The visa crises and beyond
Right after I wrote in my article last week that Turkey should not seek alliance with marginalized regimes like Venezuela in response to President Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Turkey, the U.S. imposed visa restrictions on Turkish citizens. Then I learned that U.S. visa restrictions for Venezuelans are limited, unlike for Turkish citizens.
Despite that, I was very much aware of the extent of the deterioration in U.S.-Turkey relations and of the process snowballing toward a major confrontation. I am shocked by the blow. I knew that Turkey’s rulers went far by challenging Turkey’s Western allies by relying too much on Turkey’s strategic importance for the U.S. and NATO. It was utterly unusual for a NATO member country to adopt so much anti-Western political discourse. Turkey’s rulers have long neglected their Western allies’ concerns and underestimated its consequences. In short, I knew that we would face the reality sooner or later.
Nevertheless, I also hoped the U.S. and Western allies in general would not want to push Turkey into further marginalization. But the new visa restrictions put Turkey in the same category with Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Iran; and I think that it is unfair. I am one of the arch-critics of the present rule in Turkey and someone who still pays a high price for being in opposition. I have for long been thinking that Turkey’s domestic and foreign politics are plunging into serious troubles. Nonetheless, Turkey is not North Korea, Somalia, Libya and the like; it has a far advanced middle class society despite its serious democracy deficit. Furthermore, I am afraid that the visa restrictions may turn out to be the tip of the iceberg and Turkey may end up with more confrontation with the West and further marginalization, as relations with the EU is no better. Under these circumstances, I am afraid the EU may also consider imposing some sanctions on Turkey.
It is very tragic for those of us who suffer terribly from democracy deficit at home to remind the Western world that Turkey is not as bad as they think it is. We are supposed to complain about our country and expect the worst from the present rule. But the bitter truth is that the further marginalization of such countries like ours by great powers and the international community neither improves life nor paves the way for democracy in our countries. Syria is a tragic example that is confronted by Western powers supposedly for its authoritarian regime and has ended up in war and chaos. It is not to suggest that it is preferable to live under authoritarian rules, but the inconvenient truth is that anything is better than war and/or chaos. Besides, all authoritarian regimes are inclined to choose confrontation rather than consensus at home and abroad; there should be no need to provoke them. There must have been ways to deter such regimes from indulging in more intimidation at home and military options abroad.
As for the economic pressures, which have always been considered as a useful tool to tame such regimes, they often end up in disastrous results. Troubled countries which suffer from tremendous social and political tensions of all sorts tend to fall into civil disorder as a result of economic deprivation.
I know that some in Turkey consider the international and domestic shortcomings the present regime is facing as hope for opposition politics. In fact, only when it is opposition politics challenging authoritarian politics, the chance for democracy is born. It is not the power of opposition that is born out of economic decline or foreign pressures. The difficulties authoritarian regimes face often leads to the deterioration of circumstances in the absence of credible opposition politics.