr leise Töne aus dem Mund eines US-Präsidenten, der zu sehr bemüht erschien, die Fehler seines Vorgängers nicht mit zu offensiven Entschlüssen zu wiederholen. Weil erwartungsgemäß auch sonst niemand mit Nachdruck eine Entscheidung herbeiführen wollte, ist und bleibt die Situation in Syrien mehr als vier Jahre nach den ersten Bomben weiter verheerend.

2. Akt: Massengrab Mittelmeer
Ab 2014: Nachdem sich die internationale Staatengemeinschaft nicht auf eine militärische Intervention einigen konnte, das Chaos weitgehend sich selbst überlassen wurde und niemand mehr an baldigen Frieden glaubte, nahmen viele Syrer ihr Schicksal selbst in die Hand. Allein die beiden Anrainerstaaten Türkei (1.59 Millionen) und Libanon (1.15 Millionen) beherbergen seither mehr als die Hälfte all jener Kriegsflüchtlinge – zigtausende wagten jedoch die gefährliche Flucht über das Mittelmeer. Der traurige Höhepunkt ereignete sich dann im Frühling 2015, als binnen nur eines Monats 1.308 Menschenleben auf hoher See ein Ende fanden. Tausende konnten zwar gerettet werden, eine gezielte Aktion gegen die Schlepperkriminalität, die für die meisten der ertrunkenen Flüchtlinge verantwortlich zeichnet, wurde jedoch erst im Juni 2015 von den EU-Außenministern auf eine erste schmale Schiene gebracht. Mit der Zuspitzung der Lage am Mittelmeer veränderten sich auch die heimischen Diskurse: Von Rechtsaußen kamen immer stärkere Forderungen nach totaler Abschottung, die zivilisierte Mehrheit der Bevölkerung mahnte indes vehement die humanitäre Verantwortung Europas ein.

3. Akt: Neue Hoffnung zu Lande
Ab 2015: Während 2014 noch mehr als drei Viertel der Festlandankünfte in Italien registriert wurden, entwickelte sich seither ausgerechnet das krisengebeutelte Griechenland zum Hotspot Nummer eins. Innerhalb von nur zwei Jahren explodierten die Flüchtlingszahlen auf hellenischem Territorium von 3.600 (2012) auf 43.500 (2014) – Tendenz weiter steigend. Mit dem Zustrom verlagerte sich auch der mediale Fokus vom Mittelmeer auf den westlichen Balkan, der zur Fluchtroute Nummer eins avancierte. Bleiben wollte in den Erstaufnahmeländern am Balkan aber praktisch niemand, versprachen sich doch die meisten eine aussichtsreiche Zukunft im „gelobten Land“ Deutschland.

4. Akt: Zwischen Chaos und Willkommen
Ab Sommer 2015: Was dann kam schien logisch: Überfüllte Aufnahmelager, Diskussionen über Verteilungsschlüssel, Angst in der Bevölkerung. So wenig überraschend die Tatsache war, dass mehr Flüchtlinge auch mehr Betten bedeuten, so schlecht schien man gerade hierzulande darauf vorbereitet. Die ersten kleinen Wellen einer sich anbahnenden Flut an Menschen verursachten ein Chaos, das erst mit erheblicher Verspätung und meist völlig unzureichend zu schlichten versucht wurde. Die Folge: Rechtsextreme Kreise sahen sich in ihrer Annahme bestätigt, dass ein paar hundert Migranten mehr bereits ausreichten, eingespielte gesellschaftliche Routinen aus dem Takt zu bringen. Aufrufe zu Gewalt, Hetze im Netz sowie immer selbstbewusster vorgetragene Polemik griffen ungehindert um sich, ehe die Zivilgesellschaft mit einer Welle der Hilfsbereitschaft starke Zeichen der Nächstenliebe setzte.

5. Akt: Status quo
Ab Herbst 2015: Gerade als so mancher glaubte, dass sich die Lage langsam aber sicher stabilisiert, kam der Paukenschlag. Am 25. August brachen die Dämme und mehr als 2.000 Flüchtlinge überquerten binnen nur eines Tages die EU-Außengrenze nach Ungarn. Es sollte nur eine erste Vorhut sein. Die Geschehnisse der folgenden Wochen waren all jenen Mitteleuropäern, die erst nach dem Mauerfall geboren wurden, vollkommen fremd. Grenzen wurden in vielen EU-Ländern zuerst unkontrolliert geöffnet, dann teilweise oder vollständig abgeriegelt. Zugverbindungen wurden gekappt und Soldaten in Stellung gebracht. Die Politik reagierte dabei ohnmächtig und in fast allen zentralen Fragen gespalten.

