NURAY MERT > ‘Precious loneliness’ of Turkey or sublimation of a failure

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“Loneliness” is one of the most “noble” concepts of literary genre. As such, it implies voluntary or inevitable exclusion from the banality of the ordinary life and people. As such, it is an aspiration of uniqueness, and intellectual and/or moral superiority over “the base.” And as such, it used to be thought of as an attribution not only for literary characters but also for intellectuals who refuse to surrender to banal reality. Nevertheless, often it passes as sublimation of “failure of dealing with reality.” In fact, refusing to surrender to the given reality and seeking for the better is another matter than simply failing to deal with realities.

To tell the truth, I was not aware of the new term of “precious loneliness,” as a recent invention of the supporters of the Turkish foreign policy, until I read Cengiz Candar’s critique (Radikal, 18.8.2013). Indeed, Turkey’s international loneliness can only be defended by attributing it some sort of nobility. Alas, the so called “precious loneliness” invokes the feeling of pity rather than admiration since it is another example of sublimation of failure.
The Turkish foreign policy failed dramatically and still refuses to recognize the failure tragically. It did not fail because of pursuing an idealistic international cause as it is claimed. It failed because it was over ambitious. The curious mixture of neo-Ottomanism and Islamism or Islamist neo-Ottomanism was based on dreams of the glorious past, overestimation of Turkey’s present power and underestimation of the complexity of regional and international politics. Besides, it was power politics not idealistic politics, or “power politics in the name of idealism.” And as such, it was no different than any other form of imperialistic politics of the modern times, the only difference was the absence of imperial power. Turkey thought the Middle East (and beyond) as its playground, as it was in the times of the peak of Ottoman power and did not consider the fact that even Ottomans lost the grip of their control over vast territories long before the final dissolution of the empire, let alone the need of considering the realities of modern history, society and politics. But after all, the idea of neo-Ottomanism has always been based on the shallow understanding of history (perhaps only a bit better than Alain de Benois’s “Idea of Empire” for Europe).
Then, there is the issue of interconnectedness of domestic and international politics. Recent outspoken critiques of the Turkish foreign policy (be Turkish, Ara bor Western commentators) have long refused to see the link between the domestic consequences of democracy deficit in Turkey and foreign policy shortcomings (as an aspect of “democracy deficit” in Turkey). I remember that even some most “liberal minded” Arab intellectual friends were over excited by Turkey’s growing influence in the region at the expense of Iran and were considering our complaints concerning the increasing limits on freedoms as intellectuals’ whims. In fact, “the ideas of Empire” have their negative impacts first on the domestic front. The assumed “regional leadership” of Turkey fed politics of authority and security in domestic front, paving way for politics of great aspirations abroad. As domestic political victories led to overconfidence and then authoritarian arrogance, dissent and opposition were condemned as disgrace and treason to be silenced. As foreign policy successes were taken for granted, failures were thought to be the results of envy and enmity. The citizens of Turkey are of value only as long as they support the government, similarly international actors are friends only as long as they enforce Turkey’s ambitions and aspirations. In fact the idea of greatness and self-righteousness is indeed self-destructive, above all. This is how Turkey’s government lost track of reality and turned into a “lonely wolf” in “precious” existence.


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andrea dealmagro

8/19/2013 10:10:51 PM

Very on the point piece. Sometimes the past mesmerizes great men to try to revive it: The Ottoman, Roman, Byzantine, Russian empires, Austria-Hungary, etc., with all their glory and pomp. But we can't turn back the clock. History is just a record to learn from. The Pious Muslim of the AKP is like the New Man of Fidel Castro in the 1960's, as young Cubans scrambled to flee the island even in tire tubes. I believe a modern Turkey is latent and it belongs in Europe.

ege capulcu mustafa

8/19/2013 8:52:41 PM

Tayyip Erdogan and his minions fell for the trap of believing their own hype of Turkey as a regional power, whilst at the same time emasculating the armed forces, add to this wrong choice of friends and you achieve total foreign policy failure, zero friends instead of zero problems.

costas melakopides

8/19/2013 4:44:36 PM

Dear Ms Mert: This is as brilliant as it is courageous and as informative (for the untutored) as most helpful for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs! Indeed, less arrogance and less self-satisfaction plus less geopolitical ambition and more self-criticism will certainly serve Turkey's image, prestige and other interests in the best sense of Turkey's "soft power", INSTEAD OF all this tiring and ineffective self-promotion in the proverbial manner of Egemen Bagis et al!

mara mcglothin

8/19/2013 3:12:42 PM

Great writing NURAY and great food for thought. Thanks!

dogan kemal ileri

8/19/2013 2:30:30 PM

How can you claim Turkiye's foreign policy failed dramatically when our cultural and business interests with our neighbours have risen dramatically over the last few years. Turkiye has taken a principled stand against Israel, the dictator Assad and now the coup leader in Egypt and I am proud of this fact. What would you have Turkiye do side with dictators and cold blooded murderers? Turkiye is doing sterling work in Africa and the Caucauses which is well appreciated and commended.This is truth.

V Tiger

8/19/2013 12:02:56 PM

Unfortunately the Turkish government & so many other Muslim & to a very lesser extent some so called Christian countries ignore the fact that religion & politics is a poisonous mixture with a very well known outcome.For ex. so called Muslim religious politicians should not arm certain Muslim factions against other in another Muslim country.The current Turkish/Ottoman bubble soon to burst with very disastrous outcome.

Tekir Feline

8/19/2013 10:45:54 AM

It's a pity, that the Turkish Gov. rather stresses "imperial dreams" instead of mentioning, that post WWI Turkey was among the first Third World Countries that liberated themsel. To the ultra-nationalists, he Turkish war of Independence wasn't won by one homogenous group but by multiethnic groups, who together faught for their Sovereign State: Turkey. So the "original idea" of Turkey, ignored by the current and former Govs is freedom and independence not hegemony nor Imperialism.

Rimon Tree

8/19/2013 8:34:07 AM

Great analsys, really uncompromising to the genuine and not so nobel reasons of the AKP failures! Thanks a lot!

Joe Phillips

8/19/2013 5:52:01 AM

The way in which you have linked feelings of uniqueness, superiority and exclusiveness to failures in policy and governability is very interesting. These concepts are self-destructive both on a personal and national level.


8/19/2013 12:24:28 AM

Very excellent concluding paragraph, Nurahy Hanim. Some of your best, most insightful work.
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