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February 28, 2003

Turkish War Support Unconstitutional?

Okay, this is just a really interesting development. Aside from the specific issue of war with Iraq, the last months have really seen the birth of a new configuration of global politics-- politics at the United Nations, politics in the streets that cross national boundaries -- and now you have the issue of how different nation-state constitutions interact with that global politics. So check this:

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said recently the resolution would violate the constitution if it lacked the ``international legitimacy'' offered by a second U.N. Security Council resolution explicitly authorising the use of force against Iraq.

A second resolution, drawn up by the United States and Britain, may not be presented for at least two weeks - not a timetable likely to suit U.S. military planners.

Article 92 of the constitution states that any deployment of foreign troops on Turkish soil or the dispatch of Turkish troops overseas for combat requires ``international legitimacy''.

So it's not clear that even a vote of the Turkish parliament, absent a constitutional amendment, can allow US troops in without UN sanction.

Turkey's Supreme Court has been activist at times and has clear judicial review powers-- far clearer than the US Supreme Court. According to Article 148 of the 1982 Constitution, the Constitutional Court shall examine the constitutionality "in respect of both form and substance of laws, law-amending ordinances, and the Standing Orders of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey."

Even on tough issues like Kurdish rights, the Supreme Court has overridden parliamentary laws. From Human Rights Watch in 2000: "In March this year the Supreme Court ruled, in a test case concerning a child that had been given a Kurdish name, that children could legally be given names of non-Turkish origin."

So here is the interesting question:

In the rhetoric of bringing democracy to Iraq, is the Bush administration going to bribe and threaten Turkey to the point that they violate their own Constitution?

Since they seem willing to sell-out the democratic rights of the Kurds, why shouldn't they trample the constitution of Turkey? Why should Ashcroft have all the fun of shredding constitutions?

Update: Note this story about a similar constitutional problem with US trying to deploy troops in Philipines:

Pentagon officials said it would be a combat operation, with American forces supporting Philippine-led missions....Philippine officials immediately balked at the American characterization, saying the Philippine Constitution prohibited foreign troops from carrying out combat missions.

Posted by Nathan at February 28, 2003 04:09 PM

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How would your appraisal change if the central question were not about "bringing democracy" to Iraq but rather "relieving awful tyranny."

The rhetoric about democracy in Iraq, democratic dominos in the region, etc. is most implausible. On the other hand, from all accounts Saddam really is is a terrible tyrant.

To hoist the Bushies on their own implausible rhetoric is easy, but may not get to the heart of the matter. Specifically, I'm interesting in learing how you would appraise the bullying tactics and bribery towards reluctant allies and security council swing votes if "relieving tyranny" were considered to be the operative goal? Two differences are: (1) it is easier to imagine that we can achieve this goal and (2) undemocratic "bullying and bribing" may be more compatible with the goal of "relieving tyranny" than it is with "sowing Democracy throughout the world."

I'm concerned here not so much with specific legal questions about Turkey's constitution, but rather the ethics of a using bribery and bullying as a tool to relieve tyranny. If there were a case to be made that the war is just, it probably lies in this direction. Therefore, I think that it would be useful to explore this.

Just one philosopher's annoying opinion!

Posted by: Andy Carpenter at February 28, 2003 07:15 PM

First, if relieving tyranny was really the goal, far more of our allies would probably be with us. Intervention in Kosovo much more clearly had that goal and gained broad-based international support.

It's not really clear that the US will relieve tyranny as opposed to just installing tyranny more pliable to US interests. Hussein himself was a client of the US until he got greedy and took more of Kuwait that the state department had indicated we would tolerate. Noriega in Panama was on our payroll until he got out of line. I could add Pinochet et al, but the list would get numbingly long.

In the abstract, a little bribery to fight a much greater evil is no big deal, but the fact that so many countries have to be bribed or coerced to join the "coalition of the willing" just shows how unwilling most countries are to believe Bush's rhetoric on its face without inducements. The bribery is less the evil of the situation then its need a strong indicator of deeper problems.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at March 1, 2003 01:49 AM

The issue, I think, isn't whether relieving tyranny is the only motivation for war, but rather whether it can legitimately be cited as a sufficient reason. If the tyranny were significant enough, the other motives might well be dwarfed by this even if they are immoral themselves.

I agree that some geopolitical bribery and bullying might well be justifiable for an end like ridding the world of terribly tyranny. Whether the hellishness of war is "worth it" is another question altogether; it may or may not be even if war is the only option, but certainly it is not worth it if there are other options to achieve the same end. This may be a reason why the administration is hard-pressed to find more allies: the moral justification just isn't there yet.

Of course, as you point out U.S. foreign policy hasn't been much concerned with careful ethical judgement or with fighting tyranny in any systematic way. So, the philosophical justification (or lack of it) of the war isn't a perspective that the administration really cares about. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't, however!

Thanks for the dialogue!


Posted by: Andrew N Carpenter at March 1, 2003 02:26 AM

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