Kein Happy End in Sicht
Dass in Syrien bald Frieden herrschen wird, scheint undenkbar – dass sich die EU auf eine gemeinsame Flüchtlingspolitik einigen wird – zumindest sehr fragwürdig. Der Strom, bestehend aus hunderttausenden Einzelschicksalen, der immer wieder Wege finden wird, ja finden muss, Zäune und Barrikaden zu durchbrechen, wird noch lange nicht zum Erliegen kommen. Wenn nicht bald ein großes Umdenken in jenen europäischen Ländern stattfindet, die noch nicht im ganz großen Stile von der dramatischen humanitären Katastrophe betroffen sind, wird der sechste Akt den vollkommenen Kollaps geordneter Strukturen – und der siebte dann das Ende der EU als Solidargemeinschaft beschreiben.

Turkey and the Cyprus Issue

How can such a sparsely populated, small plot of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean arrogate Turkey’s foreign policy, and even thwart its EU accession? The answer has two dimensions, one is Turkey’s problems with its immediate security orbit; the other is the EU’s internal problems in regard to Turkey. While the former is a best practice example of the application of realist theory on actual events, the latter is an amalgam of state level interests, collective European foreign policy interests, and internal EU interest-accumulation. Therefore the latter will only be mentioned when significant for Turkey’s foreign policy decision making and the focus will lie on the abstraction of Ankara’s intentions on the Island or at least in regard to the Island.

Cyprus has been under Ottoman control for almost 350 years, de facto ending in 1878 (ceding control to the British Empire), de jure in 1914. Ever since the latter date, Turkey fights to defend strategic depth in its immediate sphere of influence, naturally including in the Mediterranean, and most importantly so against Greece, the biggest enemy in the Turkish fight for independence from 1919 – 22. The Island has been an official British protectorate until 1960 and as such a key geostrategic location. Even after the independence, Cyprus continued to be of significant importance for London, since there are still two military bases on the Island. Turkey though lost its edge on the Island at the beginning of the First World War, with the exception of the claimed guardianship over ethnic Turks living there. This auspice was included in the 1960s constitution as the so called mother-states guarantor rights, but since the end of the Ottoman rule this was contested, particularly so since 1960. The contestation of Turkish-Cypriot, and thus indirectly Turkish influence was increasingly pulling both Ankara and Athens into domestic issues. Both leading figures in the Greek-Cypriot community and Greece itself supported “enosis”, thus the unification of Cyprus and Greece. Turkey on the contrary, who has been on the edge of war with Greece only some years earlier and had a military coup at home in 1960, wanted to increase its influence on the Island, but much more importantly wanted to keep the Island from becoming entirely Greek and therefore supported “taksim” or a division of the Island.

This coincided with Turkey’s slow but steady economic and military build-up and the increasing role of the military in both countries decision making. Six years apart both Ankara and Athens had military coups, heavily destabilizing both sides foreign policies, particularly towards each other. Intercommunal violence started to went out of hand in 1963 already and then Prime Minister of Turkey Ismet Inönü (the former right hand of Atatürk himself) threatened Greek-Cypriots with a military intervention in early 1964. But then U.S. president Lyndon Johnson was able to coerce Ankara into abidance and prevented a direct military confrontation. Over the years the situation did not de-escalate though and both Turkey and Greece were not willing to give in and actively supported either side militarily and economically. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was a coup d’état staged by the Greek military junta on the Island to force enosis in 1974, after which Turkey intervened militarily only five days later in what the Greek-Cypriot side, until today, calls the Turkish barbaric invasion, the Turkish-Cypriot side the happy peace operation. While the regime in Athens quickly afterwards fell, the Turkish side achieved a remarkable victory, de facto controlling 37% of the Islands territory. Although the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed in 1983, many Turkish-Cypriots resent Turkey to a quite remarkable extent and the country has not been recognized as such except by Turkey, it is Ankara who pulls the strings there until today. Greece on the contrary claims no more auspice over Greek-Cypriots and while many Greek-Cypriots still recognise their ethnic and cultural origins, the Republic of Cyprus now is part of the EU and if anything, Cypriot nationalism is prevailing.

The geopolitical situation today is very different from the 1970s or 80s and much has changed favouring stability between the two states. The Soviet Union for instance no longer plays a role in the security environment – although the Russian upper class arguably has a lot of money on the Greek-Cypriot side of the Island – and Turkey-Greece relations currently are focused rather on cooperation than conflict. Thus the key reason for Turkey to intervene on the Island, to prevent Athens from reclaiming yet another Island close to Anatolia dwindled in importance and might even be obsolete due to the aforementioned factors. Yet the situation on the ground for the Island changed little, with the exception that the Greek-Cypriot part now is in the European Union. Through the accession of 2004, the Greek-Cypriot side gained massively in leverage towards Turkey as it now is in a position to veto any further steps of a Turkish-EU approximation – something its does quite enthusiastically ever since. At the same time it also means that Ankara, who is in a customs union with the EU since 2005, now has the possibility to trade with Cyprus, although selling Turkish produce on the Greek-Cypriot side seems rather unpopular.

