Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shlaes In the WaPo: A Chilling Uncertainty

A Chilling Uncertainty, by Amity Shlaes
The Washington Post, Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The United States has entered the era of the experiment. President-elect Barack Obama is putting forward an infrastructure program whose plans and price tag are unclear. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson whipped up the Troubled Asset Relief Program to buy up bad mortgage instruments, and, expanding on that experiment, President Bush wants to try extending TARP to autoworkers.

The idea that experiments are warranted in current circumstances comes from the New Deal. The official history is familiar: FDR put forward multiple projects, some at cross-purposes. Yet New Deal inconsistency was not a problem and might have been a virtue. Through "bold, persistent experimentation," his catchphrase, Franklin Roosevelt brought recovery.

Modern economists, monetarist or Keynesian, have not rejected this story line. The trouble with the 1930s, in their view, is that government did not fiddle enough. Had the Federal Reserve, the Treasury or the White House fiddled more, the Depression might have been shorter or less severe. The New Deal Fed, they say, never got the price level quite right. Or, the New Deal stimulus programs were too little. And so on.

But there is significant evidence that the very arbitrariness of the New Deal made the Depression worse.

In 1932, stunned market players and citizens wanted to know what the new rules were. They voted for a party with a platform so moderate it could have been written by today's Concord Coalition: stability, sound money, balanced budgets. That was the Democratic Party, led by Roosevelt.

Many of FDR's initial plans did bring stability: His first Treasury secretary worked to sort out banks with the outgoing Hoover administration in a fashion so fair that an observer noted that those present "had forgotten to be Republicans or Democrats." By creating deposit insurance, FDR reduced bank runs. His Securities Act of 1933 laid the ground for a transparent national stock market. Equities shot up.

But other policies were more arbitrary. Using emergency powers, FDR yanked the country off the gold standard. Both American and international markets looked forward to a London conference at which a new monetary accord was to be struck among nations. Over the course of the conference, though, FDR changed orders to his emissaries multiple times. Some days he was the internationalist, sending wires about international currency coordination. Other days he was the cowboy, declaring that all that mattered was what the dollar bought in farm states. The conference foundered.

Some of the worst destruction came with FDR's gold experiment. If he could drive up the price of gold by buying it, he reasoned, other prices would rise as well. Roosevelt was right to want to introduce more money into the economy (the United States was deflating). But his method was like trying to raise an ocean level by adding water by the thimbleful. What horrified markets even more was that FDR managed the operation personally, day by day, over a breakfast tray. No one ever knew what the increase would be. One Friday in November 1933, for example, Roosevelt told Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau that he thought the gold price ought to be raised 21 cents. Why that amount, Morgenthau asked. "Because it's three times seven," FDR replied.

Morgenthau later wrote that "if anybody knew how we set the gold price, through a combination of lucky numbers, etc., I think they would be frightened."

They were. The "Roosevelt Rally" flattened. The arbitrary quality of other initiatives reinforced concerns. The New Deal centerpiece, the National Recovery Administration, helped some businesses compete and criminalized others for the same behavior. Sometimes Roosevelt goaded federal prosecutors into harassing corporate executives. Other times, he schmoozed the same execs at the White House. In 1936, FDR pushed through deficit spending. In 1937, he was Mr. Budget Hawk.

Uncertain, markets froze. Businesses refused to hire or invest in equipment. Unemployment stayed stuck in the teens. The 'deal' part of the New Deal phrase was problematic; businesses didn't want individual favors, they wanted clear laws for all. Industrialist Ernest Weir summed up what his community was desperate for FDR to do: "Above all to make the program clear and then stick to it."

Today, uncertainty also chills. Questions abound over the future regulation of stocks and derivatives, over tax policy, over bailouts. All this makes it hard for the market to settle on equity or home prices. And Americans follow stories about names--Secretary Paulson, Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner--more than they do the news about the Fed or the Treasury.

Luckily, we are entering the optimal time for reducing uncertainty: a new president's first hundred days, with a majority to back him on the Hill. Obama might start by rebuilding key institutions: creating a super-Securities and Exchange Commission, a tough regulator with clear plans for overseeing stocks as well as those instruments that had been monitored unpredictably because of vague status. He should also halve corporate tax rates, currently some of the world's highest, and reduce the capital gains rate to 5 percent. Rewriting the Fed law to clarify it will make avoiding an Alan Greenspan bubble easier. Defining his infrastructure program clearly would have the effect of putting up a sign: Open for Business.

