Barçın Yinanç, ''Defending a bloody dictator from Christian Crusades', Hürriyet Daily News, 22 March 2011
For some of us who have covered Turkey’s foreign policy over the course of the past 20 or so years, it is becoming quiet difficult to read and understand the current policy decisions.
I am in serious doubt as to how many people in Turkey seriously understand what the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been trying to do while handling the recent developments in Libya. Even when you read pro-government journalists and listen to pro-government commentators, all you hear is empty sentences supporting the position of the government. Yet a lucid, clear, rational explanation clarifying the government’s stance is absent in most of the reports or comments you read or listen to.
I listen to TV reporters’ coverage on Turkey’s position in NATO. No one is able to give us a credible understanding to the objections of Turkey. The government wants the no-fly zone area to be narrowed. For what reason? We don’t know. May be there is a rationale behind it. But we are not told. It wants NATO to review its military plans on Libya. Which parts of the plan, for what reason?
Is it the fault of the journalists? Partly. But what can they do if they are not offered any explanation? It is becoming harder and harder to find and speak to a diplomat who would explain to you the government’s stance. It seems fewer and fewer diplomats are willing to talk, since I have the feeling that they themselves cannot from time to time make sense of the government’s policy preferences.
Because the mentality behind that action is one that we have not witnessed since the advent of the AKP to the government. And that is the mentality of juxtaposing Turkey against the West.
Look at the prime minister’s statement: “NATO’s involvement should not be used to distribute Libya’s natural resources to certain countries.”
This is not traditional Turkish diplomatic rhetoric. This is the traditional rhetoric of Turkey’s Islamist movement that sees itself in the Arab-Muslim camp, against the Western imperialists that in their eyes have done nothing but oppress the Arab-Muslim world. Its late leader Necmettin Erbakan used to call the EU as the Christian Club, objecting to Turkey’s wish to enter the 27-nation bloc.
While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has diverted from that line, he still harbors this “anti-European/western mentality.” That is why he cannot grasp the fact that, as I wrote previously, Turkey is not some kind of an outside element to NATO. Turkey is part of NATO.
And actually, if the AKP mentality really fears dirty plans of the “exploitation of Libyan natural resources” (which are already “exploited” by the very NATO members anyway), then the only way to avert those plans will be through getting the operation under the NATO umbrella, rather than keeping it a separate action of the coalition of the willing.
Being upset at France for taking the lead in the military intervention and being unwilling to let NATO contribute to French leadership is one thing. Being uneasy with the way the military operation is being handled and asking for more careful planning on the part of NATO is another thing. The latter is easier to justify, compared to the former.
Is Turkey obstructing a general consensus in NATO because it genuinely wants the Alliance to act in a way that will be in the best interest of Libyans or it is doing so because Turkey was caught unprepared?
It is extremely difficult to understand why Turkey is unhappy with the fact that it was not invited by France to the Paris meeting that discussed the military intervention. Why should the French government invite a country – Turkey – which has openly made clear its objection to military intervention to a meeting that has for its subject military intervention?
It is not a genetic habit for diplomats to be vague. They avoid clear-cut statements precisely to leave room “for adjustments.” You may not like it. But this is the rule of the game in international politics.
If you say, “What has NATO got to do in Libya? A NATO intervention in Libya would be absurd,” just as the prime minister said, you are bound to be sidelined in a scenario where NATO gets involved.
The naïve expectation to see Gadhafi leave politely
The government claims to have a “principled” policy in the Middle East. Which of the AKP principle can accommodate watching a ruthless dictator calling his own people rats and promising to “cleanse” them?
Prime Minister Erdoğan said he called Gadhafi and asked him “politely” to leave his office. He naively expects Gadhafi to go “politely.”
Prime Minister Erdoğan was the first leader to call on Egyptian leader Mubarek to leave office. His stance towards Gadhafi was nuanced, which is understandable due to the presence of 25,000 Turks in the country. Yet once an imminent threat to Turkish citizens was avoided and he told Gadhafi to leave office, how can he envisage living with a clear “no” as an answer from Gadhafi? So Turkey’s principled position was going to be, “Oops, you don’t want to leave Mr. Gadhafi. All right then, let’s continue business as usual?”
Looking to pre-intervention and post-intervention comments in pro-government and Islamist commentators you see a sharp U-turn. Gadhafi has been turned into a victim by those who fiercely attacked him just a couple of weeks ago. And this is being done on behalf of “Muslim solidarity against Western crusaders.” We are supposed to watch a bloody dictator kill all those who want him to put an end to his four decades of ruthless rule, on behalf of Muslim solidarity against Western imperialism.
I have the feeling that this rhetoric will become more difficult to sell even in the Arab world especially among the Facebook and Twitter generations.