From the CIAO Atlas Map of Middle East 

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Turkey at the Crossroads

Dietrich Jung

March 1999

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


The articles in this paper are preliminary versions of two papers which were presented at the international workshop on Middle East Globalization and Development in Ålborg, 5-6 November 1998, and at the author’s symposium on Persian Gulf Security in Copenhagen 10-11 March 1999. As first drafts they are not for quotation. Critical comments, however, are very welcome.



In October 1998 Turkey celebrated the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Risen from the “Ashes of Smyrna”, 1   the Turkish Republic set out to become a modern European state after the Treaty of Lousanne (1923) had confirmed its territorial and legal existence. The precarious young republic, which emerged out of the Ottoman defeat and almost had entirely lost its economic élite, became meanwhile a regional power with a set of democratic institutions and a dynamic economy. Therefore, the celebrations on the occasion of the anniversary were clearly justified. Compared to the time of her foundation on the remains of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey indeed has achieved a lot. However, the impressive assessment of 75 years of republican history is unfortunately marred by a bundle of problems and a standstill concerning their political solution. The ongoing war in southeast Anatolia, the confrontation between secularist and Islamist forces, a political élite embroiled in corruption scandals and accused of widespread nepotism, a high budget deficit and a galloping inflation are just some cases that show that the republican success story is in question.

In addition to this bundle of domestic problems, the demise of the Soviet Union changed Turkey’s comfortable geo-strategic position and diminished her “strategic and military appeal for the West”. 2   Turkey’s fast integration into Western institutions was due to the role the country could play in the context of the Cold War. Against this background, European hesitations to accept Turkey’s candidacy for full membership in the EU came as no surprise. With a limitation of her strategic value, Turkey is now confronted with an increase of European criticism concerning her human rights record and the status of her legal institutions. Both domestic conflicts and international change demand for a reorientation of the policies of the Turkish Republic. After 75 years the Kemalist project has to face severe challenges from within and from without, bringing the country at crossroads to decide its future direction in a changing world. Where is this future direction to be sought?

The following articles will address this question on Turkey’s future direction from the perspective of historical sociology. In relating Turkey’s current problems to her particular modernisation process, the “Kemalist project”, the articles want to show that both the domestic conflicts and questions of Turkish foreign policy have to be examined in the light of Turkey’s modernisation from above that started with the Ottoman reforms in the early nineteenth century. In both articles it is argued that Turkey’s current challenges cannot be met, if the Turkish élite keeps trying to deny the continuities between the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. The modernisation of Turkey’s society reached a point where the country has to face its history and the authoritarian legacy of Ottoman habits and statehood.

In emphasising the historical heritage of the country, these articles are related to the historical debate that already started in Turkey. The writings of Kurdish nationalists, Islamists, members of the Alevi community, and so-called neo-Ottomanists are all attempts to counter the official Kemalist history of Turkey from particular perspectives. However, they are all rewriting history with a certain bias to serve their political purposes. 3   Neo-Ottomanism, for instance, highlights the cultural plurality of the Ottoman Empire as a guideline to create a “nonethnic political framework” for modern Turkey, without discussing the shortcomings and suppressive practices of the Ottoman millet-system. Contrary to this rather romantic approach to Ottoman history, the two following articles stress the negative consequences of the Ottoman legacy. They want to show that many of the structural constrains hampering Turkey’s modernisation are linked to the Ottoman past and to the historical and social context of the establishment of the Turkish Republic.

This working paper presents parts of a larger project conducted at COPRI under the working-title Identity Formation and War: the Case of the Ottoman Empire. The project aims to explain how modernisation, identity formation, foreign intervention and war are related to each other. The demise of the Ottoman Empire and the wars and conflicts that subsequently took place on its former territories, on the Balkans and in the Middle East, provide rich empirical material to examine the interrelation of the above-mentioned aspects. The two case studies on Turkey are first results of this larger project. The first article “Towards the West”: Turkey’s Modernisation and its Obstacles has its focus on the domestic development of Turkey and argues that the modernising Kemalist élite itself has meanwhile become a major obstacle to Turkey’s modernisation process. The “Sevres Syndrome”: Turkish Foreign Policy and its Historical Legacy takes up the same argument in order to explain Turkish foreign policy behaviour. The worldview of Turkey’s political establishment and its roots in the security context of the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic are in the centre of this study. All references in the articles refer to the extended bibliography at the end of the working paper.

Besides the academic interest, these articles have also a personal background. They are written on the basis of teaching experience of one year at Bilkent University in Ankara. During this time I had the pleasure to discuss Turkey’s problems with many of my colleagues and with my students at Bilkent University. Furthermore, I lived a year as a welcomed foreigner in Turkey and enjoyed the experience of Turkey’s outstanding hospitality. Although very critical in their tone, these articles are written with a sincere and friendly intention to contribute something that Turkey will be able to meet her challenges and to use the opportunities this country undoubtedly has. To this end strong but friendly criticism may serve more than the hymns of praise some of Turkey’s friends frequently sing.



“Towards the West”! The Modernisation of Turkey and its Obstacles

I. Introduction

“The minarets are bayonets, the domes helmets, the mosques our barracks, the believers our soldiers”. According to article 312 of Turkish Penal Code the former mayor of Istanbul, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, was sentenced to prison for “provoking enmity and hatred among the people”, quoting this sentence in a speech he gave in 1997 in Siirt, a provincial town in south-eastern Anatolia, and he was subsequently removed from his office and banned from further political activities. What is surprising, Erdogan, a leading member of the Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), 4   had taken this quotation from a poem of Ziya Gökalp (1876-1924), a reformist intellectual of the late Ottoman Empire and a major proponent of Turkish nationalism. Moreover, Gökalp, a Kurd from Diyarbakir, was not only a mentor of Turkism but also of Turkey’s orientation towards the West and rightly labelled “the philosopher of the Atatürk Revolution” 5 . In 1923, in his “Principles of Turkism”, he responded to the European challenge confronting the Muslim World as follows: “There is only one way to escape these dangers, which is to emulate the progress of the Europeans in science, industry and military and legal organisation, in other words to equal them in civilisation. And the only way to do this is to enter European civilisation completely.” 6

