Understanding the Disastrous Foreign Policy of Turkey – Part 1

Posted: October 17, 2012 in International, Sideviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

A major challenge for analysts of the current world political events is it to understand the disastrous foreign policy of Turkey. How could it happen that the Foreign Policy of Turkey has literally transhipped from a principles-based zero-problem Foreign Policy into its opposite?

The subsequent first part of an analysis brings out an approach in order to show this coherent and to make it comprehensible for all.

Two years ago, the zero-problems Foreign Policy was nearly a unanimous acclaimed masterpiece of the Turkish JDP (Justice and Development Party / AKP) government. About a week ago, the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has said in contrast, that Turkey is not far from a war.

The Foreign Policy of Turkey has produced in terms of Syria disastrous results in recent months. The Turkish President Abdullah Gul, from the JDP, recently spoke about it, that the “worst case scenario” has occurred.

But it can always be worse. If there were an open war against by Turkey against Syria, the disaster in the Foreign Policy of Turkey would be complete.

The catastrophic development is not related to a change of the Foreign Minister and a thereby concomitant change in the direction of the Foreign Policy.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was still very proud in the end of 2010, but also on numerous occasions before, in an interview with “Foreign Policy” about the fact that Turkey has made the utopia of a peace-focused zero-problem Foreign Policy reality under his spiritual leadership since 2003.

Empathy is important in politics. You learn that in order to solve a crisis or help a people, you have to behave as one of them. Therefore, as a Turk, now I am European in Brussels, or Iraqi in Baghdad, Bosnian in Sarajevo, or Samarkandi in Central Asia.

And these are not conflicting identities. If you want to contribute to regional and global peace, you have to speak from within. You should not impose. You should not dictate.


I still argue and I still insist that it is possible to have good relations with different conflicting parties if you implement a policy of values and principles.


We are trying to implement a policy of peace in our region; we could not be silent.


It is possible to have zero problems if the other actors respect our values. It doesn’t mean that we will be silent in order to have good relations with all parties.

Davutoglu has based the last sentences in this interview on the cooled relations between Turkey and Israel after the Israeli attack on Gaza 2008/2009 and the Flotilla 2010, but since he has simultaneously declared that Turkey implements a policy that is led by values and principles, one should surely not view these sentences as an overall description of his Turkish foreign policy.

A foreign policy that is geared at peace among neighbours, in the region and global, should certainly be the target of every foreign policy, and not only the Turkish. So, first to work on the goal of the unproblematic relations with your neighbours is surely a promising way. At the same time, this way opens the door to a high economic growth, which is based on peace, stability and foreign trade. Peace, stability and friendship among peoples are no zero sum game in which one side wins what the other loses.

If the states of a region are together connected by peace, friendship and trade, so all states of the region do benefit of the associated positive economic and social development prospects. A foreign policy that is geared on peace and the prevention of problems, especially among neighbours, as it posits the Turkish zero-problem foreign policy, therefore, is a classic case of an advantageous overall strategy for all sides.

Also the aspiration to have good relations even with different conflicting parties is fundamentally a reasonable approach, which is also beneficial to all parties, to foreign policy.

A state that is able to manage good relations with different conflicting parties in the region can benefit from the situation that it that it economically will be the centre. The own companies get thereby tend access to the markets of both conflicting parties, and companies, which are looking for a location in the region in order to be able to operate in the overall region, have a market incentive to choose one state in this region which has good relations to the different conflicting parties.

This results in an increased economic growth in countries that are able to develop good relations with different conflicting parties, and the state with good relations to both conflicting parties develops an interested in the fact that the conflict of both conflicting parties will not further escalate to a point where the economic interests of its companies in these states of the conflicting parties are harmed. The conflicting state benefit here from the situation that the conflict is attenuated in this way, and thus it counteracts the forces of an expansion of the conflict, which would be to the detriment of all the direct or indirectly involved parties.

