Turkey’s increasing presence and clout in its neighborhood is expanding further abroad to east Africa. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
At the conference [on Somalia, held in Istanbul], Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized other nations for lacking Turkey’s on-the-ground presence in Somalia.“Without living there you cannot devise the correct policies and you cannot help. I invite the international community to open representative offices,” he told delegates on Friday.Prime Minister Erdogan has led by example. He made an official visit to Mogadishu last August, becoming the first non-African leader to set foot in the city in two decades.Three months later Turkey opened an embassy in Somalia and then in March this year the national carrier Turkish Airlines became the first international airline to operate commercial flights to Mogadishu in 20 years.
Turkey inserting itself into lawless Somalia is good for Somalians — who desperately need money and a functional development model they can believe in; and good for the U.S. — which wants Somalia to be able to govern itself but has no interest in shouldering that responsibility alone.We are increasingly seeing countries like Turkey and China taking the helm in the developing world, especially in Africa. That used to be Washington’s job, and anytime reports surfaced of corrupt officials lining their pockets with American taxpayer money, or extractive industries raping pristine African land, or well-intentioned development plans crashing and burning — the U.S. took a lot of flack.But the old ways are disappearing. China has long been active in development across Africa, and so has Brazil. Neither has been able to escape the blow back that typically follows such activities: Africans across the continent are rarely wholeheartedly happy and occasionally get violent when large numbers of foreign workers come to town, and they don’t like it when big bribes get paid to corrupt officials.The usual gloom and decline crowd pounces on this development activism by non-US countries as evidence that the poor old tottering US is no longer up to the job.They are missing the point. The US does not now want and never has wanted to be the world’s policeman, social worker or development economist. However, we do want the world to be peaceful and prosperous, and the economic development of poor countries helps make that happen.If more countries are now rich and capitalist enough to take on some of this work, that is a sign of US success. It means the resources available for this work will be greater than we could ever come up with on our own, and that we will enjoy the benefits of a richer and hopefully more peaceful world without having to pay all the costs.China, Turkey, India and Brazil aren’t going to do things exactly as we would do them, and there will be cases in which their agenda sparks conflicts with ours. At that point, we will work with them and with other countries involved to find solutions that, we can hope, work for everyone.The United States isn’t trying to build some kind of old fashioned empire in which we are the kings of the world and everyone else bows and kisses the ring. We’re trying to build a world in which people live more or less as they like, the advance of science and technology lifts the world’s standard of living, and the nations of the world are much less interested in trying to overturn the world system than in trying to prosper within it.The world is no utopia, and much work and many problems and dangers remain, but in this Year of Grace 2012 it has never looked more like the way the US hoped it would grow. To call this evidence of decline is to say that a songwriter is in decline because famous musicians all over the world are recording covers of his songs and some of those covers are selling very well.May Turkey’s efforts in Somalia prosper and lead to safer, more prosperous lives for the suffering people of that country, and may its experiences in Somalia help Turkey grow as a country that is willing and able to help others achieve better lives throughout the world.