Politics of misguided anti-imperialism

Politics of misguided anti-imperialism

Years ago, I gave a speech on Turkey-Middle East relations in a roundtable meeting organized by a liberal Turkish think tank.

The general title of the meeting was “Turkey as a soft power.” Then, Turkey was improving its economic and cultural relations with Arab states and I was an ardent supporter of the process.

Nevertheless, I argued that Turkey should refrain from a patronizing attitude, which was disguised as neo-Ottomanism.

Arab participants supported my warning enthusiastically until I started to mention another problem. My point was that closer relations with Arab countries should contribute to democratization in the region rather than Turkey’s adopting of authoritarian politics of many Arab countries.

As I particularly underlined the problem of conspiratorial and anti-Semitic mindset, which is popular in all Arab countries, not only our guests protested against what I said, but also “liberal-minded” Turkish intellectuals were disturbed by my criticism.

Recently, it seems my worries came true and Turkey became more similar to Arab politics rather than vice versa.

After the First World War, Western powers spoiled the development of the Arab world in the name of creating friendly regimes. Then they ruined their chances of democracy by permanently manipulating politics and plotting against perceived threats during and after the Cold War.

Nevertheless, the worst legacy has been the formation of blind reaction, which is being reflected along the lines of conspirationalism and Occidentalism or misguided anti-imperialism. Although the resentment against the West in the Arab world is not unjustified, it did not help any society solve its problems.

On the contrary, it turned out to be a tool to cover internal social and political ills.

Turkey has never been immune to that weakness, but recently it became more popular and started to shape official politics as well as define public opinion.

As the political crisis between the U.S. and Turkey intensifies, it becomes hard to decide if the crises situation enforces Turkey’s skepticism vis-a-vis the U.S. and the West in general or if rising anti-Westernism led to the deterioration of relations.

The problem is that it is always a vicious circle, anti-Westernism, be it functional or sentimental or both, does more harm to those countries where it becomes the focus of politics. The politics of national interests cannot be denied in the name of international friendships.

Nonetheless national interests cannot be improved by extreme actions and reactions or by creating agitated public opinion.

Although, the U.S. president is a very controversial figure to handle for any country, it is misleading to think that the problem between Turkey and the U.S. stems from his personality.

Apart from the complication of relations, I think that Turkey’s sway toward misguided anti-imperialism contributes to the escalation of deteriorating relations with the West and the U.S. in particular.

Unfortunately, all regimes and political currents which are based on anti-imperialism rhetoric and politics could not benefit any countries so far, as we expect that this policy will empower Turkey and it will successfully challenge Western hegemony.

Finally, the choice should not be defined as one between servitude and total rejection of the global realities.

History shows us that it is only moderation which serves for the long-term interests of all international actors. Otherwise humanity suffers from the wars and crises of all sorts.

Nuray Mert, imperialism, Turkey, politics