The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Oh, Turkey, You Used to Be So Different From All the Others . . .


Over in the Morning Jolt, I take a look a Turkey’s role in the killa flotilla and take a trip down memory lane:

There’s video, but the world doesn’t want to believe its lying eyes. Don’t bother me with the facts, I’ve got to max out the altimeter on my dudgeon.

Victor Davis Hanson can’t believe that of all the countries to be leading the howls of outrage against excessive force and insensitivity to other ethnic groups, the current cries are led by Turkey: “What explains this preexisting hatred, which ensures denunciation of Israel in the most rabid — or, to use the politically correct parlance, ‘disproportionate’ — terms? It is not about ‘occupied land,’ given the millions of square miles worldwide that are presently occupied, from Georgia to Cyprus to Tibet. It is not a divided capital — Nicosia is walled off. It is not an overreaction in the use of force per se — the Russians flattened Grozny and killed tens of thousands while the world snoozed. And it cannot be the scale of violence, given what we see hourly in Pakistan, Darfur, and the Congo. And, given the Armenian, Greek, and Kurdish histories (and reactions to them), the currently outraged Turkish government is surely not a credible referent on the topic of disproportionate violence . . . At this point, it doesn’t much matter — as this latest hysterical reaction reminds us, much of the world not only sides with Israel’s enemies but sides with them to such a degree as to suggest that, in any existential moment to come, the world either will be indifferent or will be on the side of Israeli’s enemies.”

I’m a little surprised by how resolutely Turkey is turning against Israel at this moment (although it’s been building for years). When I was living in Ankara, it wasn’t too hard to find a Turkish-language copy of Mein Kampf in mainstream bookstores; even more widespread were books of conspiracy theories of every stripe and variety. Many Turks believed that there was a secret Israeli plot to harm Turkey; they also believed in a secret American plot with the same goal, a secret European plot, a secret Iranian plot, a secret Arab plot, a secret Russian plot, a secret Chinese plot, a Vatican plot, and perhaps a secret plot by the penguins in Antarctica. From my experience, the first rule of Turkish political philosophy is that everyone is always out to get Turkey, and the fact that what most Americans know about Turkey could fit on a 3×5 index card is no impediment to this conclusion. We may be subconsciously conspiring against them.

(Rule number two of of Turkish political philosophy is that they’re not Arabs and in their minds, Turks are nothing like Arabs. They’re like Europeans; sophisticated, comparatively wealthy, advanced, educated, technologically innovative, honorable and nothing like those backwards despotic hellholes across the border. A lot of Turks look at Arab states as former branch offices of the Ottoman Empire; the sense is that they couldn’t be anything like the Arabs because they used to rule over the Arabs.)

But while I was there (2005 to 2007) it seemed like the suspicion pointed in every direction kept the nation in a state of equilibrium; sure, Prime Minister Erdogan and the foreign ministry crew seemed convinced that Syria’s Pervez Assad was a reformer (Ha!) and that they had great incentive to have a healthy, friendly relationship with Iran, but the staunchly secular, more pro-Western military leaders knew who was a real threat to the Turkish state and who wasn’t. Keep in mind, it was just in November 2007 that Turkey invited Shimon Peres to address the Turkish Parliament, the first time an Israeli president (or any significant Israeli figure, really) spoke before the legislature of a Muslim country. These days, at the risk of breaking rule number two, Turkish foreign policy isn’t all that distinctive from that of the Arab states.

Tags: Turkey


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