Whereas the adoption of European science and technique was a common topic of the Islamic Reform movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, linked to figures like Muhammad Abduh or Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, 7   Turkey became in terms of modernisation a unique case in the Middle East. As indicated in Gökalp’s work and politically expressed with the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, for the republican Turkish élite modernisation became synonymous with westernisation or Europeanisation. The so-called Kemalist revolution of the 1920s and 1930s was not only supposed to be a turning-point for the Turkish society, but also the starting-point for “Turkey’s march from the Middle East to Europe”. Against this background, the rejection of the Turkey as a candidate for full membership in the European Union, which took place on the EU-summit in December 1997 in Luxembourg, came as a total shock. It was not just a disappointment of Turkey’s political aspirations, but also a rejection of her Europeaness and, therefore, of the Turkish modernisation project as a whole. 8

The EU-summit justified the rejection of the Turkish application on the basis of the commitment to and the fulfilment of certain political, economic and legal standards required from all possible future member states. In meeting these standards there is certainly a deficit with which Turkey has to cope and the major economic and political obstacles to Turkey’s full-membership in the EU comprise issues such as high inflation, large proportion of agriculture, chronic budget deficit, the Kurdish question and the freedom of speech. Exactly with regard to the last point the cases of Istanbul’s former mayor and of his likewise prosecuted colleague Shükrü Karatepe from Kayseri were quoted and criticised by some representatives of the European Union.

Although the deficiencies of Turkey, regarding to the catalogue of required standards for full membership in the EU, were obvious, the discussion following the Luxembourg summit has been tending into a direction to question Turkey’s application in a more general way. More and more arguments of culture and religion have been raised to ask whether Turkey could at all be considered as a part of Europe. And also in Turkey herself it has been argued that the rejection of the application was not due to political or economic deficiencies, but the result of deep rooted religious and cultural prejudices on the side of some EU member states, the mere fact that they don’t want to have a Muslim state in the “Christian Club of Europe”. This article takes up this discussion about Turkish-EU relations and puts it into a framework intending to shed light on Turkey’s modernisation process in general. What are the obstacles Turkey faces in reaching the point of full integration into Europe? Why have the visions of Ziya Gökalp and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk so far not successfully been achieved? What structural problems are behind Turkey’s deficiencies to meet EU-standards? What is, nevertheless, the European dimension of Turkey?


II. The European Dimension of Turkey

In order to answer these questions, one must start with Europe itself. In talking about the European dimension of Turkey we should give an exact definition what we understand Europe to be today. What is Europe and at what end we are aiming at with the European Union? The self-perception of Europe has changed since the Cold War and formerly clear conceptions have become blurred. Is there a geographical, cultural, historical or political definition to be given? Are the current processes to expand the EU triggered by deliberate decisions or forced by new dynamics that emerged after the demise of the bipolarity in the international order? Without answering these questions it would be meaningless to sketch out the European dimension of Turkey. To scrutinise and reflect on our perceptions of Europe may lead to an answer whether or not Turkey is a part of Europe.

In defining a region, we are mainly inclined to draw geographical demarcation lines. As a matter of fact more than 90 % of the landmass of Turkey belongs to Asia, and the Bosphorus serves perfectly as a geographical demarcation line between Asia and Europe. There is no comparable “natural borderline” north of the Black Sea dividing Ukraine and Russia into distinct European and Asian parts, although both countries are considered as European. Furthermore, the globalisation of the economy—breaking the view of production, distribution and consumption as confined to particular territories -, the shrinking of the world by modern means of communication, and the isomorphism of so-called global cities are transcending natural borders. Transnationalised microeconomic links have been creating a non-territorial region in world economy, 9   and the nation-state defined by its mutually exclusive and fixed territoriality seems to be replaced by the “rise of the virtual state”, a state “that has downsized its territorially based production capability”. 10   Taking these global developments into account, political conceptions no longer coincide with organisational devices of geography, or as the French scholar Bertrand Badie put it in 1995: international political theory is confronted with “La fin des territoires”. 11   Against this background it would be anachronistic to define the borders of Europe just according to geographical features and exclude Turkey because of the mere existence of the Bosphorus. However, if geography has lost its ability to define a region what is going to take the place of geographical devices?

Culture is one suggestion. According to Samuel Huntington the future of the international system will be characterised by a clash of civilisations and the world is subdivided by distinct cultural borders. 12   Though geographical borders have the advantage of visibility, cultural divisions are hardly visible. Generally understood, culture is the demarcation between human and nature, or in the words of the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer: what distinguishes human history from nature are the symbolic artefacts produced by men, such as myths, languages, religions or science. 13   So what are the cultural boundaries of Europe? What have Slavs, Romans, Germans, Anglo-Saxons, Greeks, Albanians, Iberians, Hungarians, Scandinavians and so forth in common, distinguishing them clearly from Turks?

It is out of the question that the language or the mythologies of these people serve alone as points of reference for a shared culture. And the language policy of the European Union reminds us rather of the Tower of Babel than of a mutual understanding. It is true, the overwhelming majority of the above mentioned people are Christian. However, as a world religion Christianity cannot be labelled as European and the influence of Islam on European culture cannot be denied. More than 700 years of Muslim rule left noticeable traces in Iberian culture and language. Albania and Bosnia are Muslim countries already considered as European. With major Muslim communities from India, the Maghreb and Turkey in Britain, France and Germany respectively, Islam has become a common phenomenon in core-countries of the European Union. Moreover, both Christianity and Islam have by origin a common cultural background and have influenced each other during their historical development. Thus, to distinguish Turkey from the whole of Europe by culture is a means to transport hidden interests or prejudice rather than a cogent argument.

