The weekend that was…

Ashish Prashar, late of the UK Conservatives, reflects on the possibilities of an Obama presidency i

When Obama finished visiting his gravely ill grandmother in Hawaii on Friday, he swiftly returned to the trail. First up, there were stops in Nevada and then New Mexico. Then his final campaign stop was in Colorado.

Most Americans, actually most people across the world, have seen Obama speak, and millions at this point have been to his events (remember Berlin), so I won't bore you with my opinion on the details of his promises (very progressive) or of the energy at the event (high).

But what really seemed new and "transformative" and what really seemed to capture the 100,000 Coloradoans at the weekend’s rally, people across the US and me - was his discussion about struggle. Having worked in British politics, I have learned not to be easily mesmerised by politicians, but I will admit right here: the flash I saw from Obama at the end of his speech really blew me away.

Indeed, as he was closing his remarks, he touched on how making change is incredibly painful and incredibly gruelling - and how it always has been throughout our history. And the best part - the part where the audience was most rapt - was when Obama veered off his prepared remarks and made it personal.

He made references to the courage of immigrants and the civil rights movement, which are clearly personal to Obama, but are rarely voiced in politics - an arena that has often been about bashing immigrants. That he departed from his prepared text to talk about those issues, and tied them to a discussion about how difficult change is - well, it suggests that very "transformative" possibility of an Obama presidency.

Whether you believe Obama represents real change or not, I came away believing that he understands the challenge of actually making change, should he win. That is, he understands that if he really attempts to fundamentally alter the status quo on major issues, it is going to be a very tumultuous and difficult process - one that only begins in the wake of election day. After all an Obama win will mark the beginning, not the end, of the work that needs to be done. Undoing the damage of the Bush administration will not only take time, but resolve.

I'm not 100 per cent sure, knowing how hard this will be, that Obama will move into the breach. My heart hopes he will, and my gut tells me its more than likely he will, but we will never know unless he gets a chance - a chance that I believe he deserves. If he wins, I am sure America will have a president who grasps how tough it will be to make progress - and I am becoming more confident that America will have a president who will try to make that progress a reality.

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Ankara bombs: Turkey is being torn apart by bad leaders and bad neighbours

This is the worst terror attack in Turkey’s history. In just a few months, hundreds of civilians, Turkish security personnel and PKK members have been killed.

It had already been a deadly summer of political instability in Turkey. And now this. Another massacre – this time at the hand of twin bomb attacks on a peace rally in Ankara, which have killed at least 97 people.

It is the worst terror attack in Turkey’s history. In just a few months, hundreds of civilians, Turkish security personnel and PKK members have been killed. Barely a single day passes in Turkey without some incident of lethal political violence.

Freedom from fear is the very basic principle of human security, which should be protected by any state that wants a true sense of legitimacy over its population and territory. In Turkey, that freedom is under enormous pressure from all sorts of internal and external forces.

Stirred up

There are plenty of competing explanations for the political violence engulfing the country, but none can seriously overlook the impact of Turkey’s bad political leadership.

The terrible, violent summer reflects nothing so much as an elite’s greed for power and willingness to treat civilians as dispensable. This has become particularly apparent since Turkey’s inconclusive June 7 election, and the way various political parties and leaders did all they could to prevent the formation of a viable coalition government.

Ultimately, the power game is simple enough. At the elections hastily called for November, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party needs to garner only a few per cent more than it did in June to win the majority it needs for Erdogan to bolster his powers and make himself the country’s executive president.

To that end, pro-government media has been in overdrive throughout the summer, deliberately fuelling an environment of division, paranoia and mistrust in hopes of winning votes out of pure fear.

All the while, southeast Turkey has endured dreadful violence. Some towns – Cizre, for instance, which was under seige for days – have suddenly found themselves on the front line of renewed fighting between the security forces and the PKK.

The demise of the peace process is not just a failure of diplomacy – it signals that the armed conflict is still hugely politically and financially lucrative to Turkey’s political and military leaders. And the violence they’re profiting from is rapidly corroding social life and human security across the country.

The war next door

But the political instability caused by Turkey’s leaders has been greatly exacerbated by its neighbours, especially the continuing civil war in Syria and its deadly ramifications – an influx of jihadist fighters, a massive refugee crisis, and spiralling military interventions.

Since the end of the Cold War, global security has never been so seriously threatened as it is by today’s situation in Syria, which is now host to a head-to-head clash between the interests of Russia, the Assad regime and Iran on the one hand and the US, the EU, their Arab allies, and NATO on the other.

All sides claim to be fighting against the Islamic State and other Islamist extremists, but it’s clear that what’s really at stake is a lot more than just the fate of the jihadists or the political future of Syria. Already there’s an ominous spat underway over Russian planes' incursion into Turkish airspace; NATO has already raised the prospect of sending troops to Turkey as a defensive gesture.

And while it was always inevitable that the Syrian disaster would affect its northern neighbour to some degree, Turkey’s continuing internal political instability is proving something of an Achilles heel. By deliberately forcing their country into a period of chaotic and violent turmoil, Turkey’s leaders have made it more susceptible than ever to the Syrian conflict and the mighty geopolitical currents swirling around it.

And yet they press on with their cynical political ploys – seemingly unmoved by the cost to their people, and unaware that they could just be becoming pawns in a much bigger game.

The Conversation

Alpaslan Ozerdem is a Chair in Peace-Building and Co-Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.