February 18 2020
Unlike previous films, Netflix's Rise of Empires aspires to be both a documentary and historical epic, ending up as a strange mix of the two. At best, the documentary side seeks to provide additional narrative and drama to the reenactment, making for a better story without really providing any historical perspective.
We welcome 2020 in Washington with a never ending debate on how the U.S. how can best support Turkish democracy. Congress’s growing willingness to sanction Turkey has encouraged those who believe that such measures will weaken Erdoğan and lay the groundwork for his electoral defeat. This creates alarm among those who believe that Washington can best strengthen Turkish democracy through a policy of greater engagement.
In 1954, Ecevit, then a writer for the newspaper Ulus, was sent to Winston-Salem as part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored internship program. As with many of the pieces he penned during his months in America, Ecevit’s Christmas column stands out as a tribute to the promise and limits of international understanding in the 1950s.
The understanding foreigners have of Turkey and whether or not anything can be done to improve their understanding are age-old questions. Previous efforts made to this aim show that certain foreign perceptions of Turkey are embarrassingly impervious to change. Whatever the Turkish government does and however bad things gets, foreign audiences will be inclined to regard Turkey as a “land of contradictions” and will always expect it to take a positive turn eventually.
The longer the U.S. and Turkey manage to avoid a major crisis, the more convinced many observers become that it will never happen. And the more convinced others become that the tensions are simply building toward an even more dramatic break. As with the rival attitudes that many Istanbul residents hold toward the likelihood of a long-predicted earthquake, these assumptions often seem as much a matter of temperament than analytical assessment. I tend to be pessimistic, if not alarmist, on both counts.
In discussing the legacies of historical crimes, both in Turkey and America, it sometimes seems as if our desire for a certain kind of morally satisfying narrative has blinded us to other, potentially more troubling, historical possibilities. That is to say, many people appear deeply committed to the idea that for nations, like people, crime doesn’t pay. With a faith that can feel more theological than historiographical, we want to believe that the perpetrators of historical sins ultimately suffer some sort of political punishment, especially when they refuse to acknowledge them or repent.
The crescendo of anti-Turkish anger in Washington represents a force that, in other circumstances, would have turned the ship of state in a more consistent and measured way. In the face of strategic frustration and symbolic affronts, honourable indignation is the language in which policymakers are best prepared to retaliate. To point out that it is irrational, hypocritical or unhelpful misses the deeper, long-term logic behind it.