MER – From Neo-Ottomanism to Turkish Gaullism

From Neo-Ottomanism to Turkish GaullismWith the benefit of hindsight, one can argue that the turning point in Turkeyand#39s grand strategic vision of pursuing a Neo-Ottoman sphere of influence came with the Arab uprisings in 2011.The hubris and euphoria among neo-Ottomans that Turkey would become the leader of democratizing Arab countries lead to serious strategic miscalculations.

Given the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the civil war in Syria, it is time for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to give up on its neo-Ottoman vision in favor of a more realistic approach, Turkish GaullismAs I often refer to in my writings, there are mainly three grand strategic visions in Turkish foreign policy: Kemalism, neo-Ottomanism and Turkish Gaullism Neo-Ottomanism is closely associated with the strategic visions of the late President Turgut zal and the AKP. It seeks to restore Turkeyand#39s imperial andquotstrategic depthandquot in the territories formerly occupied by the Ottoman Empire through andquotsoft powerandquot The main objective of neo-Ottomanism is to improve economic, cultural, political, diplomatic and military relations with Turkeyand#39s Muslim neighbors and Balkan countries.

Neo-Ottomanism differs from Kemalism because it puts a premium on rebalancing towards the Islamic world. The Kemalist foreign policy was obsessed with Turkeyand#39s Western identity and it has neglected the Middle East and North Africa since the inception of the modern Turkish Republic.

While Kemalism and neo-Ottomanism are fairly well known, Turkish Gaullism is still a mystery for most analysts trying to make sense of Turkish foreign policy. In my opinion, the simplest way of describing Turkish Gaullism to point out areas of convergence between neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism Despite the important differences between Kemalists and neo-Ottomans, both share a strong sense of attachment to Turkish patriotism Neo-Ottomans are religious nationalists inspired by the Turkish-Islamic synthesis rather than Islamist orthodox determined to reconstruct an imagined umma (community of Muslim believers).

In that sense, one can argue that neo-Ottomanism has successfully internalized the Kemalist paradigm of Turkish nationalismSeen from the prism of rising Turkish self-confidence thanks to considerable economic growth under AKP governments of the past 12 years, Turkish Gaullism represents a synthesis of Kemalism and neo-Ottomanism A sense of Turkish patriotism, grandeur, glory, independence, national prestige, sovereignty and self-confidence is at the heart of Turkish Gaullism Above all, Turkish Gaullism seeks respect from the West and refuses to be taken for granted as a loyal NATO ally. Another aantage of Gaullism is that it transcends the over-emphasized andquotsecular versus Islamicandquot or andquotEast or Westandquot divide in the foreign policy analysis of Turkey in Western circles.

Instead, Turkish Gaullists unite behind the pursuit of Turkish national and strategic interests in a pragmatic and realistic way without giving much premium to ideology.Not surprisingly it is the Turkish foreign service and the Turkish military, where the Kemalist tradition was strongest, that has come to embrace Turkish Gaullism as the best way of internalizing some aspects of AKPand#39s more ideological neo-Ottomanism In my opinion, Kemalists within the Turkish foreign service and the Turkish military have come to enjoy some aspects of neo-Ottomanism without embracing the Islamic, pro-Sunni proclivities of the AKP.

Turkeyand#39s self-confident, independent, grandeur, and prestige-oriented and occasionally defiant strategic orientation vis-andagrave-vis the West, is where Kemalism and neo-Ottomanism converge and shape the contours of Turkish GaullismToday, there is no doubt that the AKPand#39s neo-Ottoman vision of leadership in the Middle East has failed. The situation in Egypt and Syria clearly showed that democratic change wonand#39t come easily to entrenched autocracies.

Turkey needs to move beyond such dreams and adopt a more realistic vision of the emerging balance of power in the region. This will require a better balance between neo-Ottomanism, Kemalism and Gaullism by emphasizing national interests.

The new orientation should do away with Sunni sectarianism and Islamic romanticism in pursuit of Muslim Brotherhood priorities. Great power politics requires more realism and less idealism.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman