09:22 – The new psychology of Turkish foreign policy

Psychological factors are now critically important in the determination of Turkish foreign policy. Rather than external factors, personal inclinations and imaginations have become the key denominators of the decision-making processes of Turkish foreign policy. Factors such as Turkey's power, abilities and limits seem a bit irrelevant now. The psychological tendencies of the key decision-makers are what are currently important to analyze in order to understand the new dynamics of Turkish foreign policy.
This new psychological basis of Turkish foreign policy has specific traits. To begin with, the key actors believe that Turkey is a global power. There is apparent consensus among the government elites that they have made Turkey a global power. It is now very common to hear a chief advisor of the prime minister issue a warning to the US or Russia. In this rhetoric, the time of the great powers is passing and Turkey has emerged as the new global power. Accordingly, the Western powers' main fear now is Turkey.

Secondly, the actors who align themselves with this new psychology have a radically different view of regional politics. For instance, they see developments in the Arab world as the great successes of Turkey's efforts. Noting the catastrophic situations in Libya, Egypt or Syria is not enough to persuade them otherwise. Unconvinced, they accuse you of not having grasped the success that underlies all of those catastrophic scenes. To them, this is not failure but the nucleus of an historic birth of Islamic unity, or Turkey's leadership.

Thirdly, the new psychology is very clearly anti-Western. To say this is not to rekindle the tiring debate about an axis shift in Turkish foreign policy. Turkey is still a NATO member, thus part of the Western club. However, the actors aligned with this new foreign policy apparently dislike the West. They even believe that Western powers are seeking to weaken Turkey. This point is sensitive. I am not arguing that Turkey has left the Western bloc. What I am pointing out is that Turkish political actors are no longer interested in the Western bloc. I am sure there still are diplomats in the Foreign Ministry who “preach,” for diplomatic courtesy's sake, about Turkey's commitment to Westernization. However, I do not think there are any influential political actors in Turkey who still advocate Westernization.

Fourthly, the new psychology of Turkish foreign policy -- a direct result of Turkish domestic politics -- is not realized at a secular level; it is realized at a historical-cum-metaphysical level. It is no longer about securing protection or maximizing Turkish national interests. It is more than this. It is now about the realization at the global level of various historical missions. Thus, mundane daily criticisms have no capacity to moderate, for they are too conceptually poor to confront that which is already proven and defended on the historical and metaphysical grid.

Since the autonomy of the Foreign Ministry is now very low, it is probably other state institutions that drive most of the substantial elements of this new psychology. It is obvious that several other security institutions have a serious say in Turkey's foreign policy as regards certain cases, like that of Syria.

Having explained the new traits of the new psychology, my humble criticism is as follows: Political actors should strike a balance between their imaginations and external factors. Raw constructivism that looks at every foreign policy issue with little consideration of external data has no chance of success. Our imaginations are useful. However, they are often dangerous as they can mislead us. The value of external actors is very high as they are the only factors that can rationalize and balance the flaws of internal decision-makers.

There is one simple rule in foreign policy: If your plans fail, that is either because you set up your calculations incorrectly or you miscalculated your power. God created a calculable and predictable universe. If you fail to recognize it as such, that proves that you have failed to understand the dynamics and rules of the environment.

GÖKHAN BACIK (Cihan/Today's Zaman)


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