To put it mildly Erdoğan turned the tables on or rather pulled the pants of down of the whole lot. The lot here depicts the pin-striped suited and coat and skirted crowd exiting limos with tinted windows and rushing purposefully towards ubiquitous revolving doors with square faces. And again, to be honest, I would rather be on the side of Erdoğan than on the side of Jeffreys of this universe. That might perhaps summarize the melodrama of my own kind. “Well deserved” some would exclaim, what with having put in or up with twenty years of government service haven’t I left the foreign ministry “par la petite porte”?
Well, it provides one with that particular aura being an ex-diplomat. In fact, the reporters need to fulfil their quota of speaking with at least one ex-government guy, that’s why they are after your two sentences long vital (!) comment. Hence, at the time, I was asked to criticize Erdoğan’s leaked warning to EU dignitaries behind closed doors that he would load the refugees onto the buses and expedite them across the border if they did not get their act together. How diplomatic that attitude was? Lo and behold, I have told them that it is exactly how it works at the “numero uno” level: To tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Pure and simple.
And Erdoğan did it, again and again. He pulled off four across the border military operations in Syria, one overseas in Libya, continuous pummelling of and enlarging the military footprint in northern Iraq. Resorting to the threat of flooding Europe with refugees, the Halkbank case in NY (and now the pre-emptive firing of attorney Berman), S-400’s, Qatar, you name it. One lone concrete pushback was Turkey being cut off from the F-35 program and even that appears to have been “bought” way beforehand by Ankara.
Oh and by the way, this column is assigned by ruling Duvar English authorities to foreign affairs, so don’t get me started with the occasional high browed tut-tutting Erdoğan got for his ham fisted home performance. Remember “the Jeffreys” in the opening paragraph? Please do address your inquiries and concerns on that rather unpleasant aspect to them. They know how these things work don’t they, and tell us that we can’t tell the difference between our left foot from the right when it comes to international relations.
Yet one can’t have it his way always all the time and for free. When, recently one of the three big teams of my hometown İstanbul, Beşiktaş lost recently a home game against Antalya, the seasoned sportswriter Asena Özkan forewarned that whereas the previous club president was sent packing with chants of “Fikret Orman, where is the money?”, the present one will face the same outcome with chants of “Ahmet Nur Çebi, where is Beşiktaş?” These are lucid and pertinent questions in Turkey’s case as well, or so yours truly is led to believe.
Authoritarian on the inside, militarized on the outside, that is the current state of the play in Turkey. One feeds the other, and vice versa, and so on so forth, on and on. We call it alternately Blue Homeland, cyber homeland, forward defence, counterterrorism, existential threat perception. The secularist opposition, knelt before the altar of “raison d’état”, is under the spell of living in De Gaulle’s France in the late sixties. They stubbornly refuse to turn their sorrowful eyes up for they are fully aware that they will have to face the crucifixion of the Republic if they do that. The sheer blindness of CHP and part of the so-called alternative media in reading Erdoğan’s gambit is mind boggling indeed.
Foreign Ministry had itself to blame too for the current state of affairs by effectively crossing itself off the table: In time by not standing up to the military, in time by petty careerism still well reflected by the self-congratulatory attitude of the retired Ambassador and MP Bozkır who is selected to chair the 75th UN General Assembly, in time by not being able to move beyond preparing stale talking points for the sole decision maker. An institution priding itself of postponing at least for a century the inevitable dismemberment of the empire through diplomatic manoeuvring ended up as a shadow of itself, an obese looking secretariat if you will.
Today in Turkey, thanks to Erdoğan’s shrewd politics and survival instinct, nationalism and Islamism are blended together. No nationalistic opposition will find the tiniest bit of space anymore against the rampart of the new Islamism 2.0 on steroids unless it gathers the guts to adopt pluralistic and geared towards de-centralization policies. Center, trained to stop the encroachment of communism in the southern flank of NATO, is not taken over by periphery. That was a farce. Center remains the same having created the demon of Kurdish separatism to eternalize its grip on power and simply refused to disband.
Many do remember Colonel Kurtz’ (Marlon Brando) hair raising monologue in Coppola’s classic “Apocalypse Now” (1979) movie: “Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.” That’s why there is a time to put up with it and there is a time to fall on your own sword –if one expects to look straight in the eyes of her/his child or into one’s own eyes in the mirror every morning. There will come a time for people to ask “where is the money?” having suffered through these costly adventures and then a sudden realization: “where is the Republic?”