Some will say all that sounds politically impossible. Until recently, though, so did a trillion-dollar infrastructure project. A new hundred days spent making good laws will bring sturdy recovery. A hundred days spent making more deals will not.

Amity Shlaes is an adjunct fellow at AEI. She is the author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.

The key problem facing Somalia is not one of security, but rather the vacuum in political leadership, says UN envoy

Paucity of political leadership at root of Somalia's problems, says UN envoy

UN, New York, Dec 31 2008 10:10AM

Somalia’s problems are driven by a lack of responsible political leadership, the top United Nations envoy to the Horn of Africa nation said today.

In a letter to the diaspora, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that there is an “emerging consensus that ultimately your country’s problems stem from the absence of accountable and committed national leadership.”

The key problem facing Somalia – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 – is not one of security, but rather the vacuum in political leadership, he wrote.

“I am confident that progress is being made towards a situation where responsible leadership will have friendly relations with its neighbours, and smooth integration into the international community.”

The envoy hailed the recent “peaceful resignation” of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. He also noted the relocation of the leaders of the opposition group known as the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and delegates from the Joint Security Committee, comprising both the ARS and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), to the capital Mogadishu.

In June, the two sides signed a UN-facilitated peace accord, known as the Djibouti Agreement, under which they agreed to end their conflict and called on the UN to deploy an international stabilization force to the troubled nation.

The Djibouti process “has opened a new era in the history of your country,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said, adding that it has also “given the opportunity to all Somalis to witness the activity of a vital generation that is committed to peace and stability.”

With women and the younger generation losing hope after witnessing two decades of power struggles in Somalia, he said it is time for leaders to “demonstrate their commitment to peace and the well-being of their country.”

2009 will be a busy year for Somalia, with the first few weeks seeing the preparations for the election of a new president, the formation of a government of national unity and an enlarged Parliament. The Representative wrote that he hopes to hold talks with the business community, as well as with former top military and police officials to seek their views on how to bolster security and rebuild the national army.

“Somalia is entering a new era,” he said, calling on the diaspora to “catch the train of history and mobilize all efforts to maintain solidarity among all brothers in order to recover the integrity, sovereignty and dignity of Somalia.”

Gonzales Defends Role in Antiterror Policies

Gonzales Defends Role in Antiterror Policies. By Evan Perez
WSJ, Dec 31, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Alberto Gonzales, who has kept a low profile since resigning as attorney general nearly 16 months ago, said he is writing a book to set the record straight about his controversial tenure as a senior official in the Bush administration.

Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration's "war on terror." He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.

"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?" he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.

During a lunch meeting two blocks from the White House, where he served under his longtime friend, President George W. Bush, Mr. Gonzales said that "for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

His political problems started with the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, which grew into a firestorm that Mr. Gonzales said he never saw coming. In November of that year, Democrats had taken control of Congress and the power to conduct investigations of Bush administration policies.

His previous role of White House counsel put Mr. Gonzales at the heart of the administration's decision-making on issues relating to terrorism, making him an easier target than the president. Critics also said he allowed the Justice Department to become politicized through its hiring practices and prosecutions, favoring Republicans for plum positions and targeting Democrats for prosecution.

Mr. Gonzales fueled the fire by giving evasive answers to Congress, frequently responding "I don't recall."

Among other things, Mr. Gonzales said Tuesday that he didn't play a central role in drafting the widely criticized legal opinions that allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to use aggressive interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects and expanded the president's power to hold "unlawful combatants" and terrorism suspects indefinitely. He also said he told the truth to Congress about a classified eavesdropping program authorized by the president, and admitted to making mistakes in handling the U.S. attorney firings while maintaining that he made the right decisions. He says that while he bears responsibility as former Attorney General that "doesn't absolve other individuals of responsibility."

Mr. Gonzales, 53 years old, doesn't have a publisher for his book. He said he is writing it if only "for my sons, so at least they know the story."

