Is Davutoğlu a star or a disaster?
There is an interesting debate happening right now regarding Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
According to the press of the opposition, Turkey has never had a worse foreign minister. This has been said not just among the opposition, but even among the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and in the pro-government media the critical voices are increasing. Part of the uneasiness within the party stems not just from current foreign policy issues, but from Davutoğlu’s influence over the prime minister. Many are jealous of the prime minister’s confidence in Davutoğlu.At the beginning he was applauded by many. But the change came recently. When the Arab Spring turned to winter and the winds in the region brought on a storm, views on Davutoğlu started to change. Nowadays whenever something negative happens, the foreign minister is held accountable whether he deserves it or not. So what happened?
What happened to the zero problems policy?
The zero problem policy was a slogan put forward by Davutoğlu in 2009. We should not be in constant contention with our neighbors and should make the first step if necessary to gain their friendship. Gestures should be made if necessary to deepen friendship and these steps should not be seen as concessions.
Everybody liked it. Everybody praised Davutoğlu.
But when you play on a slippery slope like the Middle East you need to be very careful. The most important mistake Davutoğlu made was his inability to turn the corner when facing developments not stemming from Turkey. Actually when we look carefully at the developments that harmed the zero problems policy we see they stem for the most part not from Turkey but from other sides.
The pros and cons of Davutoğlu
Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of Davutoğlu.
As he is coming from the academic world, he explains subjects very eloquently. He gives confidence. He comes up with very successful slogans. He never lies to journalists or to his foreign counterparts. He does not twist truths. Yet sometimes he talks too long, to the point of exhaustion. He gets in the mood for lecturing. The fact that he promises the public more than he can deliver leads to misunderstandings and hurts him.
He works a lot. He does the best he can on mediation efforts. Sometimes he uses the cards he holds in his hand more than their real values. He is also fond of getting involved on issues that are far away from Turkey. He can waste time unnecessarily. He has a general anti-Israeli stance. Whether this stems from his religious conviction or education, the fact is that in his speeches and general approach his Sunni leaning comes to the fore front.Although he is not anti Western, his tendency and priority is to keep Turkey more influential in its region and closer to the Islamic world. Davutoğlu’s greatest strength is his proximity to the prime minister who trusts him and listens to him. They form policies together. Yet though he does not hold much power within the party, he is criticized because he is perceived by some circles as a political threat. His aim is to get back to the university at once.These are impressions from observers. They could be wrong or exaggerated. But let’s not forget that perceptions are the truth.