Thursday, July 30, 2009

The architecture of Neo-Ottomanism part 1

Basil Markezinis regularly writes articles in Greek newspapers on foreign policy. Often his ideas are controversial but they are hardly ever irrelevant. He has also been a legal adviser to the Queen Elizabeth II of England is a member of seven foreign Academies. By the way he has also been knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II; however, since Greeks do not recognize titles this is irrelevant.

Markezinis has just written another insightful article published in the Greek newspaper, The Ethnos on Sunday (which can be accessed here) on Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, his ideas and Turkish foreign policy. Some believe Davutoglu is the theoretical architect of Turkey’s re-discovered Ottoman outlook often called "Neo-Ottomanism". Antipodes has written about Neo-Ottomanism and Davutoglu several times before which can be accessed here and here and even Greek Neo-Ottomanism which can be found here.

Recently, there is no doubt that Turkey has been demonstrating an ability to adapt to the new geo-strategic environment (following the collapse of the Soviet Union); specifically, developing multi-dimensional foreign policy initiatives and interventions from the Middle East to Caucasus and even as far as China. However, what are the ideas which underpin these manoeuvres?

Markezinis begins by providing valuable and often unknown information on Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister:

The first indication that Davutoglu’s way of thinking would prove decisive in the transformation of Turkish political culture came with the publication of his doctoral thesis, “Alternative Models: The impact of Islamic and Western world perspectives on political theory” (available in English from 1994). His work is characterised by containing aspects of most good theses: he appears widely read, he has abstract tendencies, uses excerpts from several languages and includes a dose of personal ideology. The author's focus is the importance of Islam; which, according to Davutoglu had been “exploited” by the West. One further indication of his robust academic background and the stability of his views is that Davutoglou repeatedly questions the American and Kemalist doctrines.

Markezinis alludes to something very important here which has, and is likely to continue, to re-orientate Turkish foreign policy going forward. Rather than eschewing the Islamic world view in favour of European Enlightenment-inspired but the essentially Asiatic despotism of Kemalism (which has driven Turkish foreign policy over the last 90 years or so), Davutoglu believes the Islamic world view should underpin Turkish foreign policy. Markezinis continues:

Over the next few years he further developed his ideas, starting with an article written in 1988, entitled “A Conflict of Interest: An explanation of World Ataxias”. The article questioned the ideas of the major thinkers of the period e.g. the "globalization of political values and institutions of Western civilization” of Fukuyama, the (inevitability) of the “clash of civilizations” of Huntington (who overlooked the fact that the most destructive wars were not between different cultures but “wars within civilizations between systemic forces of Euro-western culture”), and the individual theory of Huntington of a permanent “Islamic threat” - which helped to shape Davutoglu's next theoretical step.

Davutoglu then went on to argue that Turkey (and by implication Islam) could help to promote co-existence, and not, as pursued by the Americans, the homogenization of cultures. These views found fullest expression, three years later, in his book “Strategic Depth: The international position of Turkey”, published in 2001 in Turkish.

In March 2003, with the advent to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdogan, the ideas of Davutoglou were progressively incorporated into Turkish foreign policy.

We should recall that the Ottoman Empire was governed by a "millet system" where the subjects of the Sultan were grouped amongst their various religions and governed by a religious leader with the Sultan as the supreme leader. Is this the sort of system that Davutoglu is referring to when he writes that Islam can help to promote co-existence?

To be continued......

Source: The Ethnos on Sunday (Basil Markezinis), Antipodes


  1. I must say that is quite an ambitious "project" for the Turks.

    If the school bully is not thwarted by some physical action, he will continue to escalate his violence. The "turn the other cheek," "simply ignore and walk away," or "don't be like them" is, as we all know, bullshit. It doesn't work.

    That goes double for the belligerent Turks. Enough of this negligent passivity by the Greeks. Unless the Greeks inflict a military defeat upon the Turks, the Turks will not cease their acts of belligerent aggression.

    Time to round up the bully---er, I mean Turks.


    PS: It's sad that the current, corrupt Greek government bailed out the Greek banksters to the tune of 10s of billions of euros. Imagine... using the people's money to bail out rich people. Hard isn't it? Anyways, I hope our fighter jets are not in need of spare parts or upgrading due to a lack of funds.

  2. Peter, they have failed before in the 1990's. Let's see how long their illusion will last this time. It is interesting to note, that we could also use a Neo-Byzantinism ideology, activating our ethnic and religious kin around Greece.

    However, we are not up to such big dreams anymore.