The chapters on the Bush administration's surveillance program, which involved eavesdropping without court warrants, and other controversial aspects of his work, remain blank. That is in part because he remains under investigation regarding allegations of political meddling at the Justice Department.

The Harvard Law School graduate, onetime corporate lawyer and Texas judge also hasn't been able to land a job. He has delivered a few paid speeches, done some mediation work and plans to do some arbitration, but said law firms have been "skittish" about hiring him.

The biggest blow to Mr. Gonzales came during Senate testimony by James Comey, former deputy attorney general, who recounted dramatic details of a 2004 confrontation at the hospital bed of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Mr. Comey had refused to sign a reauthorization of a secret government program, believed to be the eavesdropping initiative. Mr. Gonzales and Andrew Card, White House chief of staff at the time, drove to the hospital where Mr. Ashcroft was recovering from surgery to instead seek approval from him. Mr. Comey drove to the hospital to stop them. The episode highlighted a dispute between Justice and the White House over the surveillance program's legality.

In Tuesday's interview, Mr. Gonzales said Mr. Comey's characterization of the dispute was "one-sided and didn't have the right context," and gave the impression that he and Mr. Card were attempting to take advantage of Mr. Ashcroft. "I found Ashcroft as lucid as I've seen him at meetings in the White House," he said.

Mr. Gonzales was at a meeting in San Antonio the day of Mr. Comey's surprise testimony. "He didn't have the decency to notify anyone what he was about to testify," he said. "That was extremely disappointing." Mr. Comey declined to comment.

Mr. Gonzales also downplayed his role in formulating opinions that allowed the CIA to use aggressive interrogation methods, which included waterboarding. The memos have since been rescinded and replaced with opinions that explicitly call torture "abhorrent."

Mr. Gonzales said his role as White House counsel at the time was one among several administration lawyers who debated the opinions, but that in the end it was the Justice Department's call. John Yoo, the then-Justice official who had been assigned to draft the memos, had strong feelings and no one could have pressured him to write the memos a certain way, Mr. Gonzales said. Mr. Yoo didn't respond to a request for comment.

In one of his final acts before leaving office, Mr. Gonzales denied he was planning to quit, even though he had told the president of his intention to resign. Asked about the misleading comment Tuesday, he said: "At that point, I didn't care."

The Kremlin's foreign policy priorities are determined by the changing ideology and the domestic political agenda of Russia's rulers

Russia's Woes Spell Trouble for the U.S. By Leon Aron
WSJ, Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Russia faces a particularly nasty version of the global recession (at a minimum), and perhaps an economic "perfect storm." Regardless of how bad its economy gets, two broad political trends, each carrying profound implications for Russia's foreign policy and U.S.-Russian relations, are bound to emerge.

The first will be a growing dissatisfaction with the government, which may lead to a political crisis. The second will be a reactionary retrenchment: increased internal repression and more of its already troubling foreign policy. Managing the relationship with Moscow in the face of these trends is something President-elect Barack Obama and his administration should start thinking about now.

The size and depth of Russia's economic problems -- and thus the amount of political turbulence -- will depend primarily on two variables. The first is the ruble decline. The national currency is steadily depreciating and has reached an all-time low against the euro despite the central bank's having spent $161 billion on its defense since mid-September. The ruble's losing at least 25% to 30% of its value is a given; the key political issue is whether the weakening can be managed into a gradual decline, or whether the depreciation turns into a panicky flight from the currency. (Already last September Russians dumped around 160 billion rubles to buy $6 billion -- the highest demand for dollars since the aftermath of the 1998 financial crisis.)

The second factor is oil prices. Last year, oil revenues accounted for at least one-fifth of Russia's GDP and half of state revenues. At $40 a barrel, the state budget goes into a 3%-4% deficit. In the past eight years, the national economy has mirrored fluctuating oil prices. So the 7%-8% growth projected for 2008 will have to be cut at best to 1%-2% for 2009. Zero growth or contraction are distinct possibilities.

Such a predicament is most dangerous politically for a country whose population has become used to incomes increasing 8%-10% every year since 2000. Growing disappointment is sure to follow, first among the elites and then people at large.

