Turkey’s Post-Imperial Vision

James Traub writes about Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s vision in today’s New York Times (here). An excerpt:

…On a flight to Ankara from Brussels, where he had just attended a NATO meeting, Davutoglu pushed away his half-eaten dinner and recited to me what he told his fellow foreign ministers: “If today there is an E.U., that emerged under the security umbrella of NATO. And who contributed most during those Cold War years? Turkey. Therefore when someone says, ‘Who lost Turkey?’ — there was such a question, because people said Turkey was turning to the East — this is an insult to Turkey. Why? Because it means he does not see Turkey as part of ‘we.’ It means Turkey is object, not subject. We don’t want to be on the agenda of international community as one item of crisis. We want to be in the international community to solve the crisis.”

To be part of the global “we” — this was the very definition of Erdogan’s, and Davutoglu’s, ambitions. This is why the Turks received the European rebuff as such a deep insult. And it is true, as Gates suggested, that in the aftermath, Turkey sought to raise its status in the immediate neighborhood. One of Davutoglu’s greatest diplomatic achievements was the creation of a visa-free zone linking Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, thus reconstituting part of the old Ottoman space. The four countries have agreed to move toward free trade, as well as free passage, among themselves. As part of the zero-problems policy, Turkey moved to resolve longstanding tensions with Cyprus and Armenia and, more successfully, with Greece and Syria. Turkey’s decades of suppression of Kurdish demands for autonomy put it at odds with the new government of Iraqi Kurdistan, which sheltered Kurdish resistance fighters. But the Erdo­gan government reached out to Kurdistan, America’s strongest ally in the region. Relations with the Bush administration had been rocky since 2003, when Turkey’s Parliament voted against permitting U.S. forces to enter Iraq through southeastern Turkey. But by now the U.S. was eager to use Turkey as a force for regional stability. The rapprochement with Kurdistan thus smoothed relations with Washington and made Turkey a major player in Iraqi affairs. Turkish firms gained a dominant position not only in Kurdistan but also, increasingly, throughout Iraq. And Iraqi Kurdish leaders had cracked down on the rebels. It was a diplomatic trifecta.

But Davutoglu’s vision extended far beyond securing the neighborhood for Turkish commerce. One of his pet theories is that the United States needs Turkey as a sensitive instrument in remote places…

5 Responses to “Turkey’s Post-Imperial Vision”

  1. Title should have been: US’s Post-Imperial Vision for Turkey
    Subtitle: Greater Middle East Project slightly revised.

  2. The usual garbage of nonsensical wishful self-delusion. How Turkey moved to resolve the Cyprus conflict if it still keeps a 30000 odd army there and has shown absolutely no sign of willing to withdraw even a fraction of it? And why Turks should feel “insulted” by the EU? I am sorry, but the EU has started negotiations with Turkey even when Turkey was very far from fully satisfying the Copenhagen criteria! And on top of that, the EU spends a lot of money in helping Turkey with technical preparations for accession. And what does Turkey bring to the table? Insulting arrogance of Erdogan who calls Europe “a continent with stagnant economies and geriatric societies”, repression of the Kurds (see here: http://cdogangercekler.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/can-show-trials-strengthen-confidence-in-the-rule-of-law/), show trials designed to frame political opponents and to discredit “hostile” institutions (Ergenekon, Sledgehammer), record numbers of sued journalists (how ironic that the last one to be sued is Ahmet Altan from Taraf, a staunch defender of AKP and Erdogan), alcohol regulations, censorship of arts and entertainment in a clear effort to mould people’s lifestyles in accordance with Islamic conservatives views. What does all this have to do with the EU values? The time has come to say clearly that either Turkey really reforms, or it can forget about the EU. Arrogant posturing of Erdogan and Davutoglu’s megalomania will not help.

  3. Sorry for repeating this but Parviz’s comments reminded me the same Turkish saying again: Dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.

  4. What does all this have to do with the EU values?

    What ‘EU values’ are you talking about?
    The same ‘EU values’ that simply stood by while people slaughtered one another in the Balkans?
    Or, those ‘EU values’ that gassed who-knows-how-many people only one person’s life-time ago?
    Haven’t we seen how they behaved in Rwanda –arming both sides and watching how the whole place became a blood bath?
    Are you naive enough to believe that Europe suddenly changed character in such a short time, or are you talking through your hat?

    The time has come to say clearly that either Turkey really reforms, or it can forget about the EU.

    Never mind the TR, the EU itself is in the process of forgoting about the EU.

    Arrogant posturing of Erdogan and Davutoglu’s megalomania will not help.

    But, yours will.

  5. Mehmet, and where is your caravan going? You are really funny. Just like your beloved PM.

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