Monday, December 21, 2015

Turkey’s Reluctant Return to the West

Today's Zaman Oped

Interesting title. Particularly the use of the word of reluctant. Reluctant tells us that Turkey is not so eager to go along with the West. Aka US/Israel. Reluctant informs us that rather then being willing to return to the west, Turkey is being forced or coerced back into the Western fold. To the detriment of Turkey’s well being. Cohesion. Territorial Integrity.

Reluctant defined : feeling or showing doubt about doing something : not willing or eager to do something

While this oped is aimed at the Turkish audience, including a warning for the Turkish populace to consider the consequences of this return, the non Turkish audience should  also comprehend that Turkey is being pushed into a dire scenario.
“Inspired positively by the early outcomes of the Arab uprisings, Turkey was almost convinced that the time was ripe for grand changes. The Islamist rulers of Turkey have never been happy with the Western genetics of Turkish foreign policy. There were grand projects in the air in those times, such as flirting with the Shanghai Five or buying a missile system from China. Turkey's leadership of the Muslim world was another leading priority.

Things changed quickly. As of 2015, Turkey is a de facto isolated country, both regionally and globally. One may even argue that relations with some Arab states today are even worse than when the Arabs were uprising against the Ottomans in World War I. This is a crucial problem: How did Turkey become a state that has no contact with several Arab states like Libya, Yemen and Egypt? What is the main dynamic that caused this? The answer, I believe, is simple: Turkey once thought that it had the capacity to rule the Arab world. As a result, Ankara became engaged in many domestic issues of various Arab states. The engagement strategy failed for two simple reasons: First, Arabs do not want Turkey to lead them. Second, Ankara does not have the needed material or non-material power to realize such a grand engagement in domestic Arab affairs.
I believe the author contradicts himself in the section highlighted above. Ankara (non NATO occupied Turkey) would have surely been aware of their limitations so how could they have then believed that they were going to lead the Arabs. Were they encouraged to lead? Was non NATO Turkey set up to fail- Forcing it back into the NATO fold?
It is an unwritten principle of Turkish history: Turks are pro-Western by necessity. Politicians like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk were also ideologically pro-Western. But the Islamist actors of today's Turkey are also pro-Western, as there is no alternative to offer security to Turkey. Thus, Turkey is moving from the ideological Westernism of Kemalism to the strategic Westernism of Islamists. As of 2015, Islamists in Turkey have no alternative other than the NATO/Western system to protect their interests against potential aggressors like Russia. It is thus a reluctant Westernism.
Russia. A potential aggressor? Considering Turkey's energy dependence and trade with Russia, aggressor doesn't come to my mind. However, NATO occupied Turkey would interpret Russia as an 'aggressor'
Though strategic, Westernism in Turkish foreign policy requires complex changes. 
Turkey first canceled its plan to buy a missile system from China. Then declared it wanted to normalize relations with Israel. Recently, US President Barack Obama asked Turkey remove its troops from Iraq. All are normal. Since Turkey is becoming close to the NATO/Western camp, one cannot imagine Turkey's problems with Israel not being solved. A similar development may be seen on the Egyptian side.

Today, the Islamists are pushing Turkey toward a strategic Westernism. This is mainly through a system for security and its institutions. It is not like the previous ideological Westernism that prioritized Western values such as human rights and democracy. Thus, it is not the EU, but NATO, that gives the color of Turkey's recent pro-Western strategy. However, Turkey's strategic Westernism has limits. To begin with, this would keep Turkey on the periphery of the Western bloc. Security-oriented Westernism has no, or very limited, capacity to transform Turkey into a Western power. Thus, its impact on domestic Turkish politics in terms of democratization is also very limited.
NATO occupied Turkey vs Non NATO Turkey
Turkey's basket has two key strategic advantages that can be marketed to the West: The first is the recent revivalism of Russia. The second is the set of various problems caused by the Middle Eastern regional system such as radicalism, terror or the Syrian crisis. As usual, it is Turkey that can best offer help in those two fields, no other states!

Conventional logic would say it is in Turkey's favor to play this role. However, it is yet to be clarified if such a peripheral role in the Western system would also be in favor of Turkey in the long term. The role Turkey is today assigned by the Western system has a natural capacity to erode Turkey. This role may erode Turkey's democracy, domestic peace and sociological balances in the long term. I am sure no pragmatic Western leader would think of this, but this is necessary homework for all Turks”

Turkey's recently assigned role, western assigned, will erode Turkey's democracy, domestic peace and sociological balances in the long term. I am quite sure Western pragmatic leaders have considered this fact. In fact, by my reading, it seems the western pragmatists have planned for this erosion of the Turkish state.  I do hope the Turkish populace has or will consider these moves against Turkey.

From earlier:

Barzani describes PYD as ‘so-called Kurds' over attack on Syrian Kurds


  1. Today's two posts work together but deserve their own space

  2. silver palomino: got your comment in the previous post- thanks for it- very thoughtful :)

  3. Turkey has fought several long and bloody wars with Russia...back in the time of Catherine the Great. Of course Turkey is being USED by the West to bait Russia and to draw Russia into a war. The Turkish people are fed up and are fleeing the country...if they can. They are deeply distrustful of their government. Things were bad economically last fall when I was there...they are probably MUCH worse now that the Russians have stopped the tourism.

  4. Here's an interesting update on Turkey:

  5. Interesting article Penny. One question - isn't Zaman owned by the CIA asset Gulen? I can't remember all the news outlets he owns in Turkey but there were several english ones and the name is familiar. Since he dumped Turkey and ran to US he's been causing trouble for the country.

    Anyway, way back when Obama was first elected he had a study done about political Islam (I have no clue where the article is now it's been too many years)but from that think tank study he decided to support Muslim Brotherhood in ME countries. Since that didn't work out so good for him in any of the so called arab spring nations, he has backed off the idea, but he's heavily influenced by all the women around him - Rice,Power, Nuland,etc) they seem to rule more than him. Watch their actions along with any US/NATO military personnel who appear in Turkey for a hint as to what they are thinking. The day of Russian SU-24 shoot down, a US assistant joint chiefs of staff from USAF was in Turkey - highly coincidental or convenient??
    Turkey would again become important for NATO if they can ratchet up the new cold war" because it's the eastern edge of alliance defence perimeter. That was the main reason they wanted Turkey in NATO last time. And hey, if they can sneak a few nukes into Incerlik without anyone noticing they could start another "cuban missile crisis".