Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Turkey's got Rhythm, but will anyone dance along?

Understandably, after the #Flotilla was assaulted by Israeli military and activists on board were killed, Source 1 is still speechless. And he is also still busy answering all the direct tweets he gets from the Israeli Foreign Ministry who is incessantly bombarding the world with the justification of their actions. Here though is another look at Flotilla and the questions and forces at play coming from -KRT-.

In a recent essay in Foreign Policy entitled "Turkey's Zero-Problems Foreign Policy", which is but a nice wish, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu outlined the principles of the new Turkish Foreign Policy. (Unlike many other countries, Turkey has a plan and has goals for their Foreign Policy.)

One of the principles Turkey aims to implement is a new discourse and diplomatic style, resulting in the spread of Turkish Soft Power in the region. According to Davotoglu, Turkey doesn't make threats, although it maintains a powerful military due its insecure neighborhood. Insecure it is, and as the story of Flotilla has proven, even projecting Soft Power can provoke harsh, violent replies; albeit soft, it's still power after all.
But it was another priniciple that caught my eye and made me ponder: Turkey strives for "rhythmic diplomacy", so Davotoglu explained. What the heck, I thought, are we back to the days of the Vienna congress of 1815 and dancing diplomats? No, I was told reading on, rhythmic diplomacy aspires to provide Turkey with a more active role in international relations. This principle implies active involvement in all international organizations and on all issues of global and international importance. But what rhythm? How? What for? I needed to go back to my library.

In his excellent book "The Dance of Life", Edward T. Hall spends a great number of pages to elaborate on rhythm. For Hall rhythm is basic to synchrony. It is impossible to synchronize two events unless rhythm is present. To illustrate his point, Hall uses the example of a group of children on a playground. Hall was noticing one very active little girl who seemed to stand out from the rest. She was all over the place. Filming the scene and concentrating on that girl, Hall noticed that whenever she was near a cluster of children the members of that group were in sync not only with each other but with this girl. So much in sync and rhythm that Hall was able to play a piece of rock music over the taped playground scene only to see film and music remain in sync for the entire duration of the movie. This girl had rhythm inside her, and she transferred it to the people around her. For Hall, rhythm may be the most binding of all the forces that hold people together, that get them synchronized.

I got it, I exulted, that is what Turkey is trying to achieve with its diplomacy. Moving through the international community, displaying the rhythm inherent in their soul, being the active element on the political playground, and thus synchronizing geopolitical actors towards the solution of a crisis.

Turkey's got rhythm allright, but will anyone dance along? Its first real attempt at rhythmic diplomacy, fitting out the Flotilla that was sent to Gaza, failed tragically (and then again, it can be a success, as George Friedman concludes in his splendid analysis in Stratfor). Turkey had to realize that while moving on a dancefloor, you might step on somebody's toes. But not only that: the Turkish dance even led to MURDER ON THE DANCEFLOOR. Today's political environment is a rough disco indeed. And just like in Sophie Ellis Bextor's song, there is only in one way that the audience can respond: "If you think you're getting away, I will prove you wrong."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fighting the Information War with Sniper tactics

Israel is extremely nervous and it shows. In the age of web 2.0 and social media, the masters of information can't control the information flow anymore. The little fleet of boats sailing from Turkey to the shores of Gaza, trying to unblock the Israeli siege of Gaza by delivering humanitarian aid to the people living in this densely populated piece of land, brings the Israeli PR machinery into overdrive.

I became aware of #Flotilla being a topic on Twitter on Thursday evening of this week. I started sending out some tweets on my own, wanting to support the good humanitarian cause. Of course I knew that Israel didn't want Flotilla to be a success, seeing it as a huge danger for their politics of detention. Israel would do everything possible to prevent the boats from reaching Gaza, unimpressed by - as weak as they may be - international calls to let them pass.

But surprise, almost shock, hit me soon after my first tweets. I was unexpectedly contacted by two Israeli NGO (@2012Israel, @medicare2gaza), who had seen my Flotilla tweets and got back to me, wanting me to teach that Israel delivers tons of food, medicine and the like to Gaza every day, so there was no need to break the siege, no need for Flotilla. One tweet even went so far as saying: Humanitarian aid delivered to Gaza happens in legal ways every day. My response: Can bringing humanitarian aid ever be illegal?

But the real shock was yet to come. Avigdor Lieberman, the right wing Israeli Foreign Minister, got in direct contact with me. Well, not quite Avigdor himelf, but his people at the Foreign Ministry, operating the office's Twitter account (@israelmfa). They told me, this time in a more official way, that Flotilla was totally unnecessary since Israel was taking care of the people in Gaza on a daily basis (and not just by bombing smuggling tunnels in the south of the Gaza strip).

Whoa, I am important, I thought. The Israeli Foreign Ministry talks to me one on one. Important yes, but not that important. I was by far not the only one getting messages from Lieberman's people. A great many of my fellow tweeters shared my pleasure. In a sniper-style information warfare operation, the Israelis targeted every one by one of them, by tweets and even emails, letting them know the true sermon: Gaza doesn't need outside help because Israel is the good Samaritan.

How desperate must you be with your misguided policies to give such importance to lonely only tweeters? How much effort is enough to promote a policy that has lost its credibility a long time ago? And how much fear, I thought, must guide your actions to resort to such wild hitting and laborious measures? You contact every tweeter - several millions - and every man and woman on earth - several billions - to tell them they are all wrong and you are all right? The whole Israeli information operation smelled like the distasteful actions of an insurance company trying to sell you a expensive life insurance by telephone while you are already lying on your bed of death.

But whatever she does, Israel is not alone. And she was not the only one monitoring my tweets last Thursday. I got punished for them by the world's policeman real quick. My faithful follower on Twitter, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv (@usembassyta), unfollowed me on Friday (whoa, I got noticed again)! Standing up for what is right can hurt you personally.