IR 4118 students reflect on their ICT course

This semester, IR 4118 course -‘Turkey and United States: Common Concerns and New ICT Instruments’- had started by the collaboration of Bilkent University with Montclair State University and U.S. Department of State Office of e-Diplomacy.

Throughout the course students are tasked to prepare projects and presentations on contemporary concerns and issues that influence both Turkish and American foreign policy agendas in 21st century, with the guidance of their lecturers, Dr. Nida Shoughry (Bilkent University) and Dr. Zsolt Nyiri (Montclair State University), In addition, students also participate in weekly discussions via video conferences, where they learn about cultural determinants of comprehending key events and conflicts. ‘‘It opens the mind to various viewpoints and perspectives’’ says Chelsea Wuesthoff (MSU) about the course. ‘’I think this is extremely important in order to be diplomatic; to see and understand various perspectives, viewpoints and opinions…’’.
Students’ first assignment was to prepare a presentation as a team about the 5 sources that they will find about public opinion on 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Teams were instructured to use under-utilized technologies (WEBEX, VTC, Skype, Google Hangout, Facebook) in order to prepare their projects, since the process of researching the sources required deliberative and interactive communication. ‘’It was difficult to find the time that fits for everyone because of the timezone differences- but after our first Google Hangout session, I understood the vitality of meeting with my team members face-to-face to come up with the best work and to contribute evenly’’ says Yigit Mahmutoglu (BU), while explaining the technical difficulties of preparing a joint presentation with students from U.S.
In last week’s session, teams consisted of two American and two Turkish students presented their projects to their peers and instructors. Team members used multiple sources of comics, video montages, polls, song lyrics, newspaper articles, and TV coverages and managed to interpret the sources geo-politically in their assignments. As a result, anti-invasionist references from China, Turkey, England, U.S., Russia, South Korea, Italy and Iran outweighted the group presentations, although pro-invasionist sources from Germany, Israel and U.S and neutral sources from Austria, Israel, and U.S. were mentioned.
In the aftermath, students from Bilkent University and Montclair State University evaluated the methods of the course while revealing their expectations from the joint-lectures and discussions. ‘’I expect the course to provide me with greater insight into the understanding of public opinion mechanisms especially in the MENA region and I expect to collaborate very frequently with Turkish colleagues, as to be able to create a network of people able to rely in the future as well for possible career opportunities’’ says Lorenzo Fleishhacker. Conversely, Selay Siperoglu (BU) says, “I took this course due to the importance of Turkey and U.S. alliance and to witness different people’s views on certain issue from different cultures’’ adding, ‘’The course feeds my expectations so far and I believe that it will help me to improve myself a lot until the end of the semester”.Image


Former U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman addresses IR students

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Marc Grossman gave a guest lecture last Tuesday as part of the ongoing IR4118 course: ‘Turkey and the United States: Common Concerns and New ICT Instruments’, which started this semester at the Department of International Relations. The special course developed with Montclair State University (USA), and the U.S. Department of State Office of eDiplomacy, brings together students from both universities in a classroom-to-classroom online experience that includes joint weekly lectures and discussions.
Using video conferencing, Ambassador Grossman gave guest remarks about foreign policy making, in which he highlighted the role of public opinion and media, and the importance of innovative communication technologies. In his talk Grossman related to Turkey-US relationships, Turkey’s European Union accession process, and the increasing role Turkey is playing in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Grossman emphasized the improtance of Turkey as a strategic regional power and drew attention to the ‘Turkish model’ in the context of post ‘Arab Spring’ Middle East. Grossman also answered questions from both Bilkent and Montclair State University students, and shared his experience as a diplomat and a policy maker. Grossman was the third-highest ranking State Official when he was named Under Secretary for Political aAfairs in 2001, and his long diplomatic career includes serving as U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2011.

By Alp Eren Başer (IR/IV), İlkin Ismayilov (IR/IV), Çağla Kılıç (IR/III), and Selay Siperoğlu (IR/IV)

Was the Marshall Plan or the development of the EEC/EU the main reason for West European prosperity after 1945?

When the United States did not see the post-Second World War era as initial solution to the world economy, the Bretton Woods system, adequate by itself for its different purposes, adopted the intervention policy. Truman Doctrine was put first on the table and maintained for some time in Greece and Turkey. Particularly for Turkey it was based on military assistance. Europe’s economic situation was very critical, since Europe’s economy had been destroyed and it needed to rise to a self-sufficient level in coal and agriculture again, to the achievement by the countries of Europe of a healthy economy independent of extraordinary outside assistance. It was feared that otherwise there would be revolution, economic, political, and social disintegration, and this would have immediate effects on the U.S. domestic economy. Therefore, it can be said that the Marshal Plan had a big effect on the West European prosperity after 1945.

 Successively the Truman Doctrine and The European Development Program started to stand against the communist threat by strengthening Western Europe economically. The content of this program, the Marshall Plan or the European Recovery Program was declared to the world in the “Harvard Speech” of the United States Secretary of State George Marshall on 5 July 1947. The United States’ 80th Congress ratified the Foreign Assistance Act of Public Law 472 on April 3, 1948 and The Organization for European Economic Cooperation was founded in April 1948.

 The Paris Conference, known as The Sixteen Powers Conference, was gathered in July 1948, after an unsuccessful attempt to get the Soviet Union to join, to fix the recipient countries’ needs and a cumulative 18 billion dollar was accepted as assistance. With this conference, the Marshall Plan was expanded to nineteen to include Britain, France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Denmark, Holland, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Trieste, Canada, and Turkey. The urgent and critical nature of the situation was stressed. The Committee of European Economic Cooperation was founded at this conference and it prepared a report and presented it to the U.S. government on September 22 outlining a four-year program for economic recovery in the participating countries. Initially, the Marshall Plan put three conditions in the implementation: a cost ceiling of 18,000 billion dollar (it counted 13 million in practice), a time limit of four years, and a definite objective of reconstruction in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost to the United States. It was mainly in three forms of direct aid grants (on condition of use in approved areas) and loans (on condition of beginning to pay from 1952), indirect aid (to regulate trade), and technical assistance. 

 Although it is regarded as an instrument of American foreign policy, with reference to the Cold War, it was fundamentally an economic enterprise with the aim of pursuing specific economic tasks and to reaching specific economic goals. For what it did, was to lay a firm basis from which the European nations could generate their own economic momentum and reach a point of self-sustaining economic growth. The determined aim was to increase the economic activities to a gratifying level without unusual foreign assistance as soon as possible and provide its permanence. The U.S. was in agreement that these targets could not be reached without American aid.

 In other words, it was seen as an exportation a version of capitalism modeled on the United States to Europe, enslaving Europe to American capital, and it was thought that truly American-style mass consumption would not come to Europe for at least another decade if there was no Plan. The architects of the Marshall Plan did not see their role as redefining capitalism so much as selling it. Actually, in a sense the Marshall Plan defined the divide between East and West…by defining the East-West conflict as a choice between plan and market. The Second World War turned the United States into a superpower in world affairs and it signaled the shift in the American public opinion away from isolationism. With the high level of public support for the Marshall Plan and with the perceived success of the Plan and other American policies, the American public was supportive of the foreign aid proposals and policies initiated by its political leaders.

 To sum up, the Marshall Plan should be regarded as a “naive” application of foreign aid which contained the nuclei of all of the later aid programs related to their sources, forms and channels. It was conceived in the extraordinary post-war circumstances with a transfer of a huge amount of public resources in the form of grants to a large extent under a definite plan. The Plan was the first of its kind in world history, except for war times; in one way, its importance stems from this. In another way, it was of pivotal significance in crystallizing the East-West conflict in Europe, as a fuller elaboration of the Truman Doctrine and a design to erect an economic and political bloc to contain Soviet expansion and to curb the influence of the Communist parties in the West European countries, as a big step to construct the Cold War policy. The plan contributed the development of European prosperity by adopting capital view of economy. Thanks to plan, the plan, European nations could produce their own economic momentum and reach a point of self-sustaining economic growth.

Ethnic Conflict

Great powers of the world and some European countries committed fatal mistakes in the management of ethnic conficts. In the example of Yugoslav War and Rwandan Genocide are the recent example from history. In Rwandan genocide, because of the Belgiums and French are discriminated them in eachother as Hutu and Tutsi; Tutsis are taller than Hutus and there is no difference than each other just a ethnic difference and status differences. That’s why they had killed each other mercilessly. Hutus exterminate the Tutsi’s  Actually, UN seemed as a buffer between them but it was just a “ghost buffer” because hundreds and thousands of innocent people had killed.  “ Constructivists …. Tutsi were also killed.” ( Ch6, 154 ) Any of the European countries or USA did not do anything, because in their eyes; there is no need of intervention and the reason for that is they seemed as a domestic conflict, so it is not their problem. There were no oil and natural resources; Rwanda does not have any strategical importance or there is no economic interests of the rest of the world; so they had abandoned to their fate.

Actually, same situation happened in during the collapse of Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbians, Croatians and Muslims had killed each other because of their ethnic differences; but basically they were the same pople of the one country. In fact, these countries were the part of former USSR or other colonial European countries; so they do not have a strong governments and that’s why they were in a conflict in domestic level.  Also, United Nations had intervene in Yugoslavia; maybe the reason for that prevent the Europeans from Communist Russia; they were kind a buffer zone and spare wheel for rest of the Europeans. ( CH6, 163 ) After the collapse of FYR, the war of Bosnia had started and both EU, UN or NATO did not intervene and stopeed war; because they said that they are respectful for the sovereignty of these countries and apparently they had no reason to intervene .

            All these are ethnic conflict and the problems of self-determination of the countries that established new, because of this reason; they need outsiders to solve their problems but at that time; if there is more superpower than one, again there could be again any conflict; so one of them supports side A and the others supports side B. If it happens like that; nobody can solve these problems and we could prevent the world from colonization of one superpower. That’s why I’m supporting bi-polar system; if superpower1 wants to do something without permission of any country; world becomes the playing ground of SuperPower1. On the other hand if there is another SuperPower2, SuperPower1 can not move as easily as before like one. They could balance each other and suppress; so the world becomes more secure and palmy.

A little about sustainable energy and development of energy sources

My recommendations could be and must be on renewable energy sources. Turkey is geographically advantageous land and we could produce an energy from sea; because ¾ of our land surrounded by sea. Also another point could be wind, if Europe and other developed countries could do it around the world, why we cannot? Actually, sustainable solution must be clean, renewable and cheaper but in Turkey’s case, firstly we must care on economical side; we are paying and importing too much for the energy and if we could decrease the dependency and prices, new investments could make for the clean and renewable sources. Primarily, we must use our own national resources, like coal. While we are increasing the use of coal, maybe we could decrease the prices and importance of other resources; so, after a while within a harmony, we could decrease the use of coal instead of clean and renewable energy sources. As an individual and for the individuals, people should use public transport instead of private cars. It will decreases oil consumption and also clean.

Import dependency and it’s risks (the geopolitical dimension; Russia, Iran, Iraq, etc. dimensions)

Import dependency and its risks lead an energy security problem for Turkey. It has economical and social risks for Turkey. Coal 41.2%, oil 92.3% and 98% of natural gas; observed dependence on foreign sources. If we look at the overall energy dependence falls to 71.4%. Also from a geo-strategically perspective; our borders covered with most problematic regions in the world. Middle Eastern countries provide most of the oil and gas to the world but, as we knew from history, always in conflict; so it’s risky for the energy security. The other issue is economical, because if we consume more and produces less; our dependency will never decrease and we had to pay more and more to the energy sources. The example of oil is a clear and certain picture for us, Turkish citizens uses world most expensive oil in their cars. Also, energy security problem creates a lack and fear of electricity and natural gas. If Turkey cannot show efficient sensitivity for this issue, one day, all country will be in darkness without any light.

Main Problems of the Energy Sector

There are several reasons that world energy sector faces off and also some problems that special for Turkey. Here are some common problems and specific reasons for Turkey.

-Adequate and sustainable energy supply,

-Energy costs and prices,

-Environmental issues,

-Efficient use of energy,

-Scientific technological developments,

-Inequality in distribution and lack of access to the energy, between regions and income groups.

 These problems are not only related to economic issues but also regarded to political issues. To solve the problems that caused by economical issues; Turkey must use their own, national natural resources to decrease the dependency to outsiders. Development of natural industry is too important to increase the producing natural energy sources inside Turkey’s territory. This issue will prevent exportation, import of raw materials and also increases national investments. When we can’t implement our own process raw materials will cost less but after processing it costs us more.