Monday, February 02, 2009

Is a "special" Turkey disappearing?

This weakly argued piece from a Turkish scholar based at a leading pro-Israel thinktank collects a variety of misrepresented facts with the purpose of showing that Turkey is in serious danger of going over to the dark side of illiberal Islamism.

For instance, the author blames stalled EU accession talks on AKP, whereas the real story is would include a number of European characters, not to mention the Turkish army.

Public opinion polls in Turkey have shown very strong disapproval of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and, more recently, the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip. The ruling party in Turkey did not create that opinion, though the actions of the Turkish Prime Minister in Davos last week certainly exemplifies the broader mood. Erdogan did not simply accuse President Shimon Peres of "killing people" but of using excessive violence in Gaza and killing civilians. Many non-Muslims and non-Turks share precicely that critical point of view.

The Turkish-Israeli alliance--which is a central focus of the OPED--is of crucial importance to Israel. Indeed, other than the Israeli relationship with the U.S., there is no other relationship as important to Israel. Yet, while Turkey has maintained that relationship, Turkey also has been re-orienting its foreign policy to take account of shifting geo-politics, as well as energy needs. One major factor in that shift is the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which increased the prospects for a revival of separatist Kurdish sentiment. Precisely to stifle that possibility, Turkey and Iran have found grounds for cooperation, but the impetus comes less from the AKP than the Turkish National Security Council dominated by the military. This does not suggest, contrary to the OPED, that Turkey is turning away from NATO although, as the U.S. learned in 2003, Turkey was no more ready than many other NATO allies to support George Bush's war in Iraq.

As the piece notes, there are some indications of rising anti-Semitism in Turkey, but the roots of that behavior lie far to the right of the AKP.

The author claims--based on UN data that he does not elaborate--that Turkish woman are falling behind Saudi women in terms of gender empowerment. This is a claim that even a casual visitor to Turkey would find rather strange, given the visibility of educated Turkish women in a variety of professions , not to mention the bureaucracy.

There are certainly aspects of AKP illiberalism that should cause concern, but what this piece does is offer a reductionist argument that probably reveals more about the political values and preferences than about Turkish political culture or geopolitics.

Soner Cagaptay - Turkey's Turn From the West -

Added reaction in Zaman.


Anonymous said...

You refer to the author as "she." Soner Cagaptay is man.

arn said...

Ooops. Thank you Anonymous.