For Turkey the status quo has four key benefits as well. First of all the Island still is of great strategic importance for Turkey, as it provides it with strategic depth, not particular towards some specific country, but more general, making it significantly easier to keep clear its southern shores. The strong presence on the northern part of the Island would allow Turkey to encircle possible aggressors. Secondly Turkey has ideological reasons to claim guardianship of Turks around the world, like it does in China, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. Turkey could use that auspice as legitimization of an intervention (hypothetically), just as it did in 1974 in Cyprus, or more generally to justify its foreign policy towards neighbouring states. Thirdly Turkey gains political leverage by not simply giving up the guardianship of Turkish-Cyprus. In any deal for unification, Ankara will have a say, and if the European Union or the international community will push for a deal, it will have to pay a certain price. This could be the opening of chapters to speed up the EU accession – which ironically mainly has been prevented because of the Republic of Cyprus’ interventions – but it could also mean the allowance of a Turkish military base on the Island, or simply cheap loans or economic assistance. Lastly, Turkey has shown strong interest in the Aphrodite gas field south of the Island, which is in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus, but is not recognized as such by Turkey. Not only has Turkey a heavy trade balance deficit due to its energy imports, but also would it further increase its strategic standing.

While the elite rhetoric in regard to a reunification of the Island is very positive, especially since both sides’ leaders show strong intentions for a reunification, the general rhetoric still is marked by resentment and dis-information. The Greek-Cypriot side shows little understanding of Turkish (not to be confused with Turkish-Cypriot) interests, while the Turkish-Cypriots are in no position to formulate demands without Turkish approval – at least to a certain extent. Either side is caught in their own rhetoric traps, focusing on the other sides atrocities, while playing down the own role. What is more important though is that Greek-Cypriots have little understanding of Turkey’s strategic interests or refuse to say so. Turkey on the contrary continues to gamble with old sentiments about Greek and Greek-Cypriot violence against (ethnic) Turks – again remembering Turkey’s struggle for independence against Greece and intercommunal violence in Turkey itself in 1955. While relations between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus cooled down significantly over the last decades, the conflict is still far from over, even if the Island is reunified. Resentments on either side should be cooled down, and like Turkey did in so many other foreign policy cases, it should show more pragmatism. At the same time the EU should put more effort into reducing Greek-Cypriot partiality towards Turkey. Problems with exactly that on both sides make it much more difficult to find a solution. We should not make the mistake of thinking a re-unification will solve all of these problems.

Why ‘Game of Thrones’ helps you understand the Middle East

Several months ago, a Washington Post article took up the delicate task to parallel the Houses of Westeros, the fictional entities of the Game of Thrones books and series, with the countries of the Middle East1. What started as a far stretched endeavor, resulted in an exceptionally well placed comparison. My heart as a fan of Game of Thrones was of course immediately taken by the writing. But more so, my mind as an analyst of the Middle East was also impressed by how well the author made the shoe fit. It is, of course, foolish to believe that the situation in the Middle East might ever continue according to the Game of Thrones script, but at this point in time and Game of Thrones season, the comparison succeeded surprisingly well.
More so than the comparison of Houses in Westeros and states in the Middle East, however, the fiction of Game of Thrones does indeed hold a value for understanding the realities of the crisis-torn region: it provides a new perspective. In this article, I would like to highlight three important lessons learned from Game of Thrones: 1) when the central power disappears, instability and a multiplication of forces occur; 2) thinking in categories, such as ethnicity or religion, is too shortsighted to understand the situation on the ground; and 3) power is a shadow – it resides where people believe it to reside.

When the central power disappears…
It is hardly a new thought to contemplate that the downfall of a powerful center comes along with rising instability. Be it the succession claims of hereditary monarchies, the formation of a new government out of the revolting forces, or the consolidation of a military take-over through a civilian cover – change comes with instability. The source of this instability arises from the opportunity structure that is created in the immediate power vacuum. Different interest become (more) visible and all kinds of groups, organizations, clans and tribes will contemplate at least their own survival but if possible a bettering or maintaining of their situation in the new circumstances. When the rules of the game change, opportunities arise and insecurities skyrocket. Having increased force show up as a result of these circumstances can hardly be surprising.
What Game of Thrones and the Middle East have in common in this regard is the depth of division in interests, ethnicities, religions and tribes or “family-houses” as well as the wide availability of weapons. Yet it was the fiction of Westeros and not the analyses of reality that portrayed the right picture. As the “Arab Spring” was sweeping through several countries, joy and relief was the reaction of western scholars observing the region. Already back then I wondered, whether they had not read what happened after the French Revolution – to this day the scholarly pivot of democratization effort. Have you heard of the Jacobins? Napoleon? Instead, Game of Thrones painted a much more refined picture. When the king died, questions were raised about his succession, new interests arose to challenge the authority, rumors were as much a force of alliance formation and violence as realities, and violence erupted among the different forces.
This is not to say that the correct conclusion or policy option then is to stabilize the center at all costs; but it is to point towards the likely consequences of the actions to support a weakening (Syria) or downfall (Libya, Iraq) of a strong center.

