Foreign Policy Blogs

Arabic Dreams of Turkish Ways

Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Benghazi last week, where the Libyan opposition is getting stronger every day. Davutoglu was welcomed, as any other AKP official in a Muslim country, and the crowd cheered for him holding interesting posters with the words, “Thank you Erdogan, Turkey and Islam” written on them. Davutoglu was pleased.
This is not surprising given the new, stronger identity of the AKP party in the region. The AKP is becoming the protector of the “Muslim and the fallen” more than ever following the Arab Spring. Turkey looks more Muslim, and appears much closer to Islamic governments. The good news is, the AKP does represent a middle ground based on democratic rule,  secularism and economic power. Almost every other Middle Eastern dream is already alive in Turkey. And they welcome the AKP for bringing back Islam while keeping the modern Turkish identity.
This may look appealing to other Muslims of the world; however, can everyone adopt a Turkish way of governing? Let’s say it would require a couple of decades and Ataturk-like leaders.
1) Turkey has strategic importance that many other Middle Eastern nations do not have. This is where Turkish economic power is rooted and Erdogan has been using this as an advantage in his geopolitics.
2) Since the 1920s, Turkey has “tasted” Western lifestyle and ideologies; though the AKP brings back the Islamic roots of the nation, it can only go so far in changing citizens’ life styles, at least in a democratic setting. Other Islamic nations, which still hold very conservative ideologies of Islam, may not welcome this much needed modernization. They will need well-educated leaders who are dedicated and brave enough to bring strict rules for modernization. There is no room for opportunists with radical Islamic agendas. We certainly don’t need another Iran.
3) Each of the struggling Middle Eastern nations have their own unique problems that will require unique solutions. Just like Turkey’s PKK politics, Libya, Yemen and Palestine need to identify who is who and who is working for what agenda in their own systems.

In their new term, the AKP identified its biggest roles as democratizing Turkey, bringing peace to the southeast, and representing a role model to other Muslim nations. So far, democratizing Turkey has led to further arrests of members of the military and very valuable journalists. The PKK just kidnapped and killed more than 9 soldiers in Tunceli and Diyarbakir. However, the party does succeed in its aspiration to be a role model for others. I think Turkish fire may look appealing to the people of Benghazi, but once it gets closer they might find it also burns. I would like to believe in the honesty of the AKP’s goals after the new election, but first they need to give up their phobia of military coups and writers with a mind of their own.