The tradition of ‘blaming the West’
The leftists’ traditional opposition to Western powers has always been as a matter of principle in the name of “anti-imperialism”; now the neo-Islamists express opposition whenever the Western powers fail or refuse to support and help them when necessary. In fact, this is not totally a new thing; right-wing nationalists, conservatives and Islamists in the Middle East happily collaborated with the U.S. and the Western powers in general when it suited them. During the Cold War, it was not only that the common enemy was communism, but they also sought the help of the West to maintain their domestic and regional power struggles. However, nationalism(s) and Islamism(s) also reinforced anti-Western feeling as a popular ideological tool to put the blame on the West - and Israel in particular - for all problems.
During the so-called “Arab Spring,” Islamists sought legitimacy in the eyes of the Western powers by using pro-democracy rhetoric in Egypt, welcomed Western intervention to topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and called on the West to help “the opposition” directly act against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. As for Turkey, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power as a strong advocate of EU membership, the market economy and extensively used pro-Western, pro-democracy rhetoric. In the beginning, the AKP leadership needed to denounce Islamism by all means. The current minister of culture, for example, even denounced the party’s Islamist past and accused the old leadership under Necmettin Erbakan as being anti-Western and anti-Semitic, in an article published back in 2003, (“The United States and Turkey: Allies in Need,” edited by Morton Abramowitz, A Century Foundation Book, New York).
Now, they are all anti-imperialists. On the one hand, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the U.S. of meddling in Middle Eastern crises based on strategic and economic interests; on the other, writers and journalists in the pro-government media accuse the U.S. and the West in general of all kinds of plots against Turkey and its independence. Now, as the coalition forces help the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria prevent Kobani from falling into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), pro-government skepticism has turned into outrage about the prospective plan for “greater Kurdistan.” As Turkey is currently engaged in an ambitious peace process with Kurds, it may sound rather paradoxical to oppose Turkey’s own long-term Western allies in order to help Kurds within its border. Nevertheless, it seems that Turkish nationalism, disguised as neo-Ottomanism, is once again dominating domestic and regional politics.
Surprisingly, one of the very popular MPs from the Kurdish-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also recently accused the Western powers of conspiring against Turkey and its peace process by provoking the “Kobani revolt” inside Turkey through their “intelligence services.” One wonders why we all called on the coalition powers to deliver weapons to the PYD and bomb ISIL in order to save Kobani. But this position is actually very similar to that of the president and his government; on one hand, they also complain that the Western powers failed to intervene to remove al-Assad and said the West should be held responsible for the rise of ISIL, while on the other hand they complain about the coalition powers’ intervention against ISIL.
It is grave hypocrisy to call on the Western powers for help and then later accuse them of meddling in regional and domestic affairs. We should first decide whether to seek help from the West, or to oppose it in the name of nationalism, anti-imperialism, independence and sovereignty. If we want to challenge Western interventionism, first we need not only to change the hypocritical rhetoric, but also to overcome the confused state of mind in politics. Only then can we discuss politics in a sober way, which is the only way to overcome regional as well as domestic problems.