Why Turkey still looks xenophobic to me
The Transatlantic Survey 2013 results were announced last week. I was reading the text prepared for the Turkish ceremony. Some 38 percent of Turks surveyed said Turkey should act alone on international matters. The text prepared by the German Marshall Fund of the United States cites this as an indication that there is support for the foreign policy position of the Turkish government. I disagree. I do not think that the result is directly related to current developments. It is more likely to be a continuing trend from our past; it is a reflection of an old habit back from the days of “the Turk’s best friend is a Turk.” It was formulated with the memories of a crumbling empire long gone at the beginning of the last century. But old habits die hard. Turkey still looks xenophobic to me, and let me explain why.
It sounds plausible that 38 percent of the respondents from Turkey noted that Turkey should act alone in international affairs. A similar question was asked once before to Turkish participants of the survey in 2010. How many said Turkey should act alone in international matters? 34 percent. Now, 2010 was not like today. Turkey still had the basic zero-problems policy framework back then. The civil war in Syria and the Egyptian and Tunisian transformations toward democracy had not started back in 2010.
Turkey was not that problematic to the West at that time. The Arab transformations were not this messy. Yet 34 percent of respondents were asking for a more independent Turkey in international matters, much like today’s 38 percent. At that time, around 21 percent wanted Turkey to act more in line with the Middle Eastern countries. That ratio declined to around 8 percent this year. People were more supportive of government policy in 2010. What we have today is the good old xenophobia from the last century.
One thing is surprising. We had 48,310 exporting companies; each on average exports four kinds of products a year. Yet xenophobia persists. There is still that “Let’s do it by ourselves” mentality with its fear of everything from the outside, along with that early 19th-century attitude, telling you that the foreigner in your hometown can only be a spy. We are still stuck in that mindset, in a country in which three out of every four manufacturing companies sell their goods to the world, making 152 billion dollars’ worth of exports.