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NURAY MERT

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.

August/19/2013

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