Why thinking in categories is misleading …
More importantly than the lessons learned about the dangers of removing a central power, however, is what Game of Thrones can teach about the invalidity of thinking in categories such as “religion”, “ethnicity” and “tribe”. Even “alliances” are not a category worth counting on.
Let me provide you with an example. Listening to the popular media reporting and even some scholars, I am afraid to say, one gets the impression that the Kurds are their own ethnicity, culture and interest group. And they are. But Kurds are not Kurds. The danger lies in considering the Kurdish populations of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran as one group. And I will now show why it is indeed outright dangerous: thinking in these terms will make you overlook the reality unfolding in front of you; or how else would you explain that a Kurdish party in the north of Iraq is cooperating with Ankara, the well-known forefront of anti-Kurdish measurements, against other Kurds in Turkey? Or how would you explain Shia and Sunni cooperating against other Shias or other Sunnis?
Thinking in terms of “ethnicity”, “religion” or other clear cut categories denies the actual realities on the ground. And Game of Thrones shows exactly that: the show makes so valuably visible that allegiances are not necessarily permanent – even if they have existed for hundreds of years; they arise on the basis of common features, such as geography (the northern tribes), ethnicity (the houses) and religion (the old god’s or the fire god’s), but also on the basis of mere interests (tyrells and lannisters) or personal rationale (not to say ‘ego’) (house greyjoy). Alliances form and break; sometimes out of calculation, sometimes out of irrational longings, sometimes out of rumors, and sometimes out of forces beyond anyone’s control. Without recognizing at least the forces behind the fluctuation of alliances in the Middle East – not just between states, but between all actors involved in a conflict – the region can not be understood.

Power resides where people believe it to reside…
In one of the first seasons of Game of Thrones, the figure ‘Varys’ posts a riddle to ‘Lord Tyrion’. It goes like this: in a room there are a king, a priest and a rich man. Between them is a common sell-sword. Each of them wants the others to die; who wins, who dies?
Lord Tyrion gives the answer that the sell-sword himself could kill all three of the others and keep the power to himself, but Varys then asks why it is not soldiers ruling the lands but kings and queens instead. And the solution to the riddle is such that power is a shadow – it resides where people believe it to reside. If the sell-sword (“the people”) believe in religion, no money in the world could corrupt them. The same goes for money and religion, if the person has a true allegiance to the king. But the allegiance of the people depends on each person themselves.
It is in this riddle, that the different alliances become a new dimension. Groups will form and dissolve on the basis of many factors. Some are opportunity, others are deep loyalty. But in either case, people follow what they believe the power they believe to be rightfully powerful. And this is not always the one western observers might like to judge as “right”. And it is with all these additional variables in mind, that suddenly the “mess” in the Middle East becomes a little bit less messy. After all, if one can follow some ten or more fictional houses in a popular TV series, with all their intrigues, conflicts and shifting alliances, one can just as well follow the happenings in the Middle East without being surprised about their dynamic character.

1 Tharoor, Ishaan. If ‘Game of Thrones’ were in the Middle East. Washington Post, April 9 2015, 1 URL:  http:// www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/04/09/if-game-of-thrones-was-inthe-middle-east/, accessed April 9 2015

Went Ankara Bonkers?

Spoiler alert: no. Looking at the current security policy of Turkey, one might assume the government in Ankara went bonkers, fighting a peaceful left-wing grassroots organization that is currently devoting most of its energy to fight the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria and which was key in liberating Yazidis from mount Sinjar helping to prevent mass atrocities against innocent people.

But the picture is completely wrong: the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, a self-declared Maoist, militant underground organization, has committed unspeakable crimes against its perceived enemies by using land mines, VBIED’s, and kidnapping and executing innocent people. Arguably Turkish authorities in no way used inferior methods to suppress Kurdish independence aspirations or even public outcries against unequal treatment of Kurds – something that fills Turkish jails until today.

Using the balance of threat template on the PKK, for Turkey the organization has high geographic proximity, strong offensive intentions, powerful enough offensive capabilities to seriously threaten Turkish authorities and an impressive aggregate strength, mainly consisting of its support among Turkey’s Kurds. This makes the organization a serious peril for Ankara.

Turkey’s war against the PKK and the organizations menace for the country has changed dramatically over the last years for a number of reasons though: a) the danger of separatism on the Kurdish side lost in importance. Yet although the separatist stance loosened somewhat in recent years, the guerrilla group still poses the greatest danger to Turkey’s geographical integrity – far beyond that of let’s say ISIS. But then again, Turkey faces significantly less security concerns than issued in Ankara and the country is currently far from facing a major breakaway of state territory.

b) The regional power constellation is completely different than it was twenty years back and Turkey’s role in its direct neighbourhood increased significantly. Turkey used to have brinkmanship relations with Syria and Iran (and with Iraq arguably) for a good part due to the reason that they sponsored Turkey’s Kurdish separatist movement, most notably of course Abdullah Öcalan’s PKK. Next to these countries, Greece and Russia, with which Turkey too had very strained relations in the past, also supported the group in one way or another in an effort to balance Ankara. None of the named countries still supports the organization, reducing the direct geopolitical threat to unprecedented levels and making it very difficult for the PKK to organize on 1980s and 1990s levels.

c) The leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party Abdullah Öcalan has been captured 16 years ago and is willing to support a ceasefire. Although there are still powerful forces within the PKK, particularly around the figure of Cemil Bayik, who is deemed one of the most powerful figures in the organization, that oppose the peace process with Ankara, the PKK as a whole still complies with Öcalan and supports a rapprochement if he does, and he does. Öcalan not only supports the peace process, he favours a democratic process of legitimizing Kurdish interests and became an opponent of complete independence of Turkey’s Kurds. He also supported the disarmament of the PKK on Turkish soil and the relocation of armed fighters to outside territory, mainly to northern Iraq. On the whole this does not constitute a large reduction of offensive capabilities, it reduced the organizations immediate military capabilities inside Turkey though.

d) Last but not least there is a general Kurdish empowerment stemming from increasing autonomy of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, the battle of Kobane and greater Rojava in Syria and the recent and growing economic and political integration of Turkey’s south-east. Kurds in the respective countries thus individually get empowered, but also as a whole, leading to a greater Kurdish rapprochement. This in turn led to an increase of influence regionally and globally, as Kurdish interests came in the limelight again and Kurdish forces are key for the western strategy to fight ISIS.

The current escalation does not necessarily represent a return to Turkey’s traditional policy towards the PKK. The hysteria over the Kurdish threat has gradually decreased and with the exception of a bunch of hard-core nationalists in and outside the MHP – currently the third largest party in Turkey, which of all established parties made the biggest gains in this year’s general elections – few perceive the PKK a bigger menace than ISIS or the Assad regime as apportion of the balance of threat scheme on these two clearly highlights. And here’s where popular and executive threat perception contradict each other. Significant parts of Turkey’s security apparatus are still caught in an anti-Kurdish paranoia that resembles rather ethnic racism than it does real security threats. Admittedly, many people have been killed on both sides in the short period since the ceasefire between the two sides was suspended, but this is more due to the deliberate escalation of the conflict by parts of both the Turkish government and the PKK than due to the mutual security risks.

The population of Turkey in the June 7 elections made clear several points: first of all people democratically elevated Kurdish interests into the Parliament (at least that’s what should happen once a government is formed) against all the odds, including the ruling AKP’s opposition to it. Secondly, Turkish nationalists made clear that they opposed an approximation with Kurds for ideological reasons, and they attracted a significant part of the AKP’s former electorate for this idea. Thirdly, and this must not be underestimated, the majority of voters made clear that they did not want the ruling AKP to change the political system into a presidential one and therefore increase the ruling parties powers – or president Erdoğan’s to be more precise.

From an outside perspective Turkey’s recent move to allow the U.S. led coalition to fly sorties from Incirlik air base while at the same time fighting the PKK – and thus indirectly its Syrian sister organization, the YPG – might turn out as a huge mistake. Ankara’s intention is clearly to separate U.S. interests from Kurdish military success in northern Syria (mostly directed against ISIS), which constitutes the biggest single empowerment of Kurdish interests across national borders, as Kobane has shown. Next to the fact, that Kurds with little effort could turn to Iran as a possible partner1, posing a geopolitical nightmare for Ankara, the move could also empower Saudi and Qatari interests in Syria, as their proxy Jabhat al-Nusra (which is the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria) would massively gain ground, increasing the Turkish strategic defeat.

