Monday, September 26, 2005

Beacon No. 66: A "Metal Storm" in Turkish Minds


Ted Widmer of Washington College in Chestertown, Md. recently wrote about a book that Turkish 18-30 year olds are reading in droves: Metal Storm, a fictional account of a U.S. invasion of Turkey.

Why would the U.S. invade its historic ally and strategic partner? Turkey's supply of borax, of all things, which the U.S. needs more of in the year 2007 for "nuclear weapons and space technology":

G.I.'s overrun Turkey from their position in neighboring Iraq. The first phase of the invasion, Operation Metal Storm, resembles Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The Americans have no difficulty taking over Turkey's primary cities, where they allow cultural vandalism. They fail to secure the countryside, however, and slowly their hubris begins to do them in.

Shades of Tom Clancy's 1994 Debt of Honor, where pride and an ambition to re-colonize North Asia for its resources drive corrupt Japanese leaders to attack U.S. forces in the Pacific.

Although it met with criticism for portraying Japan's leadership as sneaky, Debt of Honor struck a chord in a recessionary, pre-dotcom America that was suspicious of Japan's economic success, and receptive to messages of Japanese greed and hubris.

Metal Storm also has some grounding in Turkey's deeper fears: The U.S. has limited Turkey's ability to pursue Kurdish insurgents to their bases in Iraqi Kurdistan—a major step in Turkey's traditional area of influence. It may not take much more imagination, in Turkish readers' minds, to think the U.S. might want to end Turkey altogether:

... The United States attempts to partition Turkey between two historic rivals, Greece and Armenia, and allows a Kurdish state to come into being. Turkey responds with a creative solution straight out of a West Point seminar on worst-case scenarios. First, the Turks form a new alliance with China, Russia and Germany. Then, a brave Turkish secret agent named Gokan goes ballistic. In a shocking scene, he steals a poorly guarded nuclear weapon and takes out Washington. ... Presto, the crisis is over, catharsis achieved, and Turks can go to bed knowing the invader has been soundly and justly defeated.

Note where Turkey looks for help: Not at the E.U., which isn't exactly seen as the Anatolian republic's pal these days, but to the enemies (or at least competitors) of its fictional enemy and to Germany, where millions of Turkish-descended Germans live and thus already a major source of "help" in the form of remittances.

Widmer notes that Metal Storm is "said to be very popular with the Turkish military, and men aged 18 to 30." It would be unfortunate if this demographic came into adulthood misunderstanding U.S. intentions, but as Widmer points out, that road runs both ways:

The American ambassador to Turkey reportedly had to find scientists to prove that last winter's Asian tsunami was not caused by an American nuclear explosion. (Then again, ... "The West Wing" recently portrayed Turkey as a country where women are beheaded for having sex with their fianc├ęs.)

Side cultural note: Hollywood celebrities, once highly in demand to do ad campaigns in Japan, are losing work to homegrown talent, according to "The Stars Realign in Japan" in today's L.A. Times:

"The mystique has faded," said Akihiko Sasamoto, who heads the Asian casting division of Hakuhodo, one of Japan's biggest advertising and marketing agencies. "You no longer have this distinction between foreign artists and Japanese artists. So we don't need to spend a big amount of money on a Hollywood star."

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