Is everyone our enemy?
The sense of being surrounded by enemies and being the constant target of foreign powers’ conspiracies are somehow thrilling and cause excitement among the public in all nations.
This perception grows stronger as the country faces mounting challenges.
Authoritarian and populist political forces in Europe are rising because those political groupings fan such sentiments. Viktor Orban in Hungary and Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland came to power as they defended countries against the “attacks by migrants” and “conspiracies of Brussels.” Trump came to power by arguing that China exploits the U.S.
According to a survey conducted by Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the Turkish people’s perception of enemies are widening in scope.
The survey found that the number of people who see the U.S. as the biggest threat increased to 60 percent in 2018, from 35 percent in 2015. As for Israel, the corresponding figures are 54.4 percent in 2018 and 46.6 percent in 2015. The percentage of people who perceive Europe as a threat is smaller; the figure increased to 26 percent from 10 percent. Our only friend is, of course, our brother Azerbaijan. The public’s threat perception is not totally groundless, as those fears stem from certain concrete facts such as the U.S. arming of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Jerusalem issue. As the problems continue and rifts heighten, such sentiments grow.
“The number of people who said that Turkey has no friends increased to 22.5 percent from 17.2 percent last year. This outcome points to the sense of solitude from the sociological point of view, in other words, confirming the saying that ‘Turks have no friends but the Turks.’”
Should such perceptions or rationalism set the course for politics?
There are historical reasons that feed the sentiment of “The Turks have no friends but the Turks.” In the 19th century when the world moved to the era of nation states, the multinational Ottoman Empire had clashes with a number of today’s nations and imperial states exploited and fanned those conflicts.
This period of conflicts was followed by the disastrous World War I. Mutual feelings against each other developed. The notions such as “good behaving nation” or an “equal member of the community of nations” adopted by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey, in his foreign policy was a sign that he tried to overcome such emotions.
On Sept. 20, 1931, at the second Balkans Conference held in Istanbul, he told the delegates from the Balkan nations that were the subjects of the Ottomans just 30-40 years before: “You will overcome the complex emotions and calculations of the past and create the prospects of a new kind of unity that will establish the principles of deep brotherhood,” he said. Of course those words were inspired by the Sun Language Theory but the diplomatic target was to overcome those complex feelings and to create a pact in the Balkans against the fascist Italy.
Recently, people have claimed that “the Turkish Lira is under global attack.” However, when Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Central Bank Head Murat Çetinkaya promised “global capital” economic reforms, the lira stabilized against the U.S. dollar. It is of utmost foolishness for the U.S. to arm the YPG. But it was decided through diplomatic negotiations that the YPG would leave Manbij, a YPG-held Syrian city at the heart of strained U.S.-Turkey relations. The moral of the story: Politics needs rationalism, not the crowds’ exaggerated emotions. Thank God, according to the Kadir Has research, 52.6 percent of those surveyed think problems with other countries should be resolved by “enhancing political relations with other nations.”