The government in Ankara thus is in a predicament. While powerful political and military elites push for a return to a direct military confrontation with the PKK, Turkey’s NATO partners and other western powers as well as most parts of Turkey’s society prefer the ceasefire solution of the last two years. At the same time Turkey fights over regional influence and wants to increase its interests in the Middle East, a scheme which I predicted to fail repeatedly already in my prior blog entries. Turkey cannot win this conflict militarily, everyone knows that, but many influential forces within Turkey stand against simply giving up and ceding authority to the Kurds (in general). Additionally the AKP appears to be in a fight for political survival and seems willing to sacrifice domestic stability for the sake of a legislative majority. This makes the current government, and more so Erdoğan, look insincere and even hypocritical, but this fits into the trend, that the AKP gradually is losing its political monopoly. This does not mean the AKP era, or the Erdoğan era is over – far from it, but the political landscape is changing. While some, including the sitting government, are losers in this trend and have a hard time giving up their powers, I see signs of a political opening in Turkey that might go beyond the trend in the AKP’s first years in office. For the greater Middle East and political as well as military stability there the situation looks completely different and the region will continue to produce instability on a massive scale in the years to come.

Turkeys Iran Paradox

With the talks between the P5+1 and Iran finally coming to an conclusion, a decades old mechanism to change the Middle Eastern balance of power in disadvantage of Iran is nearing its end. The losers in this bargain from a regional point of view are all powers that benefited from the United States containment policy during the last 35 years, thus practically all major Sunni actors in the region, most notably the Gulf States and Turkey. And no, Israel is not one of the losers, despite the fact that some policy makers want to sell it like that. Turkey’s relationship with Iran goes way back and is minted by a centuries old struggle for influence in the region, a similarly old struggle between the two denominations of Islam and as a result of these two a development of two completely different independent cultures. Yet, they have a lot in common as well: both have about the same population, both have a vast Islamic majority with many different manifestations, both struggle politically with their large respective Kurdish minorities, both share a history of huge empires which collapsed and saw the emergence of a secular political elitist system in a similar timeframe. But the countries took decisively different steps after the end of the “old order” after the First World War. While Turkey gradually shifted towards more popular political participation, Iran underwent an authoritarian shift, which finally resulted in a popular uprising forming the current state of affairs.

From a classical realist understanding all of this wouldn’t matter much as both states simply compete in the balance of power system, in this case of the Middle East. Both are mid-powers with similar military capabilities, although arguably Turkey would have the edge for the reason of clear economic superiority. And it is true: both actors balance each other, at times on a frightening level, like during for both countries struggling times from 1979 to 1983, in which both states saw a regime change – in complete opposite directions though. Neither state was able to clearly dominate bilateral relations – arguably for the past few hundred years. But there was no major war between the two political entities since the treaty of Erzurum in 1823 despite all the turmoil the region went through during that time. Again: from a realist perspective that has to be correlated to the functioning balance of power system as no actor was able to clearly dominate the other or there was a hegemon – like Britain and France – that kept up the balance. Adding to this understanding the two neoclassical realist variables “domestic constraints” and “elite perceptions”, one could argue in both ways: due to the strong cultural linkage of the two countries resulting from the fact that they emerged from the Turkic Seljuk Empire and it was Persians that let the Turks to adopt Islam. On the other side there is the sectarian rift and the centuries old struggle for power between Turks and Persians, yet again expressed in the current state of affairs in which Turkey is a key supporter of Sunni Islam in the region, and Iran the key supporter for Shia interests. Thus elite perceptions and domestic constrains in both countries can be interpreted in two ways, favouring peaceful relations or not. Given the rather recent developments the latter seems more likely though.

Another realist perspective on the issue is the one of threat perception. Both countries share a 500 km long border, as stated already similar aggregative powers, similar offensive capabilities and arguably similar offensive (or precisely not) intentions. Thus it is clear that both observe each other with suspicion, which best is displayed in parts of Turkey’s elites (mainly secular hardliners) perception of Iran as an adversary. But then again: relations have been more or less peaceful during the last 192 years. The answer why relations are nonetheless peaceful as complex as the prior description would suggest. Overall, Iran has never been perceived as the major threat for Turkey ever since Russia held that position starting in the mid-18th century, the situation in Iran being similar. Domestic developments combined with British and French foreign policies – particularly the strong British influence in Persia up until the 1950s kept relations at a low, but stable level. The Kemalist foreign policy from the early 1920s on pursued an isolation towards the Middle East and a timid approximation towards the west while emphasising Turkey’s independence. Iran during that time underwent a comparable “westernization” with much less independence though, as Russia and Britain kept a key edge in the country’s affairs. During that time no situation emerged in which Iran and Turkey would have to balance massively against each other, nor did have either of the states have the intentions, let alone resources to do so. On the contrary, Tehran under the respective Shah’s had relatively good relations with Ankara, as Atatürk’s state served as some kind of role model.

