11 Ağustos 2011 Perşembe

Turks' Return To Chessboard

I've never regretted I was born too soon.
I'm proud to be
a child of the twentieth century.
I'm satisfied
to join its ranks
on our side
and fight for a new world...
From On the Twentieth Century (12 November 1941)
Nazım Hikmet Ran
Not so long, just ten years ago Turkey was giving the impression of a decaying state after the huge economic crisis of 2001. Despite its strong military force, Turkey passed the second half of the 20th century with meaningless political clashes, military coups that prevented the country to establish a consolidated democracy, anti-democratic and exaggerated expectations of political Islam and Kurdish secessionist terrorism which led to the death of near 40.000 Turkish citizens (including soldiers and terrorists). However, in the early years of the 21st century, the grandchildren of Fatih Sultan Mehmet and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk seem ready to pull of the tight shirt that the conditions of Cold War had brought.
Turks’ return to the Zbigniew Brzezinski’s famous “chessboard” as an important regional and global actor was in fact started with the Foreign Ministry of İsmail Cem, a respected social democrat politician and public intellectual who opened the doors of a brave new world that is full of new opportunities and syntheses for Turkish diplomats, politicians and businessmen. Turkish state’s realization of the end of Cold War and Turkish military’s acceptance of its new democratic role contradicting with the “good old days” when they could easily make coup d’états, started during Bülent Ecevit’s Prime Ministry and Cem’s Foreign Ministry and Turkey became a candidate for full membership to European Union. The anchor of EU candidacy allowed Turkey to strengthen its pluralist democracy and force Turkish state elite to accept the inevitable consequences of globalization including civilian supremacy and control over the military, free-market economics and democratic cultural rights for different ethnic groups and religious minorities.
Having a stable political regime during Justice and Development Party’s three term victories and already having a strong military, Turkey’s only deficiency for declaring its regional leadership seemed to be the economic structure and performance of the country. Turkey took important steps also in the field of economics in the last decade, but still has some problems related to current deficit and social justice. The negative approach of European right-wing leaders’ to Turkey’s EU membership in a sense forced the country to develop its economic, political and cultural ties with its neighbors including Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. It was no coincidence that the discussions of neo-Ottomanism started after the weakening of Turkey’s hopes for EU membership, the rise of Islamophobia in Europe and Turkey’s developing relations with Middle Eastern countries. Turks now look for other options than “arrogant” Europeans’ “Christian Club” such as the neo-Ottoman vision, which means Turkey’s political, economic and cultural leadership in the ancient territories of Ottoman Empire not via guns and tanks but rather with its economic investments, democratic vision and cultural effect through television series.
Turks now seem to return to the chessboard as an enthusiactic participant but still the country has important political problems to solve including the Kurdish question and compability of Islam with democracy due to extremist demands of Islamic fundamentalist groups. However, we could still claim that the weakest decades of Turks (19th and 20th centuries) are over and young Turks’ ambitions are no less than their ancestors.
Ozan Örmeci

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