Turkey needs active ambassadors to pacify PM and FM

Turkey needs active ambassadors to pacify PM and FM

I asked last week whether Turkish ambassadors would hold genuine brainstorming sessions in their annual meeting. And I had expressed the wish that they would not get together just to talk about the greatness of Turkish foreign policy.

Now I see that I can’t compete with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, even in my dreams, when it comes to big egos, because the definition of “greatness” for Turkish foreign policy now appears to be an underestimation when compared to the definition of “legendary.”

Davutoğlu said, for instance, that Turkey’s policy in Somalia had become legendary. The fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took the risk of spending the night in Somalia together with his family has become legendary. But is it enough to call the whole policy legendary? After all, are we no longer talking about a failed state? Is Somalia no longer considered one of the world’s poorest, most violent countries?

I believe the most meaningful messages given to the ambassadors were those of President Abdullah Gül. He talked about the Chinese example and how China has been consistently walking towards the targets it has set since the late 1970s.

The Chinese example is relevant as well, because have you ever heard of a Chinese leader talking about their "legendary" policy in Africa? I can hear Davutoğlu objecting, saying Turkey’s policy is legendary because of its humane dimension whereas that of China is based on modern-day colonialism. Then shouldn’t this “humane” dimension require some sense of modesty?

The funniest incident at the annual meeting took place during the address of Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım. At one point he said, “Unlike us, the French talk empty.” And then he turned around and asked Davutoğlu whether this sentence would create diplomatic difficulties. Davutoğlu shook his head. Obviously he could not say, “Don’t worry, I pay these guys precisely for that: damage control.”

Damage control: that is going to be the primary mission of Turkish ambassadors abroad. If you think something substantial came of six days of work during the meeting, you might be mistaken. After listening to nearly dozens of ministers, they had only a few hours for meaningful brainstorming. Actually, they did not need to talk about vision. Firstly, this is because the foreign minister was there to unilaterally shape the vision. All they need to do is execute that vision. That’s why he said: “I don’t want passive ambassadors.” Secondly, it is because Turkey’s foreign policy vision has been hijacked by the 2014 presidential elections.

Therefore, we will indeed need ambassadorial activism to pacify the (highly likely) provocative statements that will be coming from politicians up to 2014. That activism will revolve around damage control, since Turkey will try to revive accession talks while simultaneously EU-bashing; get along well with the U.S. while Israel-bashing, increase trade with Iran while Tehran-bashing; and expect understanding from Shiites while al-Assad and al-Maliki-bashing. I am not even mentioning Greek Cypriots or Armenians.

Well good luck to you all!