While geography and culture do not provide sound arguments to claim a clear distinction between Turkey and Europe, history also reinforces the idea that Turkey has been and is a part of Europe. For centuries the Ottoman Empire was an important player in the European power game and centuries before the Turkish Republic was established it were the Ottoman sultans who already “went West”. On the one hand was the Ottoman conquest primarily oriented towards Europe, on the other the marriage policy of the Ottoman court was preferring princesses of European origin regardless of cultural or religious differences. 14   In the nineteenth century the Ottoman reformers were following the European example in their administrative and military reforms. 15   While the attempts to centralise the state-administration, to monetise and formalise the fiscal system and to reorganise and train the Ottoman army according to European standards of scientific knowledge were aiming at strengthening the power of the Ottoman state against its external and internal enemies, the liberalisation of the citizenship law, granting the mainly Christian religious minorities of the Empire equal rights with the Muslim majority, was a reaction to the pressure exerted by the European powers. And it was at the Peace Conference in Paris, ending the Crimean War in 1856, where the Ottoman Empire was officially recognised as a part of the European state system after Istanbul had enforced a new reform-edict. 16

The Ottoman challenge to counterbalance Russia’s power in the Eastern Mediterranean was later inherited by the Turkish Republic. Like the Ottoman Empire had played for Great Britain, the Turkish Republic played a key role in the US-containment policy against the USSR. In the past years Turkey had to shoulder the economic burden of the double containment policy of the U.S. against Iraq and Iran. The UN-embargo against Iraq alone has caused Turkey economic losses of an estimated 35 billion US-dollars. Indeed, with the demise of the Soviet Union the geo-strategic situation has changed and Turkey does not seem to be a key-country for British and later American security policies. But does this change affect the historical legacy that inseparably binds Turkey’s fate with Europe? A historical legacy that materialised into institutional associations linking Europe and Turkey and strengthened since the Kemalist Revolution by the deliberate political will to be a part of Europe.

The historical and political integration of Turkey with Europe and the U.S. has furthermore been materialised in a number of institutional relations. As a founding member of the Organisation of European Economic Cooperation in 1948, as a member of the Council of Europe since 1949 and NATO since 1952 as well as with the Ankara association agreement with the European Community from 1963 and the customs union with the European Union signed in 1996 it is meaningless to ask whether Turkey is in Europe. And on the occasion of the signing of the Ankara agreement, the then president of the EC commission, Walter Halstein, assured: “Turkey is a part of Europe”. 17   Taking all that into account it seems to be more than understandable that the Turkish side claims a right of full membership in the European Union for Turkey. However, to be a part of Europe does not automatically mean to be in the European Union.

As I have argued so far, the European dimension of Turkey is clearly visible and justifies perfectly considering Turkey as a part of Europe. Whether Turkey becomes a full member of the EU is therefore not a question of Turkey’s geographical location, cultural background or history, but a question of economic interests and political strategies as well as of her ability to achieve the required economic, political and legal standards as fixed by the EU member states in Copenhagen 1993. 18   Many of Turkey’s political leaders have admitted that there are still considerable deficits in their country to meet these standards which can also be considered as major characteristics of modern societies. Thus the Turkish government didn’t claim the immediate admission of Turkey in the EU, but to be an equal candidate for a later full membership along with the states from Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, Turkey has to be questioned why after more than 35 years of being associated with the EU the country has not been able to meet these modern standards, whereas some of the former socialist countries in Eastern Europe have achieved them within a few years? What is wrong with Turkey’s modernisation?


III. Modernisation from Above

The answer to this question must be sought in the specific way the modernisation process has taken in Turkey. Contrary to its revolutionary appearance, the “Kemalist revolution” was in many aspects rather a continuation than a clear break with the Ottoman past. Like the early Ottoman reforms under Selim III (1789-1807) and Mahmud II (1808-1839) and then the Tanzimat-era (1839-1878), the Ottoman reform period with major political and administrative reforms leading to the first Ottoman constitution of 1876 and to a short parliamentarian experience between December 1876 and February 1878, 19   the Kemalist reforms of the 1920s and 1930s followed the same way of imposing modernity from above.

Both the Ottoman and Kemalist reforms were initiated and sustained by the military-bureaucratic élite and aiming at securing the state against external and internal threats. Furthermore, they were an attempt to stabilise the power positions of the army and the bureaucracy representing the authoritarian state. Since the end of the Russian-Ottoman war between 1768-1774, the security and integrity of the Ottoman Empire was continuously threatened by its involvement in the European power struggle and by internal separatist movements. Likewise, the early Turkish Republic was born out of a disastrous security situation: the Ottoman defeat in the First World War, the subsequent parcelling out of the Ottoman territories between the allies and the Turkish war of independence against the Greek occupation of Anatolia (1919-1922).

This legacy, a security focused top-down modernisation against external and internal threats and the leading role of the military-bureaucratic élite in the modernisation process itself, is still clearly visible in Turkey’s polity. 20   With regard to the political institutions of the Turkish Republic, the National Security Council (NSC) is one institution representing this tradition. The military junta first introduced the NSC after the 1960-61 coup. Under General Kenan Evren’s military rule (1980-1983) the NSC was reactivated and formally established as a legal political institution in article 118 of the constitution from 1982 which was written by the army. Today, considered as the most important decision-making institution in Turkey, the NSC consists of the prime minister, the ministers for defence, interior and foreign affairs, the general chief of staff of the Turkish Armed Forces and the chief commanders of the navy, the air force, the land forces and the paramilitarian gendarmerie. Its function is, chaired by the president of the republic, to formulate and implement a national security policy. Although the decisions of the NSC are not binding, the elected governments have routinely enforced what has been decided in the NSC. 21

Recent political developments clearly show that the formally superordinated political representatives of the Turkish State are factually subordinated to the will of the generals. In February 1997 at a meeting of the NSC the military launched a campaign against the coalition government between the conservative Party of the Right Path (Dogru Yol Partisi, DYP) under foreign minister Tansu Ciller and the Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) of Prime Minister Erbakan. The subsequent resignation of Erbakan in June 1997, in Turkey often labelled as a “post-modern coup”, was the direct outcome of this campaign. The later closure of Refah after a verdict of the Turkish Supreme Court in January 1998 had also happened under an intense pressure from the generals. Although the government under prime minister Yilmaz, which was formed after Erbakan’s resignation as a minority coalition of the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi, ANAP), Bülent Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (Demokratik Sol Parti, DSP) and Hüsamettin Cindoruk’s Democratic Turkey Party (Demokratik Turk Partisi, DTP) found the approval of the generals, Yilmaz had soon to struggle with the political influence of the army. His only reluctant implementation of the measures against religious fundamentalism, which had been suggested by the National Security Council, caused a severe power conflict between the generals and the new government.

