This is not good news for Turkey or for anyone wishing peace and stability in the Middle East. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was a totally atypical Republican who has been one of the staunchest opponents of the "get thee to war" policy of former President George W. Bush. He did not believe that military operations solve problems, very much in the same vein as President Barack Obama. So when he was nominated to the office of secretary of defense in 2013, there was a strong belief that Obama would have a tangible strategy in the Middle East.
Hagel was also known for his opposition to Israeli policies in the Middle East, because of which he almost lost his nomination at the Senate, where he was thought to win an easy confirmation. He was confirmed by only a tiny margin due chiefly to Jewish lobbying efforts in opposition to it. Moreover, Hagel was an overt admirer of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which did not gain him many friends among Arab and Kurdish leaders.
However, the main issue here is not Hagel's resignation after merely two years tenure, but the fact that in six years, Obama has had three different secretaries of defense and is now looking for a fourth one. He started by keeping Robert Gates, George W. Bush's second secretary of defense and then nominated Leon Panetta, who later resigned, for the post.
Back in August, Obama confessed that he had no strategy for Syria yet, and now, with Hagel's resignation, there is an expectation to see a full-fledged U.S. strategy for the Middle East. Alas, the explanation for Hagel's ouster is the recent congressional elections, and for the time being, no clear strategy is in sight, neither from the president nor the soon to be Republican majority in both chambers.
The real problem is that there will be no "cheap" solution to the problems in the Middle East. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is right to underline the need for removing President Bashar Assad of Syria from power if any semblance of a solution is to be found in the northern Middle East, covering Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian territories. The main opponents to a negotiated or military solution seem to be Russia and Iran, still, the despair and radicalization of the Israeli government also plays a very negative role. The democratic world should at last devote time and effort to back a full-fledged and structured solution.
Turkey, whose foreign policy has been ridiculed and criticized from every possible angle, has had a staunch perspective when it proposed, and almost succeeded, in structuring a free trade area between itself, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, which should have begun in 2011.
Obviously, bringing together the internal markets of democratic and undemocratic countries and expecting a virtuous system to emerge would be naive. But contrary to general belief, enhanced economic integration between a democratic and undemocratic country has very positive effects on the populations of undemocratic countries. They turn into consumers who are entitled to ask for their commercial rights, and this is very bad news for coercive regimes, because once people start complaining officially about their rights as consumers, they do not stop there and ask for more democratic rights.
A large consensus should be formulated by democratic countries of how to propose a solution to the unfortunate populations of the Middle East. This will also show which countries are trying to act as submarines for the Russian Federation or, to some degree, Iran.
This would require immense mobilization of diplomatic and economic resources, but as it is going, the Middle East will soon demand even more diplomatic and economic efforts, maybe to no avail this time.