Türkiye-US: A sad love story - SÜLEYMAN SEYFI ÖĞÜN

Türkiye-US: A sad love story

The Republic of Türkiye’s foreign policy is rapidly changing course. The developments present us quite a dramatic picture. It would be narrow-mindedness to limit this to the foreign policy domain alone. A new world is being built. The question is where Türkiye will take place in this world. The process is gradually evolving towards a point that will require Türkiye to carry out major total internal and external evaluations. 


Let us first take a look at the picture. The last two centuries gave rise to a history of Westernization from the collapse of the Ottoman empire towards the establishment of the Republic of Türkiye. The train’s destination was determined. Considering it in terms of cultural history, it is quite clear that the tensions and conflicts were not deep. While some groups claimed the inevitable process should be carried on conservatively, and matched with traditional accumulation, some groups preferred to act impetuously and fundamentalism. If we were to act on the comparison, it seems the matter was related to the train’s speed. The conservatives were concerned that if haste was made to reach the destination, they might lose what they already had. The fundamentalists, on the other hand, thought that the accumulation caused weight, which slowed down the speed, and they should hence get rid of it at once. Nobody was arguing about the train’s destination. This is perhaps a casualness specific to Turkish history of thinking. 


After all, fundamentalist urgency did prevail particularly during the Republic of Türkiye’s founding period. We entered a term of heavy consequences, featuring intense dismissals and detachments. The pro-West wing – that I emphasized on various occasions in previous articles – had a strong influence. But after the 1950s, the conservatives backed by the pro-Anatolia base came to power. The Turkish right managed the country in the current continuity, which has been ongoing for more than the last half-century. This thus gained us democratization experience. The people, who are hypothetically presented as the republic’s owners, but are excluded in reality, were matched with the republic's experience. Though this match, which is based on representation and participation, is consistent, we need to accept that it is highly problematic. I will not elaborate any further, as the matter deserves to be discussed separately. 


The 1950s were also the years in which the Cold War started. The situation was highly advantageous for the conservatives who came to power. The modernization codes imposed by the founding, haste fundamentalists were largely Europe-based. Meanwhile, the empirical history of relations with Europe was extremely concrete and painful. What the conservative modernists achieved was nothing other than modernism driven by pro-West sentiment, featuring European-style strict codes with philosophical (mental)-institutional responses and depths. The Turkish right and conservatives were at peace with the engineering sides of modernism. Yet, European traditions subordinate engineering, while in the first place, it used to centralize mentality and culture matters based on institutional pressures. Thus, an Anglo-American-style modernization expressed the complete opposite. The institutional organizations there were extremely flexible. The system gave priority to civilian initiatives. Furthermore, in this tradition, engineering operations drove the endless Europe-specific idealisms outside the field. The opportunity was seized right away. A mysticism of the past, which has no concrete response or depth in practice, but is exaggerated through literary discourses, a new trade mindset that pursues profitability now, came have joined forces with positivist Istanbul Technical University (ITU) engineering, which became socialized with new mystic interpretations open to modernization. These were the principal capitals of the Turkish right. A passionate love of America sprouted through NATO ties. This was a transcendent love. Pro-Anatolia sentiment was going beyond continents and seas. The anti-communist sentiment, which ignited this, was a reproduction of the Muscovy fear, which had a historical response. 


The strangeness was the fact that this love was one-sided. NATO was all about taking advantage of Türkiye, expecting military service, but it did not want Türkiye to industrialize. They had no intention to meet engineering expectations. The fact that former Turkish presidents Adnan Menderes being despised in the U.S., Suleyman Demirel being helpless and not being able to get what he expected from the U.S., Turgut Ozal expecting to achieve more than he contributed, but losing everything he had instead, were all disappointments, downfalls of this love. Is this not the nature of love anyway? Does love not grow a little greater with every disappointment? Even when they had no other choice but to knock on Russia’s door, they were experiencing the disappointment of this love and dreaming of renewing it. 


The fundamentalist modernists who lost the power changed gears and steered towards the left. The pro-West Turkish left insisted on the European destination since the 1960s, displaying deep anti-U.S. sentiment. They then adopted new left themes as of the 1990s, putting an end to this hostility. However, deep down, they were always pro-Europe. Their final hope was the EU, which was in its golden era in the 1990s. Similarly, the Turkish right also relaxed its anti-Europe sentiment. It included EU membership among its goals. But deep down, it too always remained pro-America.  Taking a firm stance in tensions with the EU was an expression of the Turkish right’s disturbance about this relaxation. 


At the current point, the pro-West Turkish left’s EU expectations, and the Turkish right’s U.S. expectations have reached the end. The finalized chapters, the determined support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the armament in Dedeagac (Alexandropolis), reveal this very clearly. We are knocking on Russia’s door again. There is no turning back. The world is being rebuilt. The question is: What experience and preparation do we have for this, and where do we stand in this world? 


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