Turkey: victim, good ally or both?
I hope Turkey is not going to be another victim of Western interests in the region. So far, authoritarian regimes and politics have long been supported by Western countries for various reasons, and there is no reason to believe that nowadays Western policy has changed in this respect.
During the infamous Cold War all sorts of authoritarian regimes, governments and politics have been supported by the West, in the name of “fighting communism.” Nowadays, the militaristic nature of Turkish politics is being fiercely debated and opposed, but no one wants to remember that Turkey, with its militaristic politics, also has long been one of the best friends of the West. Times have changed: Nowadays Western interests need to reach some sort of compromise and establish some sort of cooperation with the so-called moderate, West-friendly Islamist parties and powers to fight against anti-Western radical Islam in general and an anti-Western power bloc of Iran in the region, in particular.
The ex- or post-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been credited as a “model” ally, especially by the U.S., since it came to power. Since the political crises in the Middle East intensified, West-friendly Islamism became an even more important actor both against anti-Western radical Islam and an anti-Western power bloc of Iran. In the last instance, Turkey obviously is given a further important role for dissolving the pro-Iranian regime of Syria. And it seems the Turkish government takes it as carte blanche to be careless about political freedoms, to limit free speech and to crush Kurdish opposition in return of its “great” role in regional politics.
I am not someone who expects to achieve democratic freedoms only by “external pressures.” On the contrary, I always give prominence to internal dynamics and internal democratic struggles. That is why I have been against the idea that EU membership will bring Turkey the ultimate democracy. Nevertheless, today’s countries do not live in isolation because what happens in one country affects others in various ways. Those who insist on living outside of the international community are those who try to have enough “independent” power to avoid “the pressure of universal norms,” like human rights and free speech. Therefore, to scarify the normative values of international community in return of short-term political interests are not only hypocrisy or self-contradiction but also grave political short-sightedness.
Finally, I think we (those who live in Turkey) have every reason to expect international politics to be concerned about Turkey’s waning democratic atmosphere since the overconfidence of the present government to curb liberties has been and still is being fed by the Western political concerns in the Middle East. Therefore, the responsibility is also theirs.
I know that stakes are high in the current regional affairs, but it is not a good enough reason to convince me to sacrifice democratic freedoms in my country. Besides, it is not only a matter of democracy but also a risky prospect for Turkey in being over confident, is it not?