Despite the reduction of the poverty rate to 14% from 20% in the last five years, tens of millions of Russians continue to live precariously: A recent poll found that 37% of all families have money enough only to cover food. Unemployment and inflation (already 14%, year-on-year, in November) may well push these people over the edge and into the streets.

Perilous for any regime, such disenchantment would be especially worrisome in a country where the legitimacy of the entire political structure appears to rest on the popularity of one man, Vladimir Putin, whose astronomic ratings stemmed largely from the relative economic prosperity he has presided over. This dangerously narrow legitimacy will be sorely tried in the coming months.

Forestalling or at least containing inevitable political consequences of the economic crisis is likely to be at the root of the other political tendency: an attempt by the Putin-led elite, coalesced around Gazprom, Rosneft, state corporations and the loyal industrial "oligarchs," to pre-empt challenges by beefing up the authoritarian "vertical of power." The rewriting of the constitution to give the president 12 consecutive years in office signals the implementation of this strategy. The amendment was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the Federal Assembly within three weeks in November, ratified by all 83 regional parliaments in less than a month. President Dmitry Medvedev signed it into law yesterday.

One scenario bruited about in Moscow has Mr. Medvedev taking full responsibility for the crisis and resigning to free the Kremlin for the caretaker prime minister (Mr. Putin), soon to be re-elected president.

A bill introduced in the Duma on Dec. 12 expands the definition of treason, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to "taking action aimed at endangering the constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Russia. That same day the parliament approved the elimination of the right to jury trials for defendants charged with treason. The ruthlessness with which the riot police troops, the OMON, attacked protesters, journalists and bystanders in Vladivostok over the weekend of Dec. 20 may be a preview of things to come.

A reactionary crackdown will also mean the continuation and intensification of the already incessant and deafening propaganda portraying Russia as a "besieged fortress," surrounded by the U.S.-led enemies on the outside and undermined by the "fifth column" of the democratic political opposition within. In the words of one of the most astute independent columnists, the courageous Yulia Latyinina, the rabid anti-Americanism, which has become a linchpin of the regime's domestic political strategy, is likely to turn into a full-blown "hysteria."

The key lesson of George W. Bush's dealings with Russia is that the Kremlin's foreign policy priorities are determined by the changing ideology and the domestic political agenda of Russia's rulers to a far greater degree than by anything the U.S. does or does not do. (Which is why the U.S. exit from the antiballistic missile treaty was accepted with equanimity in 2002, while the intent to install a rudimentary antimissile system provoked Moscow's fury in 2007.) If reaction advances at home, the Kremlin will continue a truculent or outright aggressive foreign policy of resurgence and retribution, intended, among other things, to distract from and justify domestic repression. The recovery of geostrategic assets lost in the Soviet collapse will remain Moscow's overarching objective, especially in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

The Obama White House will have to navigate a difficult and narrow path in its relations with Moscow in 2009 between continuing to engage Moscow on the key issues of mutual concern (Iran, missile defense, nonproliferation, terrorism), on the one hand, and the broader strategic goal of assisting democratic stabilization in Russia.

But no matter what the Kremlin leaders and their propaganda stooges say in public, anything interpreted as approval or even a mere sign of respect by America, first and foremost by its president, is a huge boost to the government's domestic popularity and legitimacy. So the natural, almost protocol-dictated, inclination of the new administration to show good will must be balanced against firm support for the return to political and economic liberalization in Russia. Throwing diplomatic lifelines to a regime that refuses to choose such a path out of the crisis is not in America's -- and Russia's -- long-term interests.

Mr. Aron is director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2007" (AEI, 2007).

CSIS: Turkish Politics in 2008

Turkey Update: Turkish Politics in 2008. By Bulent Aliriza
CSIS, Dec 24, 2008

The year had begun with the Justice and Development Party (JDP), which has been in office since November 2002, riding high after its second successive election victory in July 2007. However, with the invalidation by the Constitutional Court of its legislative move in February to lift the headscarf ban in universities and its ‘near death experience’ between March and July, when it faced and ultimately avoided closure by the Constitutional Court, the JDP appears to be less certain of its future direction.

