Will we ‘go it alone’?
“The international allies clearly signaled that if Turkey was going to take military action inside Syria it would do so alone” reports Al-Jazeera. The foreign press is increasingly focusing on the opposition to war within Turkey.
Even Fouad Ajami, who is known as a supporter of removing the Bashar al-Assad regime, reminds Erdoğan of Atatürk’s approach to regional politics in a very sarcastic way. Ajami suggested that Erdoğan, “a proud Islamist, might better appreciate the wisdom of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The secular founder of modern Turkey advised his countrymen: Look West, leave the old lands of the Ottoman Empire to their feuds and backwardness” (“Turkey’s Dangerous al-Assad Dilemma,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12, 2012). Leaving aside the Orientalist overtones, Ajami (who has little in common with Atatürk, other than unconditional admiration for Western civilization) was once a great supporter of moderate Sunni politics in regional affairs.
It seems now that nobody - including former supporters of Turkish politics of Syria - is convinced by Turkey’s current Syria policy. One wonders why the government is not trying to stop the escalation of the crisis, considering the domestic opposition and foreign caution. I suggested last week that one reason for this was Turkey’s early engagement with the process of removing the al-Assad regime in pursuit of a more dominant role in Syrian and regional affairs, and that another major reason was its concern to control Kurdish political gains. Nevertheless, even these reasons and concerns are unable to explain a Turkish foreign policy. Could it be that the government is considering further confrontation and even war as a way out of the current ambiguity and loss of prestige, at any cost? EU Minister Egemen Bağış can perhaps be excused of his inability to comprehend the complexity of regional crisis when he suggested that it would take hours to reach Damascus if Turkey decided to engage militarily. But could it be that he is simply reflecting the determination of the Turkish government to “go it alone” if necessary?
We should not forget that sometimes crises force governments to take bigger risks and engage in overseas adventures to overcome their difficulties. Despite a powerful government, nobody can deny that the AKP government is facing “governability crisis” on many fronts. There are shortcomings in democratic regression, the ongoing challenge of the Kurdish issue, and failures and dilemmas in foreign policy. The foreign minister refuses to recognize his failures, but he intends to change global affairs in order to adjust his theories. On top of everything, Erdoğan is not a political leader of compromise and sensibility, but rather of confrontation and sensitivity.
Under these circumstances, there may be no use in suggesting that “Syria could become Turkey’s Vietnam” as some do, or in suggesting that it would be totally irrational to go to war alone. Only God can save us from further confrontations and their results, but then God may decide to punish us for our delusions too.