One after the other highest-ranking public figures in scare the citizens regarding the insurmountable dangers that face us as a nation. They also evince critical views regarding Turkey’s relations with the West in general and with the USA in particular. Lately both President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Büyükanit, among others, undiplomatically declared how much they were disturbed and alarmed by the American position that attribute an exemplary role to Turkey as a moderate Islamic country that has reconciled religion with democracy. For the president of the republic this is equal to blasphemy because any relationship between religion and politics is part of the obscurantist agenda that undermine the secular state. This is so for the ruling elite of the country because Kemalism (coined after the political philosophy that is attributed to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic) has subdued religion to the state. For Kemalism religion is an individual attribute rather than being a social-cultural reality of the masses.
The roots of General Buyukanit’s anti-American stance are somewhat different. For the general, along with the majority of the Turkish people, the USA has unleashed Kurdish nationalism that could lead to the dismemberment of the country as well as other countries in the region harboring Kurdish enclaves. So, American (the Bush government’s) foreign policy is destabilizing for the whole Middle East. The already existing frustration with American presence in Iraq is further exacerbated by the U.S. administration’s reluctance to forbid PKK forays into Turkey from its safe havens in North Iraq that are under de facto American control.
Frequent criticisms or warnings by American politicians or military commanders regarding the possible intervention of Turkish armed forces is met with dislike and disbelief alike by the Turkish political-military elite. The reason is simple: American actors warn against a “foreign power intervening in the internal affairs of Iraq” while it is the USA that has invaded and demolished most of Iraq to “liberate” and to democratize” it. It looks like black humor to Turks seeking the understanding and support of the USA to eliminate a harmful terrorist organization when the USA has claimed to be waging a global war on terrorism while it is so oblivious to the harm done by a terrorist organization attacking from a territory under its mandate. Is this because the USA wants to add a part of Turkey inhabited by Kurds to budding Kurdistan under its protection? With this suspicion, many Turks hold the USA accountable for designs to divide up Turkey.
Given this backdrop it is obvious that frustration of many Turks with the USA is twofold: Promoting moderate Islam and undermining the secular character of the Kemalist state on the one hand and American efforts to create an independent Kurdish state by allowing carving out of a part of Turkey on the other.
It is obvious that both issues are closely related to Turkey’s national identity. The official view that is crystallized in the legal system is pretty clear: Turkey is inhabited by the Turks; the existence of others are accidental. They are tolerated only as subservient elements to Turks and the Turkish state. That is why anti-Americanism voiced by the nationalist Kemalist establishment overlaps with growing anti-EU feelings. For the EU promotes multi-culturalism and minority rights in Turkey. Liberalization of the system is perceived as a prelude to dissolution of national unity. If this is one reason for existing anti-E.U feelings, reluctance of some of the EU national elite to deny Turkey full membership and acting hypocritically in this regards is another. An increasing number of Turks do not believe in the sincerity of Europe to honor the Acquis as an equal opportunity legislative body.
These feelings are expressed by the highest officials who no more feel to be diplomatic because they have lost hope in Turkey’s traditional allies who are perceived to be foes rather than friends. That is why they have both declared, “Turkey has been under danger in a magnitude that has never been witnessed since the declaration of the republic”. Such a statement cannot be pronounces haphazardly or independently if a shared climate of fear and anxiety was not present.
In the final analysis we are witnessing salvos of big cannons aimed at the West in general and its sincerity, integrity as well as its pluralist and democratic credentials. They see enemies on the march when either the EU or the USA talks about solving minority issues through political methods or elevating democratic standards to higher levels. At the end preservation of the status quo turns into conservation of a system that is increasingly incompatible with the modern world. That is what Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republican state, dreaded most. Are we really protected by today’s Kemalists or threatened by their passé protectionism that produces neither democracy nor welfare?