While it continues to be the most popular Turkish political party according to every poll and reflects and reinforces growing religious sentiment in the country, the JDP seems effectively constrained from using its majority in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) to modify what it regards as the harsher aspects of secularism; most notably the restrictions on wearing the Islamic headscarf many of its supporters regard as discriminatory. Consequently, as 2008 comes to an end, Turkish politics may be entering one of its transitional phases after a relatively long period of stability and predictability.


In the 2007 elections, the JDP had taken full advantage of widespread resentment against the TGS warning to the JDP to refrain from electing Abdullah Gul to the presidency. The party had also been able to rely on a superior organization and grassroots operation as well as a charismatic leader with a populist touch. In addition, the JDP had benefited from the absence of effective leadership in the opposition and its inability to adjust to the changing political landscape. The Republican People’s Party (RPP), under its long-time leader Deniz Baykal, had shifted from propagating social democratic views to an uneasy combination of opposition to the European Union (EU) and the United States and vehement defense of secularism. The Nationalist Action Party (NAP), led by Devlet Bahceli, had failed to match Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ability to tap into the surge of nationalism.

The JDP had prudently avoided an open confrontation with the defenders of secularism throughout most of its first term. However, encouraged by obtaining almost half the votes cast in the elections and elevating Gul to the presidency, the JDP grasped at the thorny issue of the Islamic headscarf law. The move was understandable from the JDP’s point of view as the majority of Turkish women wear a headscarf; seventy per cent of Turks favor lifting the ban and members of the party face constant pressure from their wives and daughters as well as their supporters. Nevertheless, the action was portrayed by the JDP’s opponents as a threat to secularism. The legislation lifting the headscarf ban in universities was duly invalidated by the Constitutional Court and then cited as the central charge in the closure case brought against the JDP by the Prosecutor General.

The JDP was ultimately able to survive as only six of the eleven judges instead of the required seven voted for closure in July. However, while allowing the JDP to stay in office, all but one of the judges also concluded that the JDP had become ‘the center of anti secular activities.’ Consequently, in addition to undercutting the power of the JDP-dominated TGNA to legislate, the Constitutional Court restricted the party’s room for maneuver by laying the groundwork for a new case for future activities. Erdogan’s immediate reaction to the verdict was to once again deny the anti secularism charge. As a pragmatic politician, however, Erdogan surely recognized that the JDP had been put on notice.

In view of the tensions, which have often characterized the relationship between the JDP and the Turkish General Staff (TGS), it is noteworthy that the only member of the court with a military background voted against closure. This prompted speculation that a private deal was struck between Erdogan and incoming TGS Chief of Staff Ilker Basbug. Although it is impossible to verify such claims, the advantages for both sides in such an arrangement are nevertheless easy to perceive. Along with most of his colleagues, Erdogan regarded the TGS as the driving force behind the effort to close down the JDP and to ban him from politics. Consequently, going directly to Basbug to ward off the imminent danger may have made sense from his perspective. After all, Erdogan had enjoyed a relatively good working relationship in the first four years of his government with Chief of Staff Hilmi Ozkok and had then managed to establish a modus vivendi with his successor Yasar Buyukanit after a difficult beginning. For his part, having seen the JDP benefit electorally from the TGS demarche under Buyukanit in 2007, Basbug may have wanted to avoid a repeat performance by the JDP’s successor in another early election. It has also been suggested that he may have wanted limits on the scope of the current investigation into the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy in which two retired four-star generals have been detained in connection with an alleged plot against the JDP government.

To be sure, the rapid revival of the Islamists under the JDP banner after the ouster of the Islamist-led government in 1997 has created a dilemma for the TGS as the backbone of the secular system. While the TGS is perceptibly uncomfortable with the JDP government as the political manifestation of increased religiosity, it has been reluctant to directly confront a party with mass popular backing, as its unwillingness to follow up its memorandum against Gul’s presidential candidacy demonstrates. However, Kemalism, vigorously defended by the TGS, remains the official state ideology enshrined in the 1961 and 1982 constitutions. While modern Turkey may no longer conform to the strict principles of Kemalism, the JDP has not been willing to risk a direct challenge to the ideology. Notwithstanding the fact that the culmination of the current EU accession process would necessitate its subordination to elected officials, the TGS has also maintained influence far beyond purely national security issues and retained autonomy in administering itself without meaningful civilian oversight. Moreover, since the closure case, Erdogan has drawn perceptibly closer to the TGS, particularly on the critical issue of how to deal with the Kurdish issue and separatist terrorism. After the PKK attack on a military outpost led to unprecedented media criticism of the TGS for alleged negligence, Erdogan chose to back Basbug’s denunciations of newspapers which had previously been vociferous in their support of the JDP in its difficulties with the TGS.

