- “JUST BECAUSE,” SAYS MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY ABOUT HIS NEW CHILDREN’S BOOK
- Septemvriana: A Night of Terror for Greeks in Constantinople
- THE DARK DAY OF THE DISTOMO MASSACRE BY THE NAZIS
- The Hellenic Initiative’s 11th Annual Gala to Honor Ted Leonsis
- Full Circle: Indie Film Reconnects a Filmmaker with His Former Teacher-Turned Screenwriter
Don’t be the Farmer
A Farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life.
The snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die. As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around:
– Learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel.
- Aesop’s The Farmer and the Snake
The devastating earthquakes in Turkey this past February were met with several moves that brought a Winston Churchill maxim – “Never let a good crisis go to waste” – to mind. The humanitarian response from countries that the Erdogan regime has treated as adversaries or enemies up to that point was a striking reminder that our shared humanity may outweigh geopolitical competition and tensions. Two words – “earthquake diplomacy” – were uttered ad nauseum.
Diplomacy is the key tool in conflict prevention. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and four star general James Mattis made this clear when he told Congress: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.” Diplomacy can, however, also be used by an aggressor to buy time before pursuing true objectives. Think of Hitler and Munich; Turkish Foreign Minister Turan Gunes and Geneva; Azerbaijan and the Minsk Process.
This is why Aesop’s fable of The Farmer and the Snake is so instructive here. For several months, and especially after the earthquake, Erdogan could arguably be seen as “stiff and frozen with the cold.” But he remains – and I will put this with all the diplomatic niceties I can muster – a snake. This is the same Erdogan who has gone from a “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy to zero neighbors without which he has problems. The same Erdogan who feigned interest in rapprochement with Israel (because President Obama demanded it) while providing shelter and support to Hamas. The same Erdogan who responds to Greece’s attempts to settle any disputes in the Aegean with threats of war.
The world’s humanitarian impulse was not meant to buy Erdogan time, but to alleviate the suffering of the Turkish people. Their president being a snake – who victimizes them as well – is no reason to compound their suffering. But we should heed the farmer when he says “learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel.”
This week, Turkey’s foreign minister declared that there are islands in the Aegean “whose sovereignty has not been determined,” returning to Turkey’s practice of questioning Greek sovereignty. He also issued this veiled threat: “anything can happen and the positive atmosphere can disappear soon.” Erdogan also referred to the “Blue Homeland” – the doctrine by which Turkey makes expansive claims in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.
A pause in the most outrageous behavior by Turkey is not evidence of a change of policy, just as the absence of war is not evidence of peace. Ankara has reminded us of its challenges to Greek sovereignty and that should make us recall its active casus belli against Greece; its various outrages in Cyprus – continued occupation, pursuit of a two-state solution, blockade of the Republic of Cyprus, etc; its repression of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all other Christian minorities.
While deconfliction initiatives and confidence building measures should be something we all welcome, they should all occur against the backdrop of the condition the Greek and Cypriot governments keep insisting on: Respect for international law, and respect for the international law of the sea. Without that, there can be no enhanced EU Customs Union, no Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum membership, no F16s for Turkey. Ούτε βίδα!
The above admonition is for those who want to leave the door open to the possibility that the crises faced by Turkey may indeed result in a change of policy and a historic opportunity for a true peace. But there is another camp – accommodationists whose approach towards Turkey has tracked Thucydides’ Melian Dialogue: “The strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.” We know who they are, there are enough photos of them pursuing such accommodation and they are not shy about expressing such views openly. They have gotten it wrong for decades – after all, the same people have been counting on Erdogan’s promise to open Halki Seminary for 20 years – and are hoping they will finally get it right. Hope, however, is not a strategy.
Turkey is not as strong as they assume, nor are Greece, Cyprus, worldwide Hellenism and its allies as weak. We MUST strive for true peace and dialogue with Turkey, but that is not what Erdogan, Cavusoglu or Kalin are offering. We must search for true partners in peace and despite the urgings of certain foreign diplomats, our own hierarchs or certain analysts, we must resist the fate of Aesop’s farmer.