Risks for Turkish Foreign Policy 2015 – Analysis


By E. Fuat Keyman

Our world today requires the ‘construction’ of a new order that is suitable for the 21st century; however, there is not an architect willing to carry out the design and lead the establishment of a new order. Turkey has a leading role among the key countries in both giving an accurate and effective response to the terrorism of January 7th as well as modernizing the Westphalia order.

I have been reading Henry Kissinger’s new book, “World Order.” Kissinger’s words, in verbal and written form, always receive a great reaction in the fields of international relations and foreign policy. “World Order” is a title that is well-suited for Kissinger. (*) Whether they are global or regional, Kissinger notes that “all kinds of world orders are based on two elements”: (i) ‘commonly accepted rules’ that determine the limits of actions and enterprises, and (ii) a ‘balance of power’ that stops people when they do not abide by rules, or prevents a political unit from exercising absolute sovereignty. In other words, the “balance between legitimacy and power/government“ on a world scale.

World order: Very difficult

Kissinger says that the biggest challenge to the world order of the 21st century will arise from the absence of a power balance that would prevent strong rulers and everyday problems from getting out of control. Today’s world lacks common rules and a balance of power. Therefore, we must take the Westphalia order, which has existed since 1648, and re-establish it, or, in Kissinger’s words, “modernize” it for today’s multi-cultural and differentiated structure. However, it seems very difficult to integrate different cultures to a common base.

Today there is not any one globally recognized hegemon actor or power on which we can depend to establish legitimacy in government and a balance of common rules and powers. The thought of a world order that can be shaped by a single state has lost its validity completely. Our world today requires the ‘construction’ of a new order that is suitable for the 21st century; however, there is not an architect willing to carry out the design and lead the establishment of a new order. Can we give an effective response to multi-dimensional and multi-layered global challenges that we encounter every day with a world order that does not have an effective structure?

Reading Kissinger is still very pleasing and informative

The 21st century started with the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. The global economic crisis, which started in 2008, constituted an important turning point. Both the terrorist attack on September 11th, which destroyed the balance of security and liberty completely, and the global economic crisis in 2008, which started in America and spread all around the world seriously shaking Europe, made evident the necessity for modernization of the current world order.

Globalization has started to be characterized by crisis and even by ‘multiple or multi-dimensional crises’ rather than change. Crisis is not contextual anymore in the globalized world, but it has gained a constant and structural quality.

From Arab Spring activists in Tunisia first in 2010 and then in Egypt, a series of hopeful questions has arisen: Could a new order be possible? Could different cultures be brought together on a common base? Is a new world order, based on the balance of legitimacy and power, possible?

The hopes of change and a new order that arose with the Arab Spring were brought to an end by several factors. First, Syria turned into an area of human and political crisis, which was closely followed by the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi states. Then, ISIS began reining its terror, which marked the second half of 2014.

The terrorist attack on Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7th, and the establishment of the connection between ISIS, Syria, and Europe, turned many peoples’ disappointment to worry. Together, these things caused the world climate of security versus liberty to regress to that of September 11th. The attacks of January 7th made it evident once again why Kissinger felt the need to write a book with the main theme and title of world order.

ISIS’ recent power increase and the terrorist attack on January 7th reveal two major ideas regarding the world order: (i) An environment that lacks common rules and a balance of power nurtures terrorism, and (ii) It would be very difficult to modernize the Westphalia order.

Three challenges all intertwined

So what will happen now? What will the reaction be to the terrorist attack on January 7th?

At this point, the aecurity conference against terrorism, which will be held by the United States President Barack Obama on February 18th, is of great prominence. Three important issues that are all related to each other will constitute the main discussion topic of this conference: (i) How can a simultaneous struggle against Islamophobia (fear and hatred of Islam) and possible terrorist attacks by ISIS and Al-Qaida militants be successful in the presence of the West? (ii) How can the problem of the ‘failed state,’ which is especially encountered in places like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, be solved rapidly? (iii) How can the inner disintegration, separation and conflict recently experienced within Salafism, Vahabism and similar sects of Sunni Islam be prevented?