In addition to this institutional continuities with the authoritarian Ottoman, later Kemalist state, the authoritarian and patriarchal mind-set of many representatives of Turkey’s current élite is strikingly similar to the social habitus 22   of the high bureaucrats of the Tanzimat, like Reshad, Fuad or Ali Pasha, and the officer-groups around Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. While the state-élites of the Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic were mainly derived out of the military-bureaucratic stratum of society, 23   the current Turkish élite shows much more diversification. However, many officers, bureaucrats, politicians, journalists, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, all representatives of the new Turkish élite and in their social fabric a product of the modernisation process itself, share a very traditional and élitist world view that reminds the observer of the perceptions, the normative orientations and the value structures of the Ottoman élite. Generals and bureaucrats, for instance, still consider the state as their property and themselves as the custodians of an institution handed over to them by the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. 24   They both see themselves as distinguished groups staying above the rest of Turkey’s society. 25

Similar to the classical modernising élite of Ottoman origin, Turkey’s current political leaders are often characterised by an authoritarian, elitist and undemocratic habitus. As party leaders they almost completely control the structures of their respective parties and hold the monopoly to distribute from top to down the material and legal resources that are acquired through the state institutions. Turkish parties are wide-spread patron-client systems, and in analysing them, Nimet Beriker came to the conclusion: “It is evident that politics in general has been reduced to a game of capturing public resources and then redistributing them through legal and illegal means. There is an almost complete absence of meaningful debate among the political elite.” 26   Although it is true that Turkey has a relatively free and competitive press, most of the journalists are also supporting the Turkish model of top-down modernisation by the military-bureaucratic élite. 27   On the one hand the mind-set of Turkish journalists is characterised by the perception to be “the guardians of the public interest” and the self-image as “holders of ultimate truths”. 28   On the other hand they show a strong tendency of self-censorship concerning religious issues, the cult around Atatürk, the army, and the Kurdish or Armenian questions. 29

To sum up this brief description of institutional and socio-psychological continuities linking modern Turkey with her Ottoman and Republican past: Turkey has so far not been able to shake off the inherited notion and institution of the authoritarian state and the transmitted undemocratic and non-egalitarian habitus of its military-bureaucratic élite. Around this institutionalised core of the rule of the military-bureaucratic reformers a new modern élite has emerged in the Turkish Republic. Based on a cartel of interest and legitimised with the Kemalist ideology, this élite controls the resources of the modern sectors of Turkish society. However, whereas the social structural background of this élite is modern, their behaviour is characterised by an authoritarian and élitist habitus whose traditional Ottoman background cannot be overlooked. Turkey’s leadership has preserved various traditional forms of social conduct, and the stagnation in the development of Turkey’s democratic institutions is thus completed by an apparent lack on the side of her élites to reflect on their role in the modernisation of Turkey’s society. Both the institutional and spiritual legacy of the authoritarian state and the cartel of interest of Turkey’s current élites, constitute together the major obstacle to Turkey’s efforts to meet the modern standards required by the EU.


IV. The War against the PKK and Turkey’s “Economic Miracle”

With a glance at two of Turkey’s present problems, the Kurdish question and the unfair distribution of income and wealth, the linkage between the historical and structural background of Turkey’s modernisation and her so far unsuccessful attempt to be accepted as European becomes clearly visible. The “military solution” in the southeast led to a deadlock and the attempt to secure the integrity and sovereignty of the Turkish State with the means of force is tending to swing to the other extreme. With the distribution of arms among an estimated number of 80.000 so-called village guards in South East Anatolia, most of them still organised along traditional Kurdish tribal structures, the state has partly passed on its monopoly of force to tribal leaders. Those are hardly willing to hand back these once acquired means of physical force to the state authorities and they are suspected of playing an important role in drug-trafficking. 30   But not only the Kurdish village guards, also the special police forces (özel tim), which were raised to fight Kurdish separatism and are meanwhile controlled by the extreme right-wing National Action Party (Milliyetci Hareket Partisi, MHP), are suspected of being engaged in various fields of crime. 31

The readiness of politicians and state organs to work together with organised crime in their fight against the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) was recently revealed by the “Sursuluk incident”. The revelation began after a car accident in November 1996 in the West Anatolian town of Sursuluk in which Sedat Bucak, a Kurdish tribal leader and representative of the then governing DYP of Tansu Ciller, a high ranking police officer and Abdullah Catli, a right wing terrorist searched by the police, 32   happened to sit together in the car. The report by the Sursuluk Investigation Committee proved how close the ties between the state authorities and criminal gangs are. After more than twenty years of a state of emergency and more than fourteen years of warfare between the state and Kurdish guerrilla forces in the South East, the integrity of the Turkish state is not only threatened by Kurdish separatism, but by a web of Mafia-like structures in which politicians from almost all parties, members of the security forces, some banks and business companies, right wing terror groups, drug-traffickers and money laundrers are involved.

