Samstag, 6. August 2011

A Turkish Limbo

What the Turkish government has been up to in recent years is leaving virtually all experts guessing and in fact, its quite a sobering dilemma. A guardian paradox that is literally without parallels in recent times. The Turkish government's success in curbing the military's influence is, generally speaking, a positive development. One does not need be a civilian supremacist as Peter Feaver, Donald Rumsfeld or your esteemed author to recognise that any military that intervenes in politics is overstepping boundaries that are crucial to the very definition of democracy. On the other hand, the Turkish military has always had a special role that went well beyond that of any other European military. It was the bulwark against all attempts to undermine the secular foundations of the Turkish state, and its coups often had been last resorts when it thought the very foundations of the state were in jeopardy. Moreover, the current government's stance on the secular underpinnings of modern Turkey haven't always been exactly reassuring and the case against the military's leaderships supposed Ergenekon network smells a bit funny.

Erdogan's government has in fact dismantled much of what made Turkey such a steadfast ally in recent decades. Its surprising overtures to Iran, particularly the ill-fated enrichment swap deal negotiated with Brazil at a time the US was putting together a coalition for tougher sanctions on Tehran, have backfired and left much of Turkey's new foreign policy in shambles. For one thing, the Iranians played the Turkish more than Erdogan's government seems to have been aware of. In light of the new foreign policy approach Ankara made steps to increase its standing in Damascus, but quickly and rightly backed away from that, when the Syrian government began to curb domestic opposition. The quickly deteriorating bilateral relationship between Turkey and Syria has already led Ankara's new friends to call on Turkey to make a decision. Meanwhile Erdogan's government has ruined the long-standing Turkish-Israeli alliance without anything to show for it. And the West is increasingly concerned that Turkey might be drifting out of its camp. Certainly, part of that is a self-inflicted wound by the EU's refusal to put its wallet where its mouth is. Turkey should have entered the European Union years ago, but that notwithstanding, Erdogan's government has pursued its foreign policy realignment at a reckless pace with meagre results at best.

All that is begging the question: Is the confrontation with the former senior leadership of the military just another step to dismantle the Turkish system? Much depends on who is going to replace the military leaders. The next in line for promotion share their older comrades convictions and beliefs in a secular state. Should the government intend to alter the very system of the state, it would have to sideline an entire generation of officers and promote soldiers of a much younger generation, who have not had the same experiences as the just retired generation. But the current uncertainty has left the country in a dangerous limbo and that is partly a price we pay for a wavering policy towards Turkey.

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