European politicians branding Turkey’s widespread activities from Libya to the Caucasus as a longing or pursuit for an “empire” should be ascertained as only natural. It is crystal clear that a mindset polluted by Orientalist literature would not produce legitimate evaluation on the Turkic and Muslim world. The fear regarding Turkish history which has been imprinted in their minds is rearing its ugly head once more. It is being severely triggered today and the masses are purposefully being directed toward “Turkophobia” and Islamophobia. This is one way we can interpret the reports saying Turkey is hankering after the days of the Ottoman Empire. Anti-Turkey sentiment and Turkophobia is gaining speed in Europe as Americans have also adopted this European strategy.
Only time will tell if the new politics brewing on both sides of the Atlantic will be long-lived. If we are talking about the success of Orientalist literature, then we have to acknowledge that it feeds off on the hopelessness of the East. There was no power left to fight them. The Ottoman Empire had become the “sick man.” We have to see that the rift between the two definitions is glaring. As the sick man evokes an old and tired body, the search for empire bears the image of a young and ebullient character. Is the difference between these two the result of a divergent approach, or is a structural change that affects all sides in question?
Some ideological circles, including the conservative opposition, seem to have immediately adopted the concept of the "quest and longing for an empire" propagated by Western politicians and influence centers. They too are interpreting Turkey’s activities spanning from Libya to the Caucasus with a Western eye, and criticize it as such. It can be ascertained that those in the country as well as those abroad speak in the same language, overlapping each other at times, making those within a reflection of those abroad.
Turkey has recently been making tangible progress in various fields, primarily health and military technology. It is achieving things that would’ve been thought impossible just 30 years ago. The fact that Turkey didn’t succumb to the pandemic threatening the whole of humanity and it especially producing solutions that rival the two wings of the Atlantic only strengthens the idea of a strong structural change. It is blatant that those within fail to see this change. It is for this reason that the definition of Turkey yearning for and pursuing an empire developed in the West carry different meanings for those in the country and those overseas.
While those abroad see this new situation as a threat, those within see it as actions taken sans a strategy. Those within are trying to make where they stand clear because they believe that Turkey’s uncalculated actions will be punished by the West. The definitions “national and local,” which have been used a great deal lately are definitive and guiding. The fact that they are trying to be discredited proves how right they are.
Looked at through a larger lens, we can see that Turkey has intervened in the global system twice now. In the first, Sultan Albdulhamit II spared no effort, which Enver Pasha also had a hand in. A railway line from Basra to Berlin was a great dream and it was on the verge of being actualized.
Abdulhamit was building an inclusive region between the East and the West. This was to be a Turkish and Muslim region of course. The history of the 20th century would be different if we could bring a regional integrity to the area extending to the Persian Gulf. We need to emphasize the fact that 100 years later, once again, we are trying to build a new region between the East and West. We are not in pursuit of building an empire governed by a single center.
This rings true for the past as well: The Ottoman Empire never adopted the empire concept of Western states. Thus, the emergence of centers of power such as Turkey in our region is of vital significance. This indicates a different situation from the East and the West.
Islam affords us the intellectual integrity of the region we are obligated to rebuild. Our religion isn’t the weakness of the region, it is its greatest source of strength. Building the territorial integrity, which we failed to really protect toward the Persian Gulf, between the Caspian and Mediterranean is an important development, and it necessitates a great deal of deliberation.