Let us finally have a glance at the reality of Turkey’s economic miracle. With an annual economic growth rate between five and six per cent and, according to the criteria of the “Davos World Economic Forum”, ranking 36th as the worlds most competitive economies, Turkey, in macro economic terms, definitely ranks before some of the other candidates for full membership in the EU. However, these figures represent only one side of the coin. While interest rates up to 15 per cent are achievable for foreign currency accounts, the majority of Turkey’s people are confronted with a galloping inflation reaching 100 per cent in early 1998. The remarkable macro-economic growth is counteracted by a dramatic slump of the real wages of Turkey’s working population. Article 55 of the Turkish constitution stipulates the state’s duty of guaranteeing the Turkish labour force appropriate payment and social security. Reality, however, seems not to agree with the constitutional formality. Turkey’s booming tourism industry, for instance, rests on thousands of bus- and taxi-drivers, on hotel and restaurant staff working for less than 300 US-dollars a month, often without any social security scheme and health insurance. The majority of Turks are excluded from the economic miracle initiated in the 1980s with the abandonment of the Kemalist doctrine of etatism.

Although etatism has been abandoned, the precarious interconnection of the bureaucratic, political and economic élite of the country did not end with the new policy of economic liberalisation. The state is still playing an essential role in the allocation and distribution of rents. Besides high rates of growth, the liberalisation of the Turkish economy also has resulted in widespread tax evasion, the growth of the underground economy and rising instances of bribery, corruption and embezzlement. “The retreat of the state from the economy is, therefore, a myth”, and the process of liberalisation was associated with a “loss of confidence and a decline in the moral authority of the state”. 33   These developments have been accompanied by the rise of political Islam and the confrontation between the Kemalist élite and Refah, a political confrontation that is mirrored in the economic field by the dichotomy of two associations. There is on the one hand the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSIAD), founded in 1971 and located in Istanbul and the Marmara region, representing Turkey’s large conglomerates such as Koc or Sabanci. On the other hand the Independent Association of Industrialists and Businessmen (MÜSIAD), which is rather an association of medium-sized firms, is representing the so-called Islamic business interest, with members distributed all over Turkey. While the members of TÜSIAD are the major recipients of state subsidies and strong supporters of Turkey’s EU-membership request, the members of MÜSIAD receive little or no subsidies from the state, and as financial supporters of Refah they even reject the customs union signed between Turkey and the EU. 34


V. Conclusions

The increasing articulation of Kurdish nationalist ideas, the rise of Refah and its successor Fazilet as well as the organisation of “Islamic business” are aspects of the emergence of a so-called “counter-élite” in Turkey. This counter-elite is increasingly challenging the established dominance of the Kemalist élite in different fields of society. 35   Both the rise of this counter-élite and the growth of the population’s grievances, caused by the regional and social inequality in the distribution of wealth and income, are signs of a decline of the power position of the Kemalist élite. Their modernisation project from top to down seems to be no longer sustainable. Although Turkey is the only country in the Middle East with formally established democratic institutions and a liberal market economy, the majority of her population is still excluded from a real participation in her economic and political potentials. The long tradition of a top-down modernisation led to a cartel of élites almost exclusively controlling the resources of Turkish society. Moreover, the authoritarian and paternalistic mind-set of this establishment hinders the unfolding of a real democratic, pluralistic and socially more just society whose institutions are founded in a strong and self-conscious middle class.

With regard to the question of Turkey’s full membership in the EU, this article must therefore come to a paradoxical conclusion: Apparently it is the modernising élite of the country itself, which ruins Turkey’s prospects of a full European integration. The modernisers themselves cannot anymore keep pace with the modernisation of Turkey’s society. Should the Kemalists have repeated the mistake of the Ottoman Reformers, who according to Ziya Gökalp tried to lead Turkey into European civilisation through only selective reforms which were nothing more than a mere outward imitation? 36



The “Sèvres Syndrome”: Turkish Foreign Policy and its Historical Legacy

I. Introduction: Whither Turkey?

With the demise of the Soviet Union and the subsequent end of bipolarity many states and their respective foreign policy experts are confronted with the uncertainties of a “new world order” in the making and the question where to find an adequate place in this emerging new order. This scenario fits particularly for Turkey that is often characterised for its uniqueness, whether in its geographic dimension, as “overlapping Europe and Asia”, 37   or in the way Turkey combines being Western oriented though Turkish and Muslim at the same time. 38   Under the catch-phrase of an “identity crisis” Turkey’s political identity and future role in world politics is widely discussed both inside and outside the country. However, despite the apparent necessity and shared opinion that Turkey has to redefine her strategic role in the post-Cold-War era, extreme differences occur in the judgements made about Turkey’s future role.

While some authors consider Turkey as a “successful democracy”, 39   as a regional power which will play a central role not only in the region but also in world politics, 40   others come to the conclusion “that the Turkish political system is far from being democratic”, 41   and that the country represents an “unwelcome outsider on the margins of both Europe and the Middle East”. 42   From a “political and economic model for her neighbours”, over the “bridge between Europe and the Middle East”, to an “acquired and uneasy actor in both European and Middle Eastern politics”, Turkey holds a whole range of positive and negative judgements. But where is Turkey’s political future to be sought, in Europe or in the Middle East? Should Turkey play the role of a bridge between the two regions or fall back into isolationist neutrality as in the days of the early Turkish Republic? Or has Turkey to play a more active role in the Middle Eastern security context after the demise of the Soviet Union?

A brief glance at Turkey’s military potentials demonstrates the importance of the country for the security environment of the Middle East. Under the impact of the Cold War the Turkish Armed Forces developed into the second biggest army of the NATO forces. The permanent staff of 514.000 man includes 72.000 professionals, more than 900.000 men serve as reserve. With a large tank force (4.300 combat tanks) that includes 400 Leopard I, and an Air Force of 750 combat aircraft (240 F-16), the Turkish Armed Forces are technologically and in manpower certainly one of the strongest military powers in this volatile region. Furthermore, in an ambitious modernisation program Turkey is going to invest during the next three decades 150 billion US-Dollars, mainly aiming at an enhancement of the combat power of the Air Force and the Navy and to prepare her army for out-of-area operations. 43   This brief survey clearly shows that in terms of military capabilities the Turkish Armed Forces can hardly be matched by any of its neighbours. Therefore, and because the Turkish army lost its major task to contain the Soviet Union, it is supposed to play a pivotal role in the regional security context. Surprisingly enough, Turkey neither appeared on the agenda of a recent Persian Gulf security conference, 44   nor in a new study about Middle Eastern security. 45   Why Turkey has been ignored in these regional security discussions?