After 1945 both states (gradually) became close allies of the United States, keeping relations between Turkey and Iran at a low, but timid level once again. It was not until 1979 when Iran experienced a popular regime change and Turkey some month later exactly the opposite: a military coup that brought into power a not only secular, but anti-religious military caretaker government that stood strongly opposed to the new Iranian regime. Ironically just a few years after these events Turkey started to undergo an unprecedented opening towards its Middle Eastern neighbourhood under the stewardship of Turgut Özal, which was further empowered by the end of the Cold War. With a short timeout in between, this opening was further continued by the respective governments, most notably though by the AKP since 2002. Despite the harsh international sanctions regime, trade between Turkey and Iran increased manifold and stands at a respectable 13,7 billion dollars in 2014, a number that is likely to multiply in the coming years, as the sanctions are being lifted. Iran with its vast natural resources is a key actor in Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with our neighbours” policy, shifting the elite perceptions clearly towards low-tension relations with Iran. Combined with the de-facto – and increasingly de-jure – removal of the military as a political force, Erdoğan removed the biggest remaining domestic constrain hindering good relations with Tehran.

The current state of affairs is dire in the Middle East, which experiences its so far strongest manifestation of what the great Fred Halliday once called the greater west-Asian crisis, since starting in 1991. The second U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 triggered a series of events that ultimately led to the current sectarian rift in the Middle East in which every states tries to influence the fragile balance of power. In order to understand the relations between Iran and Turkey one must look beyond that sectarian dichotomy though. The struggle for power always happens between states or coalitions of states, never between ideological viewpoints. Currently Turkey is actively – way too actively for many – balancing with the other comparable powers in the region: Iran, Saudi Arabia and increasingly again Egypt. But Turkey also recognises that it cannot engage in military actions (at least directly) to improve its power positioning in the region as there are way too many constrains, starting from the U.S. interests to the adversary it would reap in the Middle East and beyond. The same is true for Iran, which has much more room for manoeuvre though and arguably is much more engaged in direct military confrontation in the current conflict as well. The current Iran deal will empower Iran and its allies in the region, including Bashir al-Assad, much to the discomfort of Ankara, making it a geopolitical loser of the deal. Nonetheless, Turkey has much to gain from the deal. Increasing trade with Iran can give the Turkish economy the boost it so desperately needs, also leading to further improvement of ties that suffered due to balancing activities, like with the central government in Baghdad. By de facto starting to make a new ally, the U.S. raised the bar for Turkey, but also other allies in the region, which could lead to either better relations or further alienation – the letter seeming rather unlikely in the case of Turkey.

The Right not to Vote – Why Compulsory Voting cannot save Democracy

In recent years broad debates about the state of representative democracy have reemerged. In stark contrast to the euphoric period after the end of the Cold War, the triumph of democracy in Eastern Europe and Latin America and the postulated End of History (Fukuyama, 1992), the political science community is now debating if representative democracy is again in a state of crisis. The decline in turnout experienced in most democracies around the world is probably the most cited evidence in favour of this argument. In a similar fashion the argument was made that compulsory voting is an adequate instrument to solve not only the problem of declining turnout but also to improve the quality of democracy.

It has been argued that compulsory voting can not only raise turnout, but can also improve social inclusion and increase the quality of democracy. The proponents also argue that compulsory voting is a reasonable instrument since its effects are direct and it is easily realizable. Challenging this argument, some political scientists maintain that compulsory voting not only has no effect on the quality of democracy and inclusiveness, but that compulsory voting threatens the „right not to vote“ (Lever, 2009) and therefore a central freedom granted by democracy.

The rule of the organised minority over the unorganised majority

One argument the proponents of compulsory voting often cite, is that lower turnout leads to the rule of the organised minority over the unorganised majority. Mount (2006) for example points out that „when little more than 20% of the electorate has voted for the winning party, as in the United Kingdom general election of May 2005, legitimacy begins to drain away“. Already in 1986 Dieter Nohlen argued that „if less than 40% of voters (29% of the population eligible to vote) can win out over the remaining 60%, then this is not only problematic for representation but is also questioning central civil liberties“ (Nohlen, 1986, p.134). Another argument made in the same respect is that not only the legitimacy is in danger, but that the bureaucracy somehow assumes a separate existence and will challenge the democratic order. Ultimately, this could lead to an undermining of democracy termed „executive democracy“ or „elective dictatorship“ (Mount, 2006). While the argument that, if turnout is low, a relatively small minority can rule over a majority truly can be problematic for the legitimacy, there are three points I would identify.

First, both Nohlen and Mount only take the British electoral system into account, which differs significantly from other systems in continental Europe.

Second, to reduce the legitimacy and quality solely on high turnout fails to recognize the highly complex process of democratic decision-making. A good example is the Austrian legislative process, where a large number of bills are supported not only by the government, but also by the opposition (Austrian Parliament, 2015). Therefore a large part of decisions by the government is backed by the opposition, ultimately representing a majority of the eligible population.

