As one who has
mastered the art of evasion, Prime Minister Erdogan retorted that Mr.
Pollock himself had written an article in the Wall Street Journal that
made him sad, because it was not based on facts!
Actually, the opposite was true. Mr.
Pollock’s article dealt with a wave of “anti-American
madness.” There were headlines in Turkish newspapers “calling
U.S. soldiers ‘Murderer Johnny’
and newspaper articles describing imagined atrocities such as the
use of chemical weapons--and, yes, organ theft--committed against
civilians in Iraq. And rather than express his disapproval of such
reports, the Prime Minister went on a tangent, by claiming that “These
kinds of things happen in the world. If it’s not happening in Iraq, then
it’s happening in other countries.” And when cornered to be more
explicit, he weaseled out of his spot: “I'm
not saying they are being killed. . . . There are people in
poverty who use this as a means to get money.”
Reflecting on this interview, Mr.
Pollock ended with these words:
since Mr. Erdogan's Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party swept
to power on 35% of the vote in 2002 elections (amazingly, only one other
party passed the 10% threshold for parliamentary representation), people
have questioned whether his smooth manner wasn’t cover for a more
radical agenda to fundamentally change the secular character of the
Turkish Republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
if there is any cause for concern here, it would be the undeniable fact
that Turkey's first successful overtly Islamic prime minister has cultural
and foreign policy compasses different from those of earlier Turkish
leaders, who have inclined steadily toward the West. I sense a deeper
estrangement at work than mere disagreement over Iraq, and whether or not
to use force to remove roadblocks to democracy in the Middle East.
"When we took office there was a Turkey which was not having talks
with its neighbors. Now Turkey is having a dialogue with all of them.
That's why we don't want any bombs to fall anymore in our region,"
Mr. Erdogan says.
can he really believe this saccharine rhetoric, and that "all
problems" can be solved at the negotiating table? (It's been less
than a decade since Turkey nearly invaded Syria.) Or is it mere cover for
the theories of advisers who believe that Turkey can be a bigger player on
the world stage by distancing itself from the U.S.? And does he not
recognize the import of the concession that his somewhat cavalier
confidence on Iran is possible because NATO (i.e., the U.S.) ultimately
stands behind Turkey? After all, such ‘strategic’ alliances are not
written in stone. They are dependent over the long term on public
attitudes in the countries involved. As I leave his office I wonder how
carefully he has thought through what would seem to be a most pressing
question: Of what value will Turkey's opinion really be in a world of
increasing or unresolved tension with the U.S. and where, God forbid, the
mad mullahs next door have nukes?
I more than share the concerns of Mr. Pollock
regarding Turkey’s future relations with the West under the leadership
of an Islamist Prime minister who has mastered the art of Kitman (Concealment). I have no doubt that Mr. Erdogan imagined
that his duplicitous style would persuade a representative of the WSJ,
that nothing was to be feared about the future course of Turkey’s
domestic and foreign policies. However, I am sure that Mr. Pollock saw
through the feigned magnanimity of Mr. Erdogan as his closing remarks
showed a deep concern for Turkey’s future, especially as it has been
knocking at the door of the European Union.
When I look back at the tumultuous events that
followed the end of the Great War (WWI) and taking into account the
tenacity of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk as he sought to modernize his country,
I can understand how his efforts were initially successful. As a brilliant
military leader he did his utmost to modernise Turkey according to his
deep-seated secular worldview. However, he underestimated the strong
allegiance that most of the Turks of Anatolia held for Islam. Thus,
gradually Ataturk’s legacy was being undermined by the resurgence of
Islamic political parties after decades of economic and political
upheavals. The Islamists took advantage of the outward and structural
aspects of democracy, and “legally” gained power. But from that point
on, the chipping away at Kemalism, as Ataturk’s legacy is known,
continued. Nothing can stop it, as far as I can see. In the rural areas of
Turkey, the population is increasing at a faster rate than in the
metropolitan areas of Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and other cities near the
Mediterranean. This indicates that the Islamists have a greater pool of
votes coming from committed true believers who dream of reviving the
glories of the Ottoman past.
I would like to make one more point that
supports my thesis. Even when the Kemalists ruled Turkey, their secular
ideology was never similar to the Western European kind that tolerated
pluralism and true democracy. Ataturk’s regime had no use for non-Turks
living within the republic, and did his best to expel them as happened to
the Greek population of Smyrna (Izmir.) Most Christians that had lived for
centuries within the heartland of the Ottoman Empire eventually immigrated
either to nearby countries in the Middle East, or to the Americas. In
other words, the Turkish Republic, as created by Ataturk was never a
genuine democracy. And yet its leaders keep knocking at the door of the
European Union seeking full membership! One wonders what would become of
the E.U. should seventy million Turks, under the leadership of Recep
Tayyib Erdogan, become full citizens of this Union!