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After Friedman and Clinton : back to the empire

Thursday 19 March 2009, by Kerem Balci

We Turks love to be praised. Americans know this. Americans know that “survivors of an empire” do love to be referred to as the “successors of the empire.”

Americans praise the British; Americans praise the French; Americans praise the Chinese… Last week two Americans dragged us into the “Ali im Wunderland” once again.

First, Stratfor CEO George Friedman made us believe that by 2040 Turkey would start appointing governors to the countries established on the former Ottoman lands. Then the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited, asking for the miraculous formula of economic crisis management, humbly admitting that Turkey managed the recent crisis better than the US did.

To be just to the performance of the government, we have to admit that Turkey has done quite well up until now in terms of coping with the global economic crisis, but there is no “tell me how you did this” miracle. It is true that Turkey has an increasing visibility in international politics and a stronger role than ever as a peace broker in its geopolitical basin, but there are no “Sultans of the Horizons” in the picture. Not that I wouldn’t love to be appointed as a governor, say, to Israel, but because the American praises were coordinated and without foundation, I am worried.

The domestic expectations of a return to empire and the rhetoric of the “last Ottoman Sultan” and “Caliph of the last age” and the like only help to increase my worries. These are not justifications of the American praises. These are precisely the social maladies the Americans have detected and decided to usurp.

I am not a conspiracy theoretician. I won’t speculate on what our American friends might be trying to do by praising us. All I know is that we have been badly wound up. How could it not be so? Our women — I mean the women of the NTV talk show — tried to convince the US secretary of state that Turkey is turning into an Islamist country, but Clinton managed to convince them that there was no difference between Turkey and the US, that Turkey was an amazing country and that this healthy mixture of Islam and secularism and modernity was something ... something ... something ...

Friedman on the other hand, is completely right in observing that Turkey’s rivals exist within and are not external. But was his advice that Turkey should prepare itself psychologically to become a superpower a sincere one? I am not sure.

It sounded to me as if he was trying to appeal to the super-ego of the Turks: “Go and rule the cruel Arabs! Go and appoint governors over them! When it comes time to choose foreign rulers, they will choose the Turks. By 2040 you will be ruling all the problematic areas of the world for us. All those terror producing areas, all those poverty hit zones, all those underdeveloped countries of the world, we will let you rule over them and you shall once again be the super-busy-powerless-capital of the world … .”

Does this mean that Clinton’s statements were all fictitious? No! She was truthful when she said that President Barack Obama was going to visit Turkey in April and yet, we misunderstood that, too. Having been flattered so much, our media was too ready to jump to the conclusion that President Obama was coming to Ankara to make the address that has become famous even before he has made it. “He will address the Muslim world!” announced the headlines.

How much more flattery do we need to overcome the need for the flatterers?

This is the absurdity of being a loves-to-be-praised Turk. We love to hear that one day we will rule over our neighboring countries, but we need another country to come and say this to us. We love to hear that Turkey is going to be the superpower of the Muslim world, but we need the leader of the world’s superpower to come and speak in Ankara to that Muslim world in order to crystallize that position. We love to hear that one day we won’t need the European Union, but at the same time we love to hear that the European Union needs us if it wants to become a world power, but at the same time we love to hear that the European Union accession process is progressing well, but at the same time we love to hear that the European Union is afraid of having us as a member and even that they are afraid of not having us as a member.

This is too complicated. Just praise us, Ok ?

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Source: Today’s Zaman 10 March 2009, Tuesday

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