Three just and three unjust criticisms of Davutoğlu
KORAY ÇALIŞKANThe unjust criticisms:
1.“You were aiming for a policy of zero problems with neighbors. What happened?”
Not changing this policy, which was launched prior to the Arab Spring, would have been silly, when the entire Middle East was changing. Those who are asking “What hapened to the ‘zero problems’ policy?” are disregarding the conjuncture of events, and are opportunistically hitting below the belt.
2.“You were brothers before, why are you enemies now?”
[Turkey’s] relations [with Syria] were also tense before. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu used to explain in appropriate language wherever he went, even before the Arab Spring, that the authoritarian regimes in Yemen and Syria were unsustainable. If anyone wants to know how I know, I know from this incident (at least): I was there when Davutoğlu explained the requirements of democracy to Yemeni dictator Ali Saleh, using the proper language. The brotherhood rhetoric used within the boundaries of courtesy should not be confused with what is happening today.
3.“We have become a pawn of the United States, we are no longer independent!”
The U.S. would be very happy with such a situation, that’s for sure. But the actual situation is just the opposite: Turkey is pushing the U.S. on the issue of Syria. And Turkey is also accusing the European Union of pacifism. The U.S. and the E.U. are trying to stop and calm down Turkey. If they could, they would like to forget about Syria until the presidential election on Nov. 6. But it is Turkey that keeps the subject alive on the agenda.
The just criticisms:
1.“A policy of conscience exists for Syria, but not for Saudi Arabia.”
Davutoğlu argues that in the current Turkish foreign policy, global democratic principles and conscience hold a significant place. However, while that conscience is like a tiger when it comes to Syrian authoritarianism, it is like a housecat when it comes to the medieval regime governing Saudi Arabia. Who is the number one partner of that regime, under which women cannot even use their passports without their husbands’ consent, where even the first trace of democracy does not exist, where systematic torture is routine, and where even forming a political party is banned? Who is the foreign minister of this partner? Has there been even a single call for regime change regarding Sunni dictators?
2.“We are acting alone; there is no consensus.”
There have been many hasty and poorly thought out declarations, but then we have been left alone. When it was apparent that the change in Libya was going to be implemented by the hand of NATO, we first opposed a NATO intervention and then approved it one week later. Before the U.S. and Russia had fully played their cards, we came forward and made an open call for regime change in Syria. When Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was allowed to gain another year thanks to the stillborn Annan Plan, we were left out in the cold. Rather than taking coordinated steps to convince our allies, we are losing the opportunity to use our soft power by exerting a policy of threatening and reprimanding. We are losing our opportunity to aid the Palestinians because of our fight with Israel, and the Syrians because of our fight with the Syrian regime. We are creating an image of a Turkey that loves to fight. Syria and Israel are technically at war. We are the only nation in the world that is fighting with both of them.
3.“We are misinterpreting Syria.”
The current troubles are not present everywhere in Syria. The armed activists and the army are fighting only in some regions. Those who are losing their lives are not all civilians. The armed activists and members of the army total about 9,000 people. The situation is being presented as though the entire country is being bombed by al-Assad, and this is not true. It is wrong to assume that the Syrian people are asking for help from Turkey. Last week, Fehim Taştekin traveled through Syria inch by inch. He concluded that we were making too many assumptions there. Is al-Assad a dictator? Yes. Are those who want the regime to be toppled by an external intervention in the majority? Not at all.
What should be done?
We should stand close to the Palestinians and far from the Zionist Israelis; close to those Syrians making demanding democracy, and away from al-Assad’s dictatorship. We should also stay away from an isolationist and conservative foreign policy of not interfering in Arab affairs, as Osman Korutürk from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has suggested.
A dedicated and confident foreign policy should be based on creative diplomacy. Threats and calls for regime change eliminate the possibility of persuasion, and may even cause our opponents to be driven to an anti-Turkey stance.
A new Middle East is being born. Rather than being its “master, pioneer and attendant” we should be its “friend, kin and paradigm.”
Koray Çalışkan is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared on April 27. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.