The good, the bad and the shrewd

The good, the bad and the shrewd

Eleftherios Venizelos, the illustrious statesman and former prime minister of Greece, once noted that the well-being of small nations is guaranteed by, 1) Realism; 2) Avoidance of illusions of grandeur; and 3) Being consistent in their alliances with powerful, even if selfish, allies.

Apparently, Venizelos’ homeland wellness prescription is the antithesis of neo-Ottoman Turkey a century later. And no doubt, Turks love that antithesis. Betting and other means of gambling are a Turkish pastime. I no longer hope to see crumbs of realism in Turkey’s foreign policy calculations, but I am still wondering whether crumbs of consistency will remain the rare commodity forever.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his foreign policy czar, Ahmet Davutoğlu, should decide, for the sake of an elementary level of consistency, whether the “world order” they praise and condemn at the same time is good or bad.

For instance, the United Nations is good when its General Assembly upgrades Palestine to non-member state status. But the U.N. Security Council is bad when it does not do as Mr. Erdoğan thinks it should do about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.N. is also bad when it does not grant Palestine full member state status.

The old League of Nations was bad when it passed resolution after resolution to condemn the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. It was so very awful when it treats Hamas as a terrorist entity. But it was good when its secretary-general did not even bother to reply to any of the 20 or so Israeli appeals this year to stop attacks on its citizens. It was good when it deplored, condemned or strongly deplored Israel; called on Israel to do this, took note of previous calls on Israel or deeply regretted that Israel had done this or that.

The United States is good when it treats the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist entity. The U.S. is good when it allows the Islamic headscarf on its campuses, or when Congress blocks a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide. It is also good when it supports a concerted move to topple Mr. al-Assad.

But it is bad when its president does not ban a video that insults Islam, or because its president in fact believes what the Turks did to the Armenians was genocide. The U.S. is also bad because it refuses to bomb Damascus and treats Hamas like it treats the PKK. It is so very bad when some American states allow gay marriages or when Washington declares that Israel has a right to self-defense.

Just like Russia, which is good when tens of billions of dollars in trade flow over the border with Turkey, but bad when it holds the key to topple Mr. al-Assad and remains an ally with him.

Or like France, which is bad when its Parliament makes it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide and is suddenly good when its Constitutional Council scraps that bill. France is bad if run by Nicolas Sarkozy and good if run by François Hollande. But France is good because it has recognized the Syrian Opposition V.2 as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

And NATO was good when it bombed Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. But it is bad because it does not bomb al-Assad’s Syria. It was bad because it forced us to deploy a radar system on our soil to intercept potential missiles from Iran. We agreed, but we will be angry if any ally attempted to share any information collected by that radar with Israel. All the same, NATO is so very good as it has agreed to deploy the Patriot air defense system on our soil.

The West, in general, is bad because it allowed Israel to have its nuclear weapons. It is also bad because it does not allow Muslim Iran to have its own nuclear arsenal. It is especially bad because thousands of Syrians are dying in a civil war. But it was not so bad when hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed or forced to flee their homeland under bombs and bullets.

You may not believe it, but all that is not the foreign policy doctrine at the kindergarten in your neighborhood.