Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Barry Rubin: Turkey’s Middle East Policy of Seeking To Gobble, Gobble Up the Middle East Makes Enemies of Everyone



by Barry Rubin
"Countries may vary, but civilization is one, and for a nation to progress, it must take part in this one civilization. The decline of the Ottomans began when, proud of their triumphs over the West, they cut their ties with the European nations. This was a mistake which we will not repeat."
--Kemal Ataturk, 1924

Spinning in his grave, indeed. for now his successors not only think they can revive a Turkish-ruled imperium but have made the very mistake of turning their backs on the West that the republic's founder rightly saw as the downfall of that earlier incarnation of his country. I'd change Ataturk's wording slightly: the Ottomans turned their backs on the modern world then being developed in the West while still forming alliances with European powers.

Once upon a time there was a country named Turkey whose republic was created by Kemal Ataturk who famously said: “Peace at home; peace abroad.”

He and the Turkish people had seen their Ottoman Empire collapse after failing to modernize, engaging in chauvinistic nationalism (under the Young Turks), and entering an unnecessary war that led to 20 percent of its population dead and the country prostrate.

And so Ataturk and his colleagues saved the country based on two basic principles: at home, joining Western civilization through modernization and secularization; abroad, avoiding foreign ambitions and conflicts. Whatever their faults, they did a remarkable job. Turkey made steady progress far in excess of what happened in Iran or the Arabic-speaking world.

But then came the regime of the Justice and Development Party. Pretending to be moderate and democratic it was actually a radical Islamist party seeking to -- if I may coin a phrase -- fundamentally transform Turkey. This regime was not moderate but merely patient in achieving its radical goals.

It insisted that under its rule Turkey would be everyone’s friend and no one’s enemy. And President Barack Obama thought this would be a great model for the Middle East. In fact, though, the regime didn't see everyone as an equal friend. It preferred the company of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah.
Soon, as events developed in the region, the veneer of modesty boiled away and the aggressive ambition was revealed. And that ambition was expressed most clearly by the devious Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to parliament in late April:
Continue reading Turkey’s Middle East Policy of Seeking To Gobble, Gobble Up the Middle East Makes Enemies of Everyone

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, was published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reportsand now on his new blog, Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media

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