Thursday, July 2, 2009

Obama's Philo-Turkish policy and its weaknesses

U.S. President Barak Hussein Obama’s visit to Turkey in early 2009 and the statements he made to the Turkish parliament fueled intense discussion about the future geopolitics of the region. The general conclusion was that American foreign policy is now geared towards ending the purported “Clash of Civilizations” (Huntington) between the West and Islam that began with 9/11. The Americans are planning a re-rapprochement with Islam, by not only using the personality of the new president familiar with Islam and with a name of Arabic origin; but, they will also enlist the help of a traditionally strong Muslim ally - specifically Turkey. In short, Turkey has been invited by the U.S. to serve as a bridge or tool of U.S. policy towards the Arab-Muslim world.

Turkey, being an increasingly adept player of the global chessboard, and with global superpower ambitions, certainly intends to comply fully with the Americans, as it also serves its own ambitions. It is no coincidence, that a few weeks after the visit to Ankara by Obama, Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed the Foreign Minister of Turkey, a widely respected theoretician of re-making Turkey a global superpower. Antipodes highlighted some of his ideas here and here. Davutoglu argues that Turkey should act simultaneously at multiple levels: in Europe as a European power; in Islam as a Muslim power; and in Central Asia as Turanic power.

The consistently informative Greek-Thracian magazine, Antifonitis, recently published an article titled, “Greece, Turkey and the Eastern Question” by
Meleti Meletopoulos, Professor of Economics and Social Sciences at Geneva University and the President of the Democrats party. The article addresses many questions but one of them is Obama's Philo-Turkish policy and its weaknesses. It has been republished on a number of websites since it first appeared and has generated a lot of discussion.

Antipodes has
decided to provide a translation of the first part of the article because it provides a rather optimistic viewpoint regarding Turkey's geopolitical future and its relationship with the United States, providing a good comparison with some of the doomsday scenarios painted by other Greek commentators.

Certainly, both the American and Turkish school of thought suffer from serious theoretical and practical problems.

The internal contradictions of the Turkish state, its problematic political system, the large minorities of different national consciousness and cultural characteristics, economic and social vulnerability, the Kurdish issue, the failure to penetrate Central Asia and the Caucasus during the 1990s, the dynamic return of Russian policy, the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations, etc., essentially undermines any attempt by the Turks to become even a regional superpower. Furthermore, Turkey is faced with the serious possibility of a secession of its eastern provinces and civil conflict between the Islamists and the Kemalists. Also, the collapse of accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union and towards a special relationship, will end of Turkey's efforts to lead Europe, using its demograpic growth and its Muslim minorities in Europe as levers.

But U.S. policy suffers from its own inherent contradictions, because it tries to reconcile conflicting objectives with the election of Turkey as a key partner, such as the simultaneous rapprochement with Russia, Iran, the Arab world and the need to maintain its relationship with Europe and Israel.

Contemporary Turkey is a third-world militarist society, which is ruled by increasingly theocratic leaders (which bases itself on the Koran rather than civil law). Its natural area, from a cultural and sociological perspective, is the Arabic Middle East. Turkey is a descendant of the Ottoman Empire, which its leader (the Sultan) had the title of Caliph, or leader of the Faithful, of the entire Muslim world. The purpose of the current Turkish leadership is to again make Turkey leader of the Islamic world.

If U.S. policy aims to make Turkey a channel towards Islam, it should be reconciled from the outset with the idea that Turkey will not function as a channel of the West to Islam, but as a conduit of Islam to the West. And a key element of this will serve the geo-strategic interests of Turkey.

Source: Antifonitis (Meleti Meletopoulos), Antipodes

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