AKP’s dilemma: Relying on the West while disliking it

AKP’s dilemma: Relying on the West while disliking it

Do you want to understand the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) foreign policy? Let me suggest two readings. The first is Günter Seufert’s article titled “Turkey, foreign policy,” which you can find in the website of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Then go to the Hürriyet Daily News website and read an article by the deputy undersecretary of the Prime Ministry, İbrahim Kalın, which is the text of a speech he delivered last week.

These two readings have reinforced my conviction that the motto “the West vs. us” is at the backbone of the AKP’s foreign policy. And the “us” in the AKP’s view is not “Turkey,” it is “the Islamic world.”

Günter Seufert cites the work of several conservative academicians, starting from the 1990’s, which formed the ideological backbone of the AKP’s foreign policy outlook. He quotes Mustafa Özel, for instance, who argues that the preservation of Turkey’s domestic unity cannot be achieved via an “ideology imported from the West,” but solely via “a true connection with Islam, which is the key source of our world view.”

A decade in government seems not to have changed the convictions of the AKP’s ideologues, a fact that is proven by Kalın’s speech, which was based on the “West vs. Islam” theme. Knowing well that he was addressing an audience of opinion makers from the Middle East and also from Europe and the United States, Kalın argued first that the Western system has failed (bringing up, among other things, the over-secularization of Western societies). The second half of his speech provided an answer to questions about what the national interest argument is in Turkey’s Syria policy, as he discussed Turkey’s “values-based policy.”

“While political and economic necessities shape a nation’s foreign policy, the definition of national interest also depends on what kinds of priorities a nation comes to have and how that nation perceives its identity,” said Kalın, adding that “the traditional realist definitions of national interest have been expanded to include value-based considerations.”

“Turkey’s foreign policy outlook has been shaped by the transformation of Turkey’s identity... a country’s self-perception with regard to its place in history and the world order. How nations envision themselves as playing a role in world history is a question that may not always be explicitly articulated, but it shows up in a country’s key strategic decisions, alliances... As we move from classical Euro-centric modernization to polycentric globalization… Turkey is beginning to read history from a non-Eurocentric point of view and to recognize other possibilities in modern history,” Kalın continued.

I can’t help but wonder, then, why Turkey keeps asking the West to interfere in Syria, and why it runs immediately to NATO each time it feels threatened by developments in Syria, while at the same time saying that the Western system has failed. If Turkey is pursuing a values-based policy, then for which values are we joining hands with Saudi Arabia or Qatar in Syria? Democracy, pluralism, respect for human rights? Or Wahhabi, Sunni values?