GÜRKAN ZENGİN

Orientalist stereotypes and Turkish foreign policy

You probably know Albert Einstein’s popular quote “It is easier to split an atom »»
You probably know Albert Einstein’s popular quote “It is easier to split an atom than to break a prejudice.” Prejudices about the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) prevent many people who look at Turkish foreign policy from “outside” from interpreting it correctly.How can you explain to Western and local intellectuals who are used to looking at Turkey through Orientalist glasses that the AK Party is not an “Islamist” party?

How can you explain that Turkey has a vastly different history of modernization that cannot be compared to any other country in the Middle East, that this has had unique implications for Turkey’s political sociology and that the AK Party is a political party that emerged after settling all accounts in this painful process?

Who will spend time and energy on these matters? It’s much easier to just say that “since they’re Islamist, of course their policies are going to be in favor of Iran.”

When presuppositions are wrong, the evaluation is wrong as well. Simplifying the matter to such an extent will prevent you from comprehending what you are facing. What we have before us is a US administration that has for eight years been unable to understand what the AK Party is.

It is this confusion that lies behind the question of whether Turkey is shifting its axis in its foreign policy.

You can spend billions of dollars on hundreds of think tanks but still have no idea about what’s happening in places where you have “vital interests.”

The Turkish media recently reported that the US secretary of state had held a “meeting on Turkey.” Subsequently, “distorted” information pertaining to the Erdoğan-Bush meeting in Canada was leaked to the press. Then came “threatening” messages from senior level American officials about imposing sanctions on Iran.

What’s happening?

It is obvious that the American propaganda machine has been turned on once more.

They think they can change Ankara’s policy on Iran by using “dark propaganda” to put pressure on Turkey.

What they do not understand is that for eight years Turkey has been pursuing a foreign policy that is framed by “new principles.” It does not apply case-by-case or separate policies for each country.

Turkey does not have a separate “Iran policy”; it has a “regional policy.”

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has several times announced this policy, the general principles of which apply not only to the Middle East but also to the Balkans and the Caucasus. Turkey has been implementing this policy with tremendous stability for the past eight years.

If Turkey has managed to become a supra-regional power and an actor that can have an effect globally, then it is because of this new foreign policy. The need for a new foreign policy emerged out of the realities of the post-Cold War “new world.”

Turkey does not seek to be on the side of one country or another. There are no “preferred countries” that Turkey will support no matter the cost, but there are foreign policy principles Turkey will strictly adhere to at all costs.

The US administration and lobbies that exert influence over it should not even bother fantasizing about making Turkey change its policy. Turkey will not give up its proven successful foreign policy. It cannot force Turkey to change its “Iranian policy” because that would mean Turkey must change its entire regional policy.

For Turkey, that would mean shooting itself in the foot. Turkey cannot and would not do such a thing.

There was an explanation for the “strategic blindness” in the White House when the neocon gang was in control of US foreign policy. Witnessing a similar weakness during the Obama administration has been a major disappointment for Turkey.

2010-08-21

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Columnist:: GÜRKAN ZENGİN