18.12.2010. «Mr. Strategic Depth»: “The only target we have is to normalize the trajectory of history.”
Strategic depth – the self-aggrandizing version
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu may be proudly boasting of his jewel doctrine of “strategic depth” wherever and whenever possible, yet in contrast, United States embassy cables illustrate him as a dangerously deluded man at the helm of Turkish foreign policy. Whether “strategic depthist” or “delusionist,” Mr. Davutoğlu’s vision is certainly self-aggrandizing – and apparently contagious.
The Europeans must have sighed with enormous relief – and probably blushed – when EU Minister Egemen Bağış told them in Denmark: “Hold on Europe, Turkey is coming to rescue you!” Having read Mr. Bağış’s remarks, a European friend joyfully wrote to this columnist: “We beleaguered Europeans are indeed grateful that Mr. Bağış has come to rescue us.” But the same friend was equally gloomy with a punishing feeling of guilt: “…that we are unable to respond in kind is only a measure of our ingratitude!”
Give it a few more years and further WikiLeaks dumps and we shall probably learn how EU diplomats must have cheered over the good – no, wonderful! – news Mr. Bağış heralded. Not so hard to imagine a cable quoting Minister X from a major European capital as telling his American counterpart, in shy tears: “We are saved! For centuries we waited for the Turks to come and rescue us!” Not so hard to imagine, either, the American minister cabling to Washington that he watched his colleague with poisonous envy.
In the same near future, Mr. Bağış (or his successor) could be inviting the EU to join the “Middle Eastern Steel and Coal Union” which his boss, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is thriving in building. Turkey in the EU may be passé, but EU nations seeking to join a Turkish-led Muslim bloc may sound more interesting.
Speaking of WikiLeaks, self-aggrandizing Turks must have done more self-aggrandizing when they read with pride that President Barack Obama’s first WikiLeaks call of apology was to their beloved prime minister – of all world leaders! The Turks may currently hate America, but they always look to America for a few pats on the shoulder.
For most Turks, the “news” is that President Obama called Prime Minister Erdoğan for an apology. In fact, wire services quoted Mr. Obama as “expressing his regrets for the deplorable action by WikiLeaks…” The real “news” in that story was the fact that “Mr. Obama did not apologize for the “content.”” It is a disturbing fact that Mr. Erdoğan and his men were not annoyed because WikiLeaks leaked the documents, but that they were annoyed by the content of the documents. And in Mr. Obama’s apology, there was no apology for the content.
But that gives an idea for a potential rapprochement. If Mr. Erdoğan is prepared to embrace apologies of “this kind,” why not apply the same logic to the flotilla crisis with Israel? At the moment, as Ankara and Jerusalem are testing the water to normalize ties – but with Mr. Erdoğan insisting on an apology for the deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara – why do we not think of an Obama-style way out?
In this Obama-apology-inspired model, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls Prime Minister Erdoğan to apologize and “expresses his regrets for the deplorable events that strained Turkish-Israeli relations.” And that should suffice to ensure a graceful exit from the crisis. But would it? The answer is no – for obvious reasons.
But WikiLeaks leaks did not kill any Turks, whereas the flotilla raid of May 31 did. That’s true. All the same, the difference does not justify selective Turkish perception of foreign apologies. In both cases, there will be apologies, and in both cases the apologies will be for the sake of apologizing rather than for what really annoyed the Turks. But never mind, as soon as these lines appear on the page Mr. Erdoğan’s fans will remind us – at best – that hypocrisy is part of politics and – at worst – anyone criticizing Mr. Erdoğan is either a traitor or an enemy of Islam.
All the same, it is fabulous that after having saved the Palestinians and brokered peace in all corners of the world’s disputed geographies, the Turks are now coming to rescue Europe. But why all this Turkish benevolence and generosity? According to Mr. Strategic Depth: “The only target we have is to normalize the trajectory of history.” So, the foreign minister is saying the trajectory of history is abnormal and therefore has to be normalized – by the Turks. In what sense? Why is it abnormal? How would it have been normal? How can it be normalized? What/who made it abnormal? And why can it be normalized by the Turks?
I am not sure if Minister Davutoğlu would care to answer those questions – he would probably not, even if our newspaper offered a generous donation to human rights champions İHH in return for an interview. Fortunately, we have a sense of what the “normalization of history” might mean in self-aggrandizing language. If we understand incorrectly we’ll learn the truth from another wave of very important leaks.