A Turkish anti-populist strategy for the Trump/Syria/PYD deadlock - KEMAL ÖZTÜRK

A Turkish anti-populist strategy for the Trump/Syria/PYD deadlock

Trump tweeted at 2:00 in the morning and stirred up trouble again. The last time he woke up the entire world declaring in a tweet that “we are going to withdraw from Syria.” This time, he openly threatened Turkey and reshuffled the deck.

You can’t really tell whether he is the U.S. President or a social media troll…

However, the fact remains that the strongest army and the strongest economy are under his command. Not just us, but the entire world is in trouble.

Trump’s character: Populism and trade

Those who analyze Trump’s statements all too often face two common features: Populism and trade (both political and economic)

It is not possible to expect something else from Trump as a tradesman and as a showman. Because of his character, his ego and his fondness for populism have already disrupted the status quo both in the U.S. and the world at large.

For those who think this is a great disadvantage, I want to say that there is indeed one advantage. The important question is, how are we going to use it to our benefit?

We are facing a problem regarding the withdrawal from Syria. If we respond to Trump’s populism in a similar manner, meaning with counter-populism, we will not be able to come out on top. Zealousness will get us nowhere. Strategy, on the other hand, is an advantage.

How should we deal with the U.S.?

Let’s then list the parameters for the strategy that will be adopted to deal with this problem.

1. It is unrealistic to think every step the U.S. takes with Turkey in mind. The U.S. has so many things it has to deal with regarding China, Russia and its own internal problems that most of the times Turkey doesn’t even factor in their decision-making.

2. Trump’s relations have recently not been so good with the Pentagon and CENTCOM, or in short with military men. The reason for his decision to withdraw from Syria came as a slap for them. It was more like a punch! Framing that this decision as “Turkey forced Trump to take a step back” would be a mistake. We should rather focus on how we are going to take advantage of the tension between Trump and the Pentagon.

3. U.S. media is criticizing the decision to withdraw from Syria and making anti-Turkey rhetoric about the Kurds. The reason for this is the tension between Trump and the media, not their antagonism against Turkey. Because they also praised Turkey during the Khashoggi murder case and cornered Trump. Then, we should think about how we are going to benefit from the tension between Trump and the mainstream media.

4. It is a mistake to consider the U.S. as a single organism. There is a big fight within the U.S. There is an unbelievable struggle for power between institutions, the capital, political circles and religious groups. These are advantages for us. All of them are potentially both our friends and enemies. We should think about how we are going to benefit from this struggle for power.

5. The U.S.’s biggest fight is against China. All the international steps they have taken are against China and with China’s position in mind. Russia comes in second. We should never throw ourselves into the middle of this fight by thinking that those steps are aimed against us. There is no need to be the meat in the sandwich. We should make plans on how we are going to come out from the fight between these great powers unscathed and what possible gains we can make for our country.

6. The bigger the gap between practice and rhetoric, the more harm it would bring. We should realize our power, we should realize our potential and capacities very well so that we can develop a rhetoric/discourse. I understand that there is an upcoming election, but world politics is not shaped by our internal politics.

7. By taking all these into account, we should prepare a long term permanent strategy for global politics, Middle East, and on a more micro scale, for Syria. We should act according to these macro strategies and make our moves accordingly. Otherwise, we just check what Trump has tweeted every morning and be held hostage by social media.

8. Regarding the Trump administration conflating Kurds with the PKK/PYD, we should take as self-criticism not making ourselves clear, and for not organizing communicational campaigns such as “Kurds and the PKK/PYD are two different things”. We should express this to different seats of power and policymakers within the U.S. and to the U.S. public opinion very successfully. Thus, we may find a way to impress Trump and his administration who have a fondness for populism.

I am sure that those who are ruling our country have much more information and data on hand. What is our excuse for not producing a healthy strategy that implements the above-mentioned points? I was not able to find a single one.


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