One explanation could be that Turkey as a member of NATO and thus involved in the Euro-Atlantic security system simply does not play the above-mentioned pivotal role in the Middle Eastern security context. However, mere facts tell us the opposite. Turkey is not at all detached from the regional security environment. On the one hand there is the Kurdish question which represents the major domestic security threat for Turkey and links it to the internal security of Iran, Iraq and Syria. On the other hand there are still territorial disputes between Turkey and Iraq (Mosul) and Turkey and Syria (Hattay) which together with the Kurdish question and the dispute about the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris can easily cause severe conflicts among these three countries. This tense situation has been further aggravated by the military agreements between Israel and Turkey, 46   two countries that have repeatedly shown their readiness to use military power against their immediate neighbours regardless of international laws and conventions. Furthermore, there are conflicting interests of Turkey and Iran in the Caucasus and the central Asian states. Last but not least, since the late 1940s Turkey became the backbone of U.S. regional foreign policy. Taking into account that Iran as well as some Arab states consider the presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf region as a key problem of regional security and stability, the neglect of Turkey as a regional player is not just surprising but almost incomprehensible.

Against this background the article puts forward the assertion that the neglect of Turkey’s role for Middle Eastern security from outside mirrors the perceptions of its Kemalist élite that has been trying to reject Turkey’s cultural and historical roots in the Middle East. For the republican élite modernisation has been synonymous with westernisation or Europeanisation and in the course of her republican history Turkey distanced herself increasingly from her Middle Eastern neighbours. The argument is that the Kemalist worldview, which is grounded in the historical legacy of the security situation of the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic, still shapes Turkey’s foreign policy. This anachronistic worldview prevents the élite of the country to develop a vision about Turkey’s future role in the Middle East. Moreover, given Turkey’s economic and military capabilities as well as her interconnection with regional conflicts this situation could lead the country into a dangerous confrontation with its neighbours.

In order to explain the persistence of this anachronism of ideas, the sociological concept of the “social habitus”, as developed by Pierre Bourdieu and Norbert Elias, will be applied. As a set of cognitive schemes and ultimate values, the social habitus represents durably installed generative principles which produce and reproduce the practices of a social group. In the following section the social habitus as a theoretical frame of reference will briefly be presented together with empirical examples of the worldview of some representatives of Turkey’s political establishment. It will be shown that the “Sèvres Syndrome”, the feeling of being encircled by enemies attempting the destruction of the Turkish state, is still a feature of the social habitus of the Kemalist élite. In the third part of this article the social habitus of Turkey’s current Kemalist élite will be discussed in relation to its construction during the historical formation of the Turkish State. The equation of internal and external aspects of security as well as the persistence of conspiracy theories under Turkey’s élite are related to this context of social history. The fourth section, then, presents a categorisation of Turkey’s foreign policy in four phases. Based on the assumption of a durable social habitus confronted with a changing political and economic environment, these four phases can be interpreted as steps to more activism in Turkish foreign policy and an increasing involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. In order to explain how domestic security problems are reinterpreted as caused by foreign intervention, the fifth section is dealing with issues linking Turkey’s internal security interests to the Persian Gulf region, mainly to the three littoral states Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The Kurdish question and the wave of political Islam are the two salient points at hand to further examine how regional and domestic conflicts are related to each other. Finally, the article will conclude with some hypothetical policy options and their constraints.


II. Encircled by Enemies: Social Habitus and Turkish Foreign Policy Perceptions

The unexpected and unpredicted demise of the Soviet Union is still causing a lot of turmoil in the field of International Relations. With the end of bipolarity major theoretical concepts have been lost and the hastily announced “new world order” has been rather wishful thinking than the emergence of a new device to help us explain recent developments in the international system. Moreover, the classical state-centred approach of both Realism and Institutionalism is challenged by the rise of so-called critical approaches in IR theory. Those approaches are united by focussing how international politics is “socially constructed”, and claim that these structures are not made only of a distribution of material capabilities, but are also made of social relationships. 47   In accordance with this “constructivist turn”, the foreign policy of a particular state cannot be explained as a pure strategic action following its national interest.

Both Realists and Institutionalists see states as the principal actors in world politics and state action is explained by rational-choice models based on the category of utility maximisation. 48   Foreign policies are thus results of rational choices within constraints, either imposed by the particular choice situation (decision theories) or by the choices of others (game theories). 49   Constructivists, however, emphasise on social structures that shape actor’s identities and interests. Ruggie, for instance, divides social structures into three analytically distinct dimensions: material environments (economic relations), strategic behaviour (the matrix of constraints and opportunities for social actors) and “epistemology” (cognitive and ideological aspects of society). 50   With reference to the last dimension, the social episteme, the conception of the social habitus seems to be an appropriate heuristic tool to show firstly, how these cognitive and ideological structures, which are historically rooted social constructions, are influencing the action of concrete actors. Secondly, the conception of the social habitus can explain how social structures find their way into the mind-set of a specific group of actors.