Third, not every abstention is an expression of mistrust over the prevailing order. According to rationalistic approaches, citizens may also abstain, depending on how high they believe their chances are to influence the election outcomes in their own interest (Cabarello, 2014). Thus citizens may abstain either if they believe that their preferred choice has no chance or conversely if they believe that their preferred choice will ultimately win even without themselves going to the polls. Hence, it is questionable to reduce the democratic legitimacy only on turnout rates. Additionally, voters do not always vote in their rational self-interest (Lever, 2009). This is particularly important since „it is age and education, rather than race, income and wealth“ which determine if someone attends the polls (Lever, 2009, p.60). Therefore, the causal relation between higher turnout and better representation may not be as clear as Nohlen and Mount argue.

Low turnout is unequal turnout

Another argument made in favour of compulsory voting is that lower turnout is reinforcing unequal turnout. Lijphart (1997, p.2), one of the first to discuss the problem of unequal participation, mentions in his article Unequal Participation: Democracy’s Unresolved Dilemma that „low turnout is unequal and socioeconomically biased turnout“. It is unequal since the abstention rate is not distributed evenly, the difference in turnout is particularly big when age and education is considered. Birch (2009) reports that in the 2005 General Election in Great Britain, the turnout in the 18 to 25 age group was just 37%, while the turnout for voters over 65 years old was 75%. Additionally, the gap in turnout rates between age groups is widening. The same pattern, even though to a lesser degree, also applies to the level of education. Keaney and Rogers (2006) find that the gap in turnout rates between people without a formal degree and people with high-level degrees is increasing. To conclude, if some groups tend to abstain from voting more often than other groups, lower turnout rates will produce even stronger biased participation rates. Thereof the problem arises that some groups are not included in the political process. This political exclusion reproduces and also reinforces the social inequality. Accordingly, authors like Lijphart (1997), Birch (2009) and Hill (2011) argue that if the socially disadvantaged tend to abstain more often then they will not be able to influence decision-making in their favour. This can leave the most marginalised even more deprived and further alienated and dissociated from the political order. This is where compulsory voting would take effect, at least according to Lijphart, Birch and Hill.

While the relation between low turnout and unequal turnout is not contested, some central aspects of the argument depicted above are challenged by authors like Lever (2009), Singh (2011) and Panagopoulos (2008). Lower turnout is associated with more unequal turnout, the evidence presented above viably supports this statement. However, to argue that increasing turnout would lead to more political inclusion and a better representation for the marginalised is more uncertain.

Lever (2009) for example argues that the „paradigmatic instances of social democracy – Sweden, Norway (…) and Finland – do not have ompulsory voting and, indeed, appear to suffer from the same worries about declining voter turnout and indifference to the major political parties which trouble countries with more free-market economies“(p.63).

This argument is supported by the findings of Pettersen and Rose (2007). They report that higher turnout would only have a marginal effect on electoral outcomes and „neither large parties, smaller parties or parties on the left and right wings of the political spectrum would have benefited markedly had there been a higher level of turnout“(p.585). Following the logic applied by Lijphart, Birch and Hill, one would expect gains for social democratic parties, however, as Pettersen and Rose (2007) and a study by Selb and Lachat (2007) display, higher turnout has no evident effect on electoral outcomes. This is probably due to the fact that as already noted „voters do not always vote on their self-interest“ (Lever, 2009). Additionally, even if voting is compulsory, there is no noticeable effect on political knowledge or interest (Lever, 2009; Loewen et al., 2008). Therefore, arguing that higher turnout through compulsion will help achieve greater political and social inclusion does not seem to be a viable strategy. On the contrary, odds are that being forced to attend the polls will make people feel even more alienated by the political order and making voting compulsory „would certainly remove the very indicator which has helped kick-start the current debate about political engagement“ (Ballinger, 2006, p.22). Compulsory voting is problematic in another respect, contrary to the argument that through compulsion more deprived people would vote and therefore political parties would need to address the interests of this group more thoroughly, Lever (2009) and Ballinger (2006) argue that compulsion would make it easier for parties „to target swing seats or constituencies“. Hence, compulsory voting would have the contrary effect and would leave the socially disadvantaged even more disengaged with the political process.

Furthermore, if compulsory voting only is effective if „both penalties and the likelihood of enforcement are high“ (Panagopoulos, 2008) then this would affect the disadvantaged disproportionately.

The pros and cons of compulsory voting are still vividly discussed in the political science community as this article has shown. Even though the proponents of compulsory voting are adamantly arguing that compulsory voting is the best cure for the negative effects of lower turnout on democracy, I cannot find any positive effects on democracy apart from higher turnout rates. While the positive effect of compulsion on turnout rates can be regarded as scientifically proven, it cannot cure the causes of declining turnout. There is no effect on social or political inclusion, it does not heighten peoples’ political interest or knowledge and it may even reinforce feelings of alienation and disintegration. Therefore, alternative measures like lowering voting-barriers, holding elections on weekends or intensifying and broadening political education may prove more efficient than compulsory voting.

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