AHI Forum Discusses Prominent Think Tank’s Report on Turkey
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a noon forum discussion on the topic of “The Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report on Turkey” featuring Ambassador Patrick Theros (ret.), former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar and president and executive director of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council. Ambassador Theros is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The discussion forum was held July 23, 2012 at AHI’s Hellenic House.
“The United States has not had a serious review of policy with Turkey for probably the greater part of my career,” said Ambassador Theros in his opening statement.
Turkey is one of the few foreign countries that understands how the American foreign policy process works, according to Ambassador Theros. He provided insight and perspective on the process by which policy papers or reports produced by prominent foreign policy think tank organizations become the basis for U.S. policy. He cited one example of how a think tank policy paper on Turkey, which touted Turkey’s increased post-Cold War importance to the United States, ended up in the grateful hands of a State Department official, who was so consumed with the day-to-day affairs of bureaucracy, that the official viewed the policy paper as a significant aid to provide the basis for long-term policy. Some of these well-written, well-argued papers, such as the one Ambassador Theros cited as an example, actually originate from policy think-tanks of foreign countries such as Turkey and are placed with U.S. think tanks.
“The Turks understand the role that these major foreign affairs think tanks play in the U.S. government,” said Ambassador Theros. “The think tanks provide the intellectual capital which an overburdened bureaucracy cannot provide.”
With respect to the Independent Task Force Report on Turkey produced by The Council on Foreign Relations, in which Ambassador Theros participated, stated that it was probably the first such policy review in the United States on the relationship with Turkey that originated in the United States (unlike the previous example he cited). He added that Task Force was composed of a large number of people, many of who were familiar with Turkey or were Turkish Americans.
“I had great privilege to participate on the Task Force,” he said. “I was one of the few people who brought another perspective to the Task Force.”
However, Ambassador Theros noted that two main factors with regard to Turkey has caused the United States to look at Turkey with a more critical eye and “get back to basics” to see how to go forward with Turkey. The two factors are: AKP’s coming to power with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan coupled with the diminished power of the Turkish military and the end of Turkey’s relationship with Israel. Ambassador Theros also noted that U.S.-Turkish relations began to erode with Turkey's rejection of the United States' request to move troops through Turkey into northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion. These factors have led to the disappearance of the “old rules” of dealing with Turkey, leading to the formulation of a new relationship with Turkey as examined by the Council of Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report.
Task Force Report: “Good Reason” for U.S.-Turkey Relationship to Grow
From the Task Force’s website, "Turkey may not yet have the status of one of Washington's traditional European allies," the report explains, "but there is good strategic reason for the bilateral relationship to grow and mature into a mutually beneficial partnership that can manage a complex set of security, economic, humanitarian, and environmental problems."
According to the Task Force, concerns about Turkey’s democratic practices include: "the prosecution and detention of journalists, the seemingly open-ended and at times questionable pursuit of military officers and other establishment figures for alleged conspiracy against the government, the apparent illiberal impulses of some Turkish leaders, the still-unresolved Kurdish issue, and the lack of progress on a new constitution."
According to the Task Force website, the Task Force "seeks to promote a better understanding of the new Turkey—its strengths, vulnerabilities, and ambitions—in order to assess its regional and global role and make recommendations for a new partnership of improved and deepened U.S.-Turkey ties."
Q&A: Greece & Think Tanks
During the Q&A session, Ambassador Theros touched upon the importance of Greece’s participation in intergovernmental and think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations. He expressed concern about the lack of a Greek presence. In his opinion, Greece “is lacking a presence ... with eight Greek-Americans compared to 50 to 60 Turkish Americans filling up [job] posts.” When asked what type of role organizations such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI) plays in foreign policy influence, the ambassador replied that the most influence with think tanks is reiterating the importance of Greek representation in these places.
AHI President Nick Larigakis concluded the forum with a final point in response to the “fear of Turkey’s EU bid [being] dead,” saying that “Greece and Cyprus [have] led the way in the negotiations--all [Turkey] has to do is fill it’s criteria.”
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
For additional information, please contact Vasilios Kotsatos at (202) 785-8430 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.