Foreign policy was shattered by your factory settings

Foreign policy was shattered by your factory settings

Nowadays, a number of people are claiming that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has “reset” its foreign policy “back to factory settings,” or that they wish to do so. Some of these are scriveners of “AKP Foreign Affairs,” while some others are good-willed colleagues.

When the topic is our foreign policy and its decision makers, I ask myself whether we are using the concepts “resetting” and “back to default (factory settings)” - from software and electronic jargon - with the same meaning as these commentators. 

There needs to be a clarification. Reset means “to go back to the original position to correct a fault or a wrong practice.” Well, what? In our case, it is foreign policy.

“Back to default” or “back to factory settings” is the same. It means returning a ruined and backfired foreign policy to “how it was shipped from the factory, as it was taken out its box.” 

It might have caught your attention: The ones who achieved today’s awful outcome in the four odd years since they made and applied AKP’s foreign policy are not able to say to us, “We are resetting our foreign policy.” If they say this, they would be implicitly accepting that they have made a mistake. They cannot say “we are going back to factory settings,” so it is their scriveners who are saying this. 

Also, we have to come to an understanding on this: Is it that the factory settings of the AKP foreign policy were good, and those who operated the machine were bad? But it is the same people who installed the “machine’s” factory settings and those who operate the machine. 

Do the “resetters” hope that those who have sunk foreign policy will go back to their own factory settings and try again, this time without sinking it? 

It is a vicious circle. The political isolation Turkey is subject to today in the region is the natural outcome of the factory settings of the AKP’s foreign policy. If the operators had been more skillful than today, the outcome could only have been a little less bad. 

What comes to mind when “AKP foreign policy default” is mentioned? 

Well, there is the famous “zero problems with neighbors.” “Zero problems” was a political strategy bound to fail from the beginning. It had no sustainability as long as Turkey did not solve its own Kurdish issue and as long as Iran and Syria were not integrated into the international system. 

At the beginning they said: “We have become a central country. The West is collapsing. We will set up the new order in the Middle East. We will manage the change.” What they have achieved after four years is to create a threat perception in the Middle East with an Ottomanist discourse, and positioning Turkey in the Sunni camp with Islamist actions. 

On the other hand, it is now impossible for this government to go back to its own factory settings, primarily because of the colossal and irreparable destruction that its Syrian policy disaster has caused. 
The crisis in Syria, which Ankara has its share in the deepening of with its veiled militarist policies opening doors to al-Qaeda, is now an existential threat to Turkey.

And how was it that relations with Iraq were to be reset? Visits to Baghdad, to Karbala, to Najaf, were credits to the Shiites, but then when a secret oil deal was signed with the Kurds it was revealed that they had lied to Baghdad by telling them, “We have not signed it.” The lifespan of the “reset” was only around 20 days, up until Iraq shut its air space to Turkish planes as a reaction. 

In Egypt, unless the AKP government abandons its pro-Ikhwan approach and brings its relations with the Sisi regime, which seems to be there to stay, to an operational level, who can claim that the foreign policy has been reset? 

In Iran, the prerequisite of the reset is Syria. This is only possible through Turkey truly resetting its foreign policy, not by so called resets that aim to condition perceptions. This is possible by returning to a secular foreign policy, from pro-Sunni, Islamist and Ottomanist foreign policies. Without this government reflecting to the region those internationally accepted modern values such as secularism and democracy, human rights, gender equality, freedoms of media and expression and individual rights and freedoms, it is either credulity or an effort for perception management to talk about resetting. 

This government does not possess either the capacity to coherently defend the values I have mentioned, nor operate a secular foreign policy. If they did, they would have demonstrated this skill of theirs first in domestic politics. They would have already reset their domestic policy.

In sum, it is those who have first set and operated Turkish foreign policy who are the primary obstacles themselves to the resetting of it. 

Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this abridged piece was published on Dec 5. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.