Strategic loneliness

Strategic loneliness

The Egyptian’s words fell into the public domain a couple of days after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu proudly announced that “Turkey was conducting ‘secret diplomacy’ with Egypt.” I could not quite understand. If a country conducts “secret” diplomacy, why should its foreign minister publicly say it was doing so? And how could it remain “secret” after it had been officially declared? 

When I read Egyptian Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy saying that “A non-Arab state, like Turkey, cannot rule the Arab world,” my thoughts went back to the early days of 2009, when Turkey had just started to invest in “strategic depth” flavored with neo-Ottomanism. Archives are often perfect assistants, and mine produced this:

“...neo-Ottomanism conceptually can have too little leverage on the Arab world, despite Mr. (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan’s more-Arab-than-any-Arab rhetoric. Mr. Erdoğan’s, and ... Davutoğlu’s, ambitions for a powerful Muslim state with genuine influence over the entire region are a little bit too naive. They not only contain several zigzags and bizarre, temporary alliances that often fail to achieve designated policy goals, but also ignore the realities of the post-Islamist Arab world. These policies often disregard the love (our Sunni Muslim brothers) and hate (our rivals) relationship with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They, now, tend to irreparably offend Israel and Fatah. Tomorrow they may have to offend Iran and Syria (and Hezbollah and Hamas). But they almost always lack consistency” (“Why neo-Ottomanism is bad for Turkey,” this column, Jan. 30, 2009).

I, naturally, do not claim to have a better foreign policy vision than the author of the 600-page “Strategic Depth.” I do claim, however, that Professor Davutoğlu could have done much better if he hadn’t wished to run Turkey’s foreign policy show “with Rover resources and Rolls Royce ambitions.” Consequently, the Crescent and Star is finally enjoying its days of “precious loneliness,” a most bizarre euphemism invented by Mr. Erdoğan’s top foreign policy advisor. 

It is amazing that Messrs Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have every confidence in their foreign policy calculus despite everything. They remain committed to believing that if things have gone wrong it cannot be because their policy could have been wrong; it is the wrong world order. It is that childish psychology that, from time to time, prompts Mr. Erdoğan to question the legitimacy of international institutions.  Most recently, probably because the U.N. has not yet bombed Mr. Erdoğan’s enemies in Damascus and Cairo, the prime minister hinted that countries opposed to the current U.N. system (read: opposed to his enemies) could establish an alternative international body. The easy way out for Turkey is to quit U.N. membership. For a better show of grandeur, a colleague has proposed a marvelous idea:

“To distance itself from the slowness of the U.N., it would be called Rapid Organization for Global Understanding and Enforcement. The big five of ROGUE would be drawn from almost every continent: Turkey, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe. At their first security council meeting, they would unanimously agree to rapidly remove the military regime in Egypt. This would largely be the initiative of Turkey, whose particular contribution to ROGUE would be leadership. 

“To carry out the plan, North Korea would offer a tactical nuclear warhead that could annihilate General al-Sisi’s HQ with a minimum of collateral damage. Iran would offer a ballistic missile to deliver the warhead. But North Korea and Iran would want to be paid. At this point, the Venezuelan permanent representative to the council would start handing out wads of petro-dollars.

“Turkey would show leadership by asking the council to consider what happens to Egypt the day after al-Sisi’s junta has been pulverized. The Egyptians are going to need leaders, they will want to elect them, and what if the front-runner does not conform to the council’s idea of ‘global understanding.’  Then the Zimbabwean delegate will come into his own. Zimbabwean election monitors, he will say, can be depended on to produce the right result.”

The ROGUE sounds like a great idea, but it may have one existential flaw. I am not really sure if Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe would wish to break Turkey’s precious loneliness.