All is well that ends well. Then?

All is well that ends well. Then?

Is all well that ends well? Always? Whether it is or not, (most notably) Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, his chief intelligence officer, Hakan Fidan, and every other Turkish official who anxiously worked day and night for the safe return of 49 Turkish hostages held by the jihadist-Salafist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) deserve wholehearted praise. Then? Then there is the rest of the story.

No doubt, Mr. Davutoglu’s happiness as he disembarked from the airplane that took the hostages after 101 days of captivity was genuine. It was the happiness of a man who in the first days of his position at the Prime Ministry had deserved a hero’s welcome home. It was not the happiness of a man who, deep down inside, was calculating how many more votes this episode would bring in next June. Then? Then there is the rest of the story, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the president, the release of the Turkish hostages “shows the level achieved by the great Turkey.” Let’s assume it does. But then what did the capture of the hostages at the consulate compound in Mosul show? This is a game that ended with a draw. There is no winner, except whatever pledges ISIL may have won from Turkey; and no loser, except the psychological trauma the hostages, including juniors, had to go through. Fortunately, all has ended well. Which does not mean Turkey is a superpower. More realistically, Turkey merely looks like a happy man who was able to get back what someone else had snatched from him. 

Have lessons been learned? This columnist would bet they have not. In the early hours of the pride he felt over his victory, Mr. Davutoğlu, speaking to a select group of journalists aboard his private jet, said: “In our peripheral geography [and in Turkey, he then added] you cannot explain anything without the religion factor.” This thinking has been the gist of Mr. Davutoğlu’s foreign policy calculus; and the primary reason for its failure. Perhaps Mr. Davutoğlu should explain his theory further – of course by using religion since, in his theory, nothing can be explained without religion. 

Could the honorable prime minister, for instance, explain how the religion factor would explain that Turkey’s peripheral geography features one of the world’s lowest levels of human development? How does religion explain why the same geography is oil-rich, but civilization-poor? 

How does religion explain why, in the words of Turkey’s top cleric, Mehmet Görmez, “everyday 1,000 Muslims are being killed and 90 percent of them are being killed by other Muslims?” How does religion explain why Muslims from different sects bomb each other’s mosques? 

Or, how does the religion factor explain why Ankara thinks ISIL’s Sunni fighters would not do any harm to Sunni Turks, helplessly entangled at the consulate building? How does religion explain why Sunni supremacist ISIL wants to deal a blow to Sunni Turkey, run by other Sunni supremacists? 

How does religion explain persistent rape, murder, corruption and acts of terror in Turkey’s peripheral geography? Systematic abuses, human rights violations and the lack of democratic culture? How does the religion factor explain why the same peripheral geography is one of the most violent in the whole world? 

How does the religion factor explain why was President Erdoğan once the “rock star” in countries like Lebanon and Egypt, but is no longer welcome in any of these lands? Or, that he once was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest regional ally until he suddenly realized that the same man –uh, oh, ah!– was not a democratic leader? 

How, really, Mr. Davutoğlu, does the religion factor explain that in Turkey’s geographical periphery (and in Turkey, too) “you cannot explain anything without the religion factor,” and not in other (and more civilized) parts of the world?