According to Bourdieu and Elias 51 , the social habitus comprises a system of historically and socially constructed generative principles granting a frame in which individuality unfolds. The worldview, which is rooted in the social habitus, provides a general reservoir of cognitive and normative resources to which individual strategies of action correspond. 52   As a “generative grammar” of patterns of action, the habitus forms the intersection between society and the individual, between structure and action. 53   These generative principles are the means for social groups to shape their particular ways of action in pursuing their interests. Rationally calculated interests are, therefore, transformed into action in the light of this set of ideas. Whereas the historical and social construction of the social habitus stress its liability to change, it remains also to be a relatively stable disposition of groups and individuals, acquired by socialisation. Its an important point for this study that social change and the change of the social habitus do not necessarily go parallel. Thus, in times of accelerated social change the structures of the social habitus might become anachronistic to a changing environment. 54

As aforementioned, a part of the social habitus is the general worldview in which the perceptions of groups and individuals are embedded. In order to asses Turkish foreign policy behaviour in the Middle Eastern region, it is therefore necessary to examine first, how Turkey’s current political élite perceives the region? One general view about the geographical location of the country is that Turkey is “encircled by enemies”. The former speaker of parliament Hikmet Cetin, for example, said in 1993, then serving as Foreign Minister: “Turkey is in the neighbourhood of the most unstable, uncertain and unpredictable region of the world, it has turned into a frontline state faced with multiple fronts”. 60   Even more pronounced was the senior diplomat Shükrü Elekdag who considers “Turkey as besieged by a veritable ring of evil”. 56   Against this general background of being besieged it comes as no surprise that many of Turkey’s current political problems are explained by conspiracy theories.

Especially the extreme right-wing National Action Party (Milliyetci Hareket Partisi, MHP) exploited the Kurdish question and the war between the state and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in claiming “that there is a conspiracy of foreign enemies to use the PKK to destroy the unity of the Turkish state”. 57   President Süleyman Demirel reacted similarly to European instructions to peacefully settle the Kurdish question. Demirel responded that there is no political solution, but to “render these people ineffective by force”. He further accused the West “to involve the Sèvres Treaty to set up a Kurdish state in the region, (...) and that this was what they meant by political solution”. 58   A standpoint also strongly supported by the former leader of the Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), Necmetin Erbakan. In a more recent interview then Interim Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit from the Democratic Left Party (Democratic Sol Parti, DSP) confirmed that there is no Kurdish problem in the country, but only PKK terrorism that is supported from outside in order to divide Turkey. 59

Many representatives of Turkey’s state élite associate, like the Kurdish insurgency, the rise of political Islam in Turkey to a conspiracy from outside. General Fevzi Türkeri, the chief of military intelligence, for example, was pointing out that “political Islam is working closely with Iran and some other Islamic countries to pull Turkey into an endless darkness”. 60   In a remark on Merve Kavakic, the Islamic Virtue Party’ s (Fazilet) Deputy from Istanbul who appeared in the Turkish Parliament wearing a headscarf, Prime Minister Ecevit said in May 1999: “Even though Turkey does not meddle in Iranian affairs, Iran is continually trying to export its regime to Turkey”. 61   Large parts of the Turkish establishment consider Islam as an irrational force. Ali Karaosmanoglu, for instance, is criticising Arab foreign policy as lacking the notion of realpolitik. He explains this deficiency as a result of the merger between nationalism and religion in the Arab world, where Islam infuses an irrational element in national politics. 62

The above described perceptions are best summarised in an article of General Cevik Bir, the former Deputy Chief of Turkey’s General Staff and now Commander of the Turkish First Army Corps in Istanbul. 63   In criticising the position of the European Union towards Turkey, Bir is accusing the EU of excluding Turkey from the new map of Europe. He points out that Turkey’s soldiers and members of the U.S. army were always comrades-in-arms sharing the same visions and a common destiny. Located at the epicentre of regions fraught with crises, Turkey, as a front state, has to be considered as a centre of power that can affect delicate balances of power in the region. While Turkey wants to enhance regional security and stability, some neighbouring states would still lay claim to Turkish territory and some of them support terrorism. Moreover, some states are even trying to export their regime contrary to Turkey’s constitutional order and the moral values of the modern world. Against these threats, says General Bir, Turkey will find the right answer and he ends with the following warning: “Turkey hopes to see its European friends come to the realisation that excluding Turkey from Europe will have extremely high costs which might be vital for all members of the Alliance in the future”.

Generally speaking, Turkey’s élite perceives the country to be in a situation in which her neighbours are permanently threatening its security and stability. Furthermore, many of Turkey’s domestic problems are put down to the interference of neighbouring states and the distinction between internal and external conflicts becomes blurred. Like in the late Ottoman Empire and the Early Republic internal and external security are equated and the army considers itself as the essential institution to safeguard the Turkish state. A standpoint clearly expressed in a statement of Turkey’s current General Chief of Staff, Hüseyin Kivrikoglu. In spring 1998, as then Commander of the Land Forces, he was criticising Prime Minister Yilmaz for not implementing the security measures suggested by the generals in the National Security Council. Kivrikoglu assured “that the Turkish Armed Forces are prepared to fight against all kinds of terrorism and fundamentalism as well as against internal and external threats regardless what it costs". 64

Behind the perceptions expressed in these quotations—being besieged, facing multiple fronts, an encirclement of forces aiming at the destruction of the Turkish State—one can easily detect the historical legacy of the security context in which the Turkish Republic was founded. A radicalisation of the security context, which was also the driving force behind the Ottoman reforms in the nineteenth century. Both the Ottoman and Kemalist reforms were initiated and sustained by the military-bureaucratic élite aiming at securing the state against external and internal threats. Furthermore, they were an attempt to stabilise the power positions of the army and the bureaucracy representing the authoritarian state. The social relations and historical experiences of this state élite can still be discerned as the “Sèvres Syndrome” in the social habitus of Turkey’s current élite. The historical and social background for the construction of this habitus will be addressed now.


III. The Ottoman and Kemalist Heritage

Contrary to its revolutionary appearance, the “Kemalist revolution” was in many aspects rather a continuation than a clear break with the Ottoman past. Like the early Ottoman reforms under Selim III (1789-1807) and Mahmud II (1808-1839), and the reform epoch of the late Ottoman Empire, the Tanzimat era (1839-1878), the Kemalist reforms of the 1920s and 1930s followed the same way of imposing modernity from above. Behind the Ottoman reform movement was not an economically self-confident bourgeoisie, calling for political participation, but the particular interests of the Ottoman court and the higher echelons of the administration and the army. 65   Their common point of reference was the internal and external security of the Ottoman State. It was an attempt to sustain the integrity of the empire and the social position of its élite by means of an instrumental adaptation of modern forms of organisation and scientific knowledge.

Concerning the threats from outside, the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire can be located in the second half of the seventeenth century. The Ottoman defeat at Vienna 1683, the formation of the so-called “Holy Alliance” against the Ottomans in 1684 and the advance of Hapsburg troops in Serbia 1687 are cases in point. After the 1774 peace treaty of Kücük Kaynarca, which ended the Ottoman-Russian war (1768-1774), the empire did not only lose its sovereignty over the Crimea, but was more and more dragged into the ongoing power struggle among the European pentarchy. 66   In changing alliances and confrontations with the European powers, the former challenger of Europe was in the nineteenth century at the mercy of European states. While engaged in warfare with European powers, internal forces started also to rebel against Istanbul.

In the Arab territories of the empire, the expansion of the Saudi kingdom at the turn of the century, the factual independence of Egypt under Muhammad Ali (1805-1848), the search for autonomy of the Lebanese emirate of Emir Bashir Shihab II, and the modernisation and formation of an independent Tunisia under Ahmad Bey (1837-1855) are examples for the dissolution of the Ottoman state from within. Even more dramatic were the events happening in the European provinces of the Empire. The Serbian revolts of 1804-1806 and 1815-1817, the Greek war of independence 1821-1830 or the rebellions in Bosnia and the Hercegovina in 1857 are cases in point, which indicate how precarious the situation for the political élite of the Ottoman Empire was. Moreover, in their struggle with the Ottoman state internal and external forces were joining sides and the Ottoman élite in Istanbul saw itself in an atmosphere of outside conspiracy and inside betrayal.

Against this background it comes as no surprise that the reform efforts of the Ottoman Empire were not guided by a long-term strategy to modernise society, but rather determined by the political events of the day. Confronted with a deteriorating security situation and with the integrity and sovereignty of the state at stake, the Ottoman reforms are a classical example of an imposed modernisation from top down. Although the reforms couldn’t stop the decline, they led to remarkable changes in the social structure of the Empire. As a result of the reforms in the army and in the bureaucratic and the educational system, new social groups emerged who played a major role in the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Furthermore, many of the structural changes and political discussions of the Tanzimat became a platform for the Turkish nation-state. In terms of worldview and social background, the republican élite was a clear continuation of the military-bureaucratic élite of the late Ottoman Empire. This continuation applies in an even more radical version to the security context in which the Turkish Republic was founded.

After heavy territorial losses in the Balkan wars between 1912 and 1913 and the subsequent First World War, a delegation of the Ottoman Sultan signed the treaty of Sèvres in August 1920. This treaty provided for a partition of the Ottoman Empire leaving only parts of Anatolia with Istanbul as capital for the Turks. At the same time Turkey’s republican forces were fighting against Greek occupation forces which landed in May 1919 in Izmir with the consent of the Allies. After almost ten years of warfare, Turkey was about to disappear from the political map due to territorial claims of Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Greece and Armenia. The new republican state itself emerged out of the Turco-Greek war that ended with the victory of the republican forces in 1922. In July 1923 the treaty of Lausanne abolished Sèvres and the sovereignty of the Turkish Republic was acknowledged. However, the Sèvres experience was not forgotten and the integrity, sovereignty and consolidation of the new state continued to be at the centre of the Kemalist reforms.

With respect to the internal situation of Turkey’s formative period, the new Turkish political forces also inherited the complex structure of political actors from the Ottoman past. The leadership of the “Young Turks”, the so-called triumvirate of Cemal, Enver and Talat Pasha, as well as the republican forces under Mustafa Kemal had to defend their position not only against foreign threats, but also against domestic ones. Thus the republican leaders were from the beginning confronted with the power aspirations of traditional local notables, of ethnic and religious groups, and of circles which wanted to restore Ottoman rule. Moreover, the internal fragmentation of the republican military-bureaucratic élite, which was mainly derived out of the members of the Young Turk “Committee for Unity and Progress”, created an increasing potential for the internal conflicts of the newly established republic. The foundation of the oppositional Progressive Republican Party 1924, the Kurdish rebellion under the Naqshbandia Sheik Said 1925 or the assassination attempt against Mustafa Kemal in Izmir 1926 are cases in point. 67   It is this structural setting of external and internal threats and the political theory and action of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk that had been blended into the foundational myth of the Turkish Republic and that in its ideological form, Kemalism or Atatürkism, is still an influential pattern of Turkish politics. 68

The foundational myth of the republic and the political culture of modern Turkey resulted out of this violent struggle with internal and external foes. This experience reinforced the Ottoman heritage of conspiracy and betrayal that already had become a part of the social habitus of the republican élite and has been sustained till now. Thus, it comes as no surprise that in the eyes of the military-bureaucratic establishment of Turkey the Turkish State is permanently endangered. The Turkish military considers itself as the guardian of this endangered state, a task given to the army by Atatürk and their elders. 69   Therefore, any attempt to change the basic principles of Atatürkism is seen as a direct threat for the state. It is against this historical and sociological background that the Turkish foreign policy evolved. However, Turkish foreign policy can be explained in the light of this background, but is not determined by it. The Sèvres Syndrome works as a constraint and the following section shows how rational choices have been made within this inherited constraint of the Kemalist social habitus.


IV. From Isolationism to Activism: Four Phases of Turkish Foreign Policy

During the first two decades of the Turkish Republic the republican regime was occupied with the internal and external consolidation of the new territorial Turkish nation-state. The internal policy of de-Arabisation and de-Islamisation, in which the new élite identified Islamic traditions with the “other”, was extended to the external otