A Brief review: Terrorism, Brexit, the U.S. presidential campaign, and a failed coup in Turkey  

Paolo von Schirach 

July 22, 2016

A Brief review:

It is undeniable that terrorism has become more virulent. Even though the number of victims worldwide is not overwhelming, various acts of terror in France, Belgium, Turkey, Bangladesh, and the U.S. have created the perception that “we are now all vulnerable targets”, while governments –with all their police and law enforcement tools– are essentially helpless.

The accepted (albeit overblown) narrative that “Radical Islam” is at war with us, created a popular demand for safety, whatever the cost. Considering the undeniable fact that most terrorists are Muslims, this general fear has also fueled emotionally charged anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe and in the U.S. These xenophobic political movements have transformed European and American politics –and not in a good way.

In all this, the simmering civil war in Syria, along with the conflict against the ISIL-led “Caliphate” which (surprisingly) still controls large chunks of Syria and Iraq drags on, with no end in sight.

Brexit and its consequences

The UK referendum that affirmed Brexit created a moment of international panic. Is this the first milestone in a process leading to the collapse of the European Union? How will Great Britain survive outside of Europe? Well, after the dust settled, it looks as if this new development may be manageable, after all. But the EU does not look any stronger after the British “no confidence” vote.

America astray?

U.S. primaries voters selected Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as presidential contenders. Mr. Trump would like America to take care of its own first. Forget about inspired internationalism, strong alliances, free trade, and the promotion of democracy. The aspiring president argues that America has to go back to the business of “winning”. And the way he sees it, international relations are a zero sum game. For America to win, someone else needs to lose. Trump’s America is inward looking, and at the same time more nationalistic.

Hillary Clinton proposes a more traditional approach to foreign policy; but the economic policies she promotes are almost silent on America’s biggest long term challenge: how to revamp stagnant economic growth.

China’s peaceful rise?

Meanwhile, China’s “peaceful rise” seems to be a thing of the past. Chinese moves to assert total control over the South China Sea are viewed by many observers as the telling sign of a more assertive, may be even aggressive China. Absent strong U.S. leadership, who is minding the store in the vast Pacific Region?

Turkey overcame a crisis  

The failed military coup in Turkey shows that the majority of the military commanders respect the constitutionally elected government. The coup failed mostly because the mid-level officers who staged it could not get the backing of the top commanders.

Now Turkey has to go beyond this difficult moment. The government is busy arresting plotters and alleged supporters. Thousands have been detained, and many more (among them civil servants and educators) have been demoted or forced to resign. It will take a while for Turkey to regain its balance.

The hope of Turkey’s partners and NATO allies is that this process aimed at strengthening constitutional order will be carried following a legal due process. But these “clean up” actions, authorized via extraordinary emergency powers, are rarely smooth and linear.

In an ideal scenario, when all this will be over, Turkey will have emerged as a strong and vibrant democracy, willing and able to keep its rightful place in the international community.