Turkish foreign policy: assertive or foolhardy?

Ankara went ahead and put the pedal to the metal in all files. No restraint, no consultation, no foresight: Just jump in head-on wherever, whenever you see trouble. Why? Simply because it almost always paid off at the ballot box. Second, there was no payback, no price tag attached to any of all these reckless foreign policy moves, manoeuvers and adventures.

As it has been reported and repeated in several various occasions, then the renowned commander of the US forces in Iraq General Petraeus would have said to then U.S. President Bush Jr., when the latter privately received him in the Oval Office, “Mr. President, this isn’t double-down.… This is all-in.” This description appears to me fitting as well for the last decade or so of Turkey’s foreign policy.

Ankara went ahead and put the pedal to the metal in all files. No restraint, no consultation, no foresight: Just jump in head-on wherever, whenever you see trouble. Why? Simply because it almost always paid off at the ballot box. Second, there was no payback, no price tag attached to any of all these reckless foreign policy moves, manoeuvers and adventures. Yet, there is an end to all stories whether good or bad, and now, perhaps the end is near. 

The final curtain Ankara faces opens at the U.S. Senate as the Armenian Genocide resolution breezed past it untempered and Sanctions Act was on its way through the committee as these lines were being written. President Erdoğan had just completed a quite by my count successful visit to DC, so what might have possibly changed since then?

“The beast is unleashed”, “we are back”, “old glory days”, “self-confidence is sexy”, “no boundaries, no chains”, “no more Mr.Nice Guy”, make your choice to depict the rampant foreign policy rhetoric of the last decade. We reached the climax recently with “Britain, Germany, France AND MYSELF had a meeting…” statement of the President of the Republic. Him is us, we are one. That’s it. 

Sanctions or bust, the current talk in town is about doing a “Cyprus 1974” sort of a overseas military operation in Libya to prop up the much fragilised Farraj led GNA in Trablus against Hafter’s LNA attacking it from Tobruk. The doomsday Black Sea to Marmara channel for İstanbul is re-announced by President Erdoğan who dropped the hint that “there is a secret political dimension” to the pharaonic project.

In “Ford v Ferrari”, driver Ken Miles warns race car builder Carroll Shelby: “If you’re going to push a machine to its limit, you have to have sense of where that limit is.” Same with foreign policy I am led to believe. As there is a difference between an excess of zeal and efficiency, there is a difference between assertiveness and foolhardiness as well. And the craft of diplomacy is also about being able to tell which is which. 

Ergo, my humble advice will be, please return to your seats and fasten your belts as the weather conditions will keep worsening at this altitude. Furthermore dear passengers, or fellow citizens rather, as long as your pilot and his cabin crew will remain the same, you may as well forget about cutting gas and descending to land in the foreseeable future. Ah well, the bright side is, no plane remains up in the air indefinitely, it either lands or crashes.  

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