So it is ultimately beneficial to all States in a region, when states in the terms of a regional zero-problem policy insist on the point to have good relations with different conflicting parties. Davutoglu has also correctly identified that a party, which wants to have good relations to different conflicting parties and also wants to work as a trouble-shooter of the conflicts, should neither dictate nor impose anything, because the attempt to impose something on others will make a problem fixer itself to a conflicting party.

Practically, it is, however, often not so easy to implement and to insist to have good relations with different conflicting parties because powerful states tend in conflicts to force partisanship on other states, in the manner of “whoever is not with us is against us and will be punished”. But a state that is strong and brave enough to maintain the impartiality in conflicts, this country deserves compliments because of the achieved promotion of the regional peace and the prosperity in the region, and it can also benefit economically from this.

So, Turkey has, for example, in the recent years economically benefited from the maintaining of the simultaneously good relations with Iran, the U.S. and the EU, as well as from the good relations to Syria and to Israel; in the terms of its zero-problem foreign policy it has on the one hand promoted the regional peace and on the other hand, it benefited economically from the point that it has carried on good commerce with each side of the conflicting parties.

One key to this situation that a policy of maintaining good relations with different conflicting parties can be successful, can actually be a foreign policy that is run by universal values and universal principles. If such a universal value is, for example, the maintenance of peace, then it can be a matching principle to basically side a bit closer with the party which carries out more de-escalating steps and omits escalating steps.

If such a universal value is the policy of non-intervention (hands-off policy), for example, it can be a matching principle to not impose on other countries what they should want and with which states they should have relations to, while to request from other states, that they do not try to prescribe the own state, which relations the own state should have with other states.

Some values ​​and principles, however, are prone for conflict (conflict-laden). If a value is the freedom of expression, then it can be an appropriate principle to insist that states are allowed to criticize each other – and this even harsh. The experience shows, however, that abrasive criticism by one state against another state often does not lead to the desired changes in its behaviour, but to harsh counter-criticism, and out of mutual harsh, there is the possibility that it grows into upsets and conflicts, which affects the unproblematic nature of the relationship between states and can finally even endanger the peace.

This applies particularly to the harsh criticism of the organization of state power in foreign countries, which is expressed, for example, on issues such as democracy, human rights and corruption.

But if a universal value is a more restrained use of public criticism of the dominance behaviour of other countries, for example, because harsh criticism of the dominance behaviour of other countries is a potential source of conflicts and thus endangers the peace, then it may be an appropriate principle for this to omit and disapprove the harsh criticism of one state at the dominance behaviour of another state.

In practice, one is able to easy imagine it that the approach to the approval of sharp criticism among states is tantamount with the enhancement of a Machiavellian Code of Practice to a foreign policy principle, therefore  powerful states are allowed to harsh criticize weaker states, but the weaker states are not allowed to answer with a similar harsh criticism, because the powerful state would then threaten the weaker state with, for example, “consequences” or it would think about drawbacks for this country.

The principle, represented by Davuolgu, of the Turkish zero-problem foreign policy, “not to stay silent”, is in one sense quite traditional foreign policy, but on the other side, it has already a certain goal conflict within its base towards the goal of peace, especially when the principle “not to stay silent” also means the right to use harsh criticism on the dominance behaviour of other states. Thus, that the principle “not to stay silent” does not increase intergovernmental problems and the peace is threatened, the principle should therefore also be balanced with goals such as ease and peace in neighbourly relations. This of course is nothing special, but just classical diplomacy.

Noteworthy is the foreign policy approach of Davutoglu to accept different identities in different places. In contrast to the otherwise presented foreign policy concepts by Davutoglu, this “empathic approach” cannot be described as classical, but as benevolent, perhaps it is best described as “unconventional”.

In order to understand the specific features of the current Turkish foreign policy, it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at it.

Understanding the Disastrous Foreign Policy of Turkey – Part 2

Understanding the Disastrous Foreign Policy of Turkey – Part 3

Understanding the Disastrous Foreign Policy of Turkey – Part 4

Source: nocheinparteibuch.wordpress.com


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