America’s Trial with New Turkey
The Obama administration was received with high expectations of restoration, both within the U.S. and outside. After six years of this administration, not only does there seem to be no restoration on the horizon, but “less America” has become a serious problem globally. The solution to this global problem is certainly not “more America.” The solution is an America that has overcome its indecisiveness, one that has taken a stand globally. As of now, the American irreplaceability that became clear with Iraq has turned into American indecisiveness during the Obama administration.
The discourse of American irreplaceability was the result of analyses that showed similar costs for the resolution of problems with or without America. The cost of American indifference and indecisiveness that emerged during the Obama administration is just as high as the cost of the vicious cycle of American irreplaceability.
One item under such costs (which can be filed under the subtotal column of geopolitics) - the effects of which can be felt in America’s foreign policy, both in our region and in other regions in the world - is Turkey-U.S. relations. This is not simply a problem of a vicious cycle that is disclosed in the official register. The problem of indecisiveness and frivolity can be observed even in the efforts to understand Turkey. For instance, for most Americans, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) still remains a political actor that they cannot decipher. The first business of order for the AK Party, which had emerged in the midst of an American crisis in 2002, was to say “NO” to the United States’ invitation to participate in the invasion of Iraq. The American establishment coded the AK Party, which had attracted the wrath of the neo-cons, as an administration that would soon fall from power. America had a hard time relinquishing its half-century-old habits, even when Erdoğan emerged from the 2007 elections with a landslide victory. The Americans, who had been in the habit of associating themselves with Turkey’s military tutelage, came to the realization that the AK Party was here to stay only after the 2010 constitutional referendum in Turkey.
It is not all that surprising that Americans had become accustomed to dealing with certain military-oriented groups in political and economic issues, given that Turkish-American relations were shaped during the Cold War. It was the Republicans, (who had particularly grown accustomed to dealing with the Turkish establishment and the dominant elite), that were in office in the U.S. during the first two terms of AK Party administration. And it took the Republicans a long time to digest the fact that AK Party was a power to stay, and even longer to give it the recognition it deserved. The price of that delay in recognition was felt in the intellectual sphere. The number of those who were able to analyze Turkish politics in the Washington think tank world beyond the level of ordinary media coverage would not even add up to two.
The intellectuals of the think tank world in Washington, instead of getting to know the new actors in Turkey, preferred to dress up the Kemalist elites’ complaints as political analyses, despite the fact that, with AK Party in power, Turkey had been going through a serious structural transformation. Nowadays, the Gülen movement is also trying to sell its version of a snapshot of Turkish politics alongside the Kemalists. Those who are willing to take up the role of the “native informant” certainly find a number of venues in which to perform in Washington D.C. There is no doubt that they will find enough of an audience. However, it’s also certain that in Turkey they will lose whatever they gained in D.C., and more.