Erdogan has tried to strike a balance between supporting a military response against PKK terrorism and the need for a political solution which he first publicly articulated in Diyarbakir in 2005. His strategy aimed at simultaneously undercutting the PKK and Kurdish politicians who defer to the PKK. He hoped that economic improvement in the southeast, coupled with electoral success against the Democratic Society Party (DSP) - which is currently confronting the threat of closure for Kurdish separatism like its predecessors - would lead the way to a solution of the Kurdish problem. However, Kurds have been voting for mainstream Turkish political parties as well as local Kurdish parties since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1950. They choose to vote for mainstream parties not only because Kurdish parties are banned but also because of the ten per cent national threshold for representation in the TGNA. At the same time, there is little tangible evidence that economic prosperity would eliminate the sense of ethnic grievance that is at the core of the conflict.

It has been difficult for Erdogan to blur ethnic divisions while backing a military solution to PKK terrorism and this is likely to affect his electoral ambitions in the southeast. His blunt declaration in November that there was only “One nation, one flag, one motherland and one state” disappointed many Kurds as he discovered when he recently revisited Diyarbakir. Ahmet Turk, the leader of the DSP, went so far as to claim that the JDP was “obliged to make a deal with the state in return for not being shut down and as part of the deal, the Prime Minister has changed his policy on the Kurdish issue.” It is also noteworthy that Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, the most prominent Kurdish figure in the party - who had met with Turk and other DSP parliamentarians shunned by Erdogan – has resigned from his post as Deputy Chairman of the JDP.

One of the strengths of the JDP has been its remarkable success in maintaining cohesion and avoiding the kind of splintering which has bedeviled ruling Turkish parties in the past. While Erdogan is still in firm control of a united party, there are indications that the JDP may no longer be immune to the laws of political gravity. The relationship between Erdogan and Gul - who served as prime minister during the JDP’s first three months in office before giving way to Erdogan – is showing undeniable signs of fray since Gul’s ascendancy to the presidency. Another of the JDP’s four original leaders, Abdullatif Sener, left in July to form a new party after complaining about the JDP’s lack of effectiveness in fighting corruption. The resignation of JDP Deputy Chairman Saban Disli in September 2008 following corruption allegations has underlined the JDP’s problems with an issue which it had used against its predecessors. It may be significant that Disli was forced out partly because of pressure from Bulent Arinc, the fourth of the original leaders and now effectively the second man in the JDP.

Erdogan has reacted strongly against reporting of corruption allegations in the Turkish media and intolerance of criticism has recently become a characteristic of the JDP. By directly attacking media owners while revoking the accreditation of critical journalists, Erdogan has effectively forced the media to exercise auto censorship. After having pushed through a series of liberal reforms to achieve its stated goal of beginning EU accession negotiations in October 2005, the JDP government now seems uncomfortable with some aspects of the more open society it helped to create. It may also be disinclined to incur the domestic costs associated with additional steps expected by the EU on civil liberties and such sensitive issues as the Kurds and Cyprus. The Constitutional Court case had briefly renewed the JDP’s interest in the EU and the reform process as it endeavored to garner international support for itself but it soon became clear that this was a tactical move designed to increase the external costs of closure. In a recent speech, for example, Erdogan complained bitterly about the EU demands on Cyprus and added: “We have completed the Copenhagen and Maastricht Criteria. Let us know if it is not going to work, then we will continue on our path and rename them as the Ankara and Istanbul Criteria.”





