Confusion and arrogance
It is indeed confusing times for all of us in terms of our political convictions. The supporters of anti-imperialist/anti-interventionalist politics cannot avoid finding themselves turning a blind eye to authoritarian politics, and the supporters of interventionalist-imperialist politics find themselves ignoring the shortcomings of interventionalism.
Nowadays, Turkey and its government seem more confused than anyone as humble as we; the humble intellectuals. Turkey is in an anti-imperialism mood, or rather in its “anti-Western imperialism” mood. The governing party is almost in revolt against the Western-dominated world and it is quite vocal in this respect. The AKP and its supporters are critical of France for its intervention in Mali, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounces French imperialism in his Senegal visit, his deputy challenges the U.S. Ambassador for his criticisms, AKP politicians and supporters accuse Western Powers for being behind all sorts of conspiracies against Turkey like covertly supporting the PKK; and Erdoğan considers non-Western alliances like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Nevertheless, it is rather different to be a confused intellectual than a confused state. The sort of “anti-imperialism/anti-interventionalism” of the government is not a matter of universal principle. On the contrary, it is the imperial ambitions of Turkey or of its present government that leads it to challenge the “Western imperialist politics.”
The NATO intervention in Libya is a good example that shows how both confusion and ambition lead the foreign policy of Turkey. At first, Erdoğan firmly denounced the NATO intervention, and then participated in the mission and finally was critical of Western Powers running after their own interests in Libya, as Turkey’s economic expectations are frustrated in Libya.
In the last decade, Turkey overestimated its power and influence in the Middle East and failed the test; it lost its intermediary role not only between Israel and the Arabs but also between Iran and the West. Its Syrian and Iraqi politics managed to alienate all regional and international parties. Even the shaky Egypt overshadowed the role of Turkey in regional politics. Since then, the present government refuses to recognize its domestic and regional failures due to overestimating its power and mostly economic success; it turns out to be over-skeptical of its “friends and enemies” alike. The PM, his party and supporters choose to question all others but their delusions and miscalculations.
Finally, Turkey and its government oscillate between confusion and arrogance. On one hand, it behaves as a demanding Western ally and NATO member, on the other, it regards the West as its rival and almost enemy. Nothing shows this better than the columns and comments in pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak. The same day (Feb. 8, 2013), a pro-government columnist (Tamer Korkmaz) suggested reading all the odd parts of Republican history as a U.S.-EU conspiracy and Justice and Development Party MP Alpasaslan Kavakoglu praised Turkey’s contributions to Western-led international missions like Afganistan ISAF, Kosovo KFOR, Lebanon UNIFIL and the like.
Nonetheless, arrogance and confusion are a bad combination. Arrogance cannot compensate for delusions and failures forever. At the moment, Turkey seems to be sliding into being either “an arrogant maverick” or a highly confused state, but cannot afford to be either.