ISIS terrorism, the strengthening of ISIS and the possibility of an Islamic State (IS) within the Iraqi and Syrian geography induced by this strength is not independent of these three problems. If anything, ISIS is nurtured by these problems; it finds an area of legitimacy through these problems and it expands its social base and support. Therefore, the discussions of the struggle against terrorism in the period after the January 7th terrorist attack will address the issues of Islamophobia, failed states, inner disintegration and conflicts with Sunni Islam, all together and simultaneously.

Turkey stuck between terror and Islamophobia

In this context, the West will pursue the strategy of emphasizing security within its own geography, struggling against terrorism, increasing pressure on Muslims and making an effort to prevent Islamophobia in discourse. It will underline the problem of the failed state in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and will try to accelerate the solution, especially in Syria.

The West will prioritize the relationship among terrorism, ISIS, and failed states. We should be aware of the risk that this priority may worsen the relations between Turkey and the West. We should underline the fact that the negative talks and discussions associating Turkey with terrorism after the terrorist attack on January 7th have arisen in a very disturbing way.

The AK Party government and the President of the Turkish Republic, Mr. Erdoğan, have approached the January 7th violence by focusing on terrorism and Islamophobia. It is possible to summarize what the President of the Turkish Republic said in six articles: (i) January 7th is “part of a big game” being played on the Muslim world, which has accelerated recently; (ii) This game is being played on Turkey; (iii) We should be very careful as Turkey; (iv) ISIS is a part and tool of this game; (v) The terrorist attack in Paris is related to the terrorist attacks at the Sultan Ahmet Police Station and the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, and at this point ISIS stands out as the organization which carried out the attacks; (vi) The terrorist attack on January 7th points out the serious problem of intelligence in France.

As the terrorists who carried out this operation were killed, it is not possible to obtain information in this regard. In this sense, the action taken against the terrorists on January 7th was a failure rather than an achievement. The struggle against terrorism should be carried out with cooperation and multi-lateral efforts between countries and on regional and global scale. At this point, Turkey explains the importance of cooperation to the West.

Strategic preference

The declarations of the Presidents of the Turkish Republic are very prominent. However, Turkey should have given a response that addressed not only Islamophobia and the concerns of the failed state, on which the West has focused, but also the disintegration within Sunni Islam and the problems of violence and terrorism created by organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.

The struggle against ISIS also requires rapid response to the problem of the failed state in Syria. Until now, Turkey sought solutions without Assad, but for a rapid solution, the West may make an agreement with Russia in the Syrian crisis and shift to a solution with Assad. We have started to see the first signs of this. The presence of organizations such as ISIS and Boko Haram, and the violence they create, cause Sunni Islam to be associated with violence in the Islamophobia discussion.

For both of these points, the axis of terrorism and Islamophobia on which Turkey has focused will not be sufficient. In addition to this, two questions remain unanswered: (i) How can the West and the international society give a response to the terrorist attack on January 7th without Turkey? (ii) How can an effective road to world order be created?

Turkey has a leading role among the key countries in both giving an accurate and effective response to the terrorism of January 7th and modernizing the Westphalia order.

As I have emphasized in my previous articles, “Turkey, which positions itself in an area out of the axis of Sunni and Shia conflicts, emphasizes the importance of establishing a secular state for the Muslim world. Turkey also emphasizes the strengthening of its identity and the perception of “bridging together” the East with the West and the North with the South in an attempt to revive the process for membership in the EU. Most importantly, Turkey asserts that balance among economy, democracy, and security will make great contributions to the establishment of a world order that is deemed necessary by Kissinger.

Zbigniew Brzezinsk, who is also an important strategist like Kissinger, describes a similar picture of Turkey in his book “Strategic Preference.

The strategic preference of Turkey should be to re-establish its active foreign policy in a way to be one of the countries that play a key role in the modernization of the Westphalia order.

*Henry Kissinger , World Order, (New York: Penguin,2014).

**This article was first published in Analist Monthly Journal’s February issue in Turkish language and was translated into English language by Burak Dağkuş


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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