The JDP government faces a major test in the March 2009 municipal elections and there may be similarities between its position and that of the Motherland Party (MP) – the last party before the JDP to hold power on its own - twenty years ago. In March 1989, the MP under Turgut Ozal fared poorly in municipal elections after winning two successive parliamentary elections, subsequently lost power in the 1991 elections and never regained its position in Turkish politics. If the JDP fails to match the forty seven per cent vote it received in last year’s elections or loses one of the big municipalities, the result would undoubtedly be perceived as a failure. However, unlike Ozal who was challenged by the redoubtable Suleyman Demirel, the JDP is facing weak opposition and a poor electoral performance would be more a reflection of the negative impact of a worsening economic outlook than the success of the other parties. As the JDP’s rise to power was facilitated by the Turkish economic crisis of 2000-2001, it would be ironic if its decline was to be set in motion by the current global downturn and its impact on Turkey.

While the economic recovery continued, governing was relatively easy for the JDP. With the shrinking of the pie, the JDP government will inevitably find it more difficult to claim credit for its management of the economy and, consequently, to maintain its popularity. Although the end of JDP domination is not on the horizon, the RPP and the NAP are likely to benefit most from the gradual erosion of support for the ruling party despite their lack of effectiveness. However, the Contentment Party, which continued as the Islamist party after the defection of Erdogan and his colleagues in 2001, could also increase its share of the vote, while Kurdish voters drift away from the JDP in the main Turkish cities as well as in the southeast. The economic downturn will further test the unity and internal cohesion of the JDP, particularly after the demonstration of its powerlessness on the headscarf issue and its close brush with closure.

Erdogan’s economic preoccupations in 2009 may make it even less likely that he will take the steps required to accelerate the EU accession process. In fact, it now seems probable that the stalled EU process will come to a standstill next year without a breakthrough on Cyprus, with critical implications for Turkey’s efforts to modernize and to complete the process of integration in the Western community. Such a development would be particularly unfortunate in view of the uncertainties relating to the course of US-Turkish relations with a new American president. To be sure, the JDP government would maintain its high profile in international politics - recently capped by Turkey’s election to the Security Council - even without progress on the EU front. However, it would also have to cope with the negative implications for Turkish domestic politics as well as for the economy.

Erdogan will almost certainly continue in 2009 to promote Turkish nationalism, a seemingly permanent feature of Turkish politics which has recently been reinforced by the rise of anti-American and generally anti-Western sentiments. However, the JDP’s record in government of seeking accommodation with the US, the EU and the international financial community could leave the party vulnerable to a challenge from its nationalist flank. On the other hand, whatever the future has in store for the JDP, its ability to win successive parliamentary elections has underlined the growing and increasingly visible role of religiosity in Turkish politics, as the NAP’s advocacy of relaxation of the headscarf restrictions and the RPP’s recent willingness to welcome into its ranks women wearing Islamic dress also confirms. Nevertheless, as the JDP’s difficulties in government demonstrates, the rigidly secular system has only been forced to adjust in an ad hoc manner to the influence of religiosity and the current situation will remain inherently unstable without a hitherto elusive new national consensus.

Bulent Aliriza
CSIS Turkey Project

Avery Dulles and the Death Penalty

Dulles and the Death Penalty, by Mark Tooley
Upholding the classical Catholic tradition about capital punishment.

The Weekly Standard, Dec 31, 2008, 12:00:00 AM

Seemingly none of the recent obituaries of Avery Dulles, a renowned theologian and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, has mentioned his crisp, theoretical defense of capital punishment. The Cardinal's careful explanation of his church's teaching responded to the popular impression of blanket Catholic opposition to the death penalty. Liberal Catholic politicians, even when opposing their church's stance on abortion, have sometimes boasted of their supposed conformity with Catholic teaching on capital punishment.

"Self-defense of society continues to justify the death penalty," Dulles told a symposium in 2002. "One could conceive of a situation where if justice were not done by executing an offender it would throw society into moral confusion," he said. "I don't know whether that requires any more than that it remain on the books, symbolically, that it be there for society to have recourse to."

Dulles emphasized that Pope John Paul II and the bishops in recent years have upheld the classical Catholic tradition about capital punishment, affirming its theoretical validity, while warning against its potential for "miscarriages of justice, the increase of vindictiveness, or disrespect for the value of innocent human life."


While a student at Harvard in the 1930s, the younger Dulles became a believer in God after examining the intricate beauty of a blossoming tree. By 1940, he was converted to the "sublimity" of Catholic doctrine, almost certainly displeasing his ardently WASP father. After Avery Dulles' World War II service in the U.S. Navy, he became a Jesuit and was ordained into the priesthood in 1956. His nearly half century of teaching concluded with two decades at Fordham University. Pope John Paul II appointed him a Cardinal in 2001, in recognition of his vast theological and academic accomplishments, though Dulles had never served as a bishop, and was well past age 80.

The intellectual and spiritual range of Avery Dulles' writings, which continued well into his final year, at age 90, after he had lost his ability to speak, was enormous. He strove to conform to and explain Catholic teachings in a manner approachable by academics and novices alike. The then new Cardinal's 2001 explanation of Catholic teaching on capital punishment for First Things magazine was among his most notable.

Dulles observed that Scriptural support for the death penalty was consistent, starting with God's covenant with Noah: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image." The Mosaic code, obviously, ordained it for numerous offenses beyond murder. In the New Testament, he wrote, "the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted," including by Jesus. St. Paul, in Romans, apparently referenced the death penalty when he wrote that the magistrate who holds authority "does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer."

Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church were "virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment," Dulles wrote, including Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and later, Thomas More and John Henry Newman. In the Middle Ages, Pope Innocent III affirmed: "The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation." Until 1969, the Vatican's penal code included the death penalty for attempted papal assassinations.

"The mounting opposition to the death penalty in Europe since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life," Dulles observed. Capital punishment's demise in secularized countries seems tied to the "evaporation of the sense of sin, guilt, and retributive justice, all of which are essential to biblical religion and Catholic faith."

Dulles insisted that Catholicism has "never advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty." He recalled "no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases." Catholic teaching has justified capital punishment "on the ground that the State does not act on its own authority but as the agent of God, who is supreme lord of life and death." Problematically, the modern state today is "generally viewed simply as an instrument of the will of the governed," Dulles wrote, so that the death penalty is commonly seen as vengeance by a self-assertive, angry society rather than a divine judgment on objective evil.

Unlike the church, whose main focus is mercy, the state's focus is justice, Dulles explained. "In a predominantly Christian society, however, the State should be encouraged to lean toward mercy provided that it does not thereby violate the demands of justice." State agents who administer executions can do so without hatred and with respect, knowing that "death is not the final evil," and hoping that the condemned will "attain eternal life with God."

Dulles quoted from Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, which declared "as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system," cases mandating execution "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." The Pope, with the church's bishops, have prudentially, but not infallibly, concluded that modern states, although retaining their right to execute the guilty, should largely avoid the practice, "if the purposes of punishment can be equally well or better achieved by bloodless means, such as imprisonment." Dulles concluded: "I personally support this position."

Exciting many critics who thought him too nuanced, Dulles responded that he was a theologian, not a crusader. "Whether and when to apply the death penalty cannot be properly made on the basis of abstract dogmatic considerations alone," he wrote. "Christian moral reasoning calls for a high degree of prudence."

Dulles' thoughtful treatment of capital punishment was typical of a very long life devoted to careful and thorough teaching in service to his church.

Mark Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis November 2008

Violence in Pakistan: Trend Analysis November 2008. By Alok Bansal and T. Khurshchev
IDSA, December 31, 2008

Even as the terrorist attacks on Mumbai and the terrorists’ linkages with Pakistan have refocused global attention on Pakistan, casualties of terrorist violence within Pakistan during November reduced significantly. Like in the last few months, there has been an increase in violence during November, though there was a more than 20 per cent reduction in the number of casualties. This commentary analyses the trend in terrorist violence in Pakistan during November 2008 based on media reports.

Though the number of terror related incidents increased from 346 in October to 372 in November 2008, the death toll dropped significantly for the second month in succession from 1081 in October to 804 in November. However, the number of security forces personnel killed in these incidents rose from 47 in October to 56 in November. The most significant reduction has been in FATA, where it appears as if the security forces have allowed the Taliban a free run in South and North Waziristan. Pakistan’s military operations were generally confined to Bajaur Agency and neighbouring Mohmand Agency. Although aerial attacks by allied forces continued during the month, they were more focussed and mostly hit terrorists with little collateral damage. Towards the end of the month there were ethnic riots in Karachi, where Pakhtoons and Mohajirs clashed violently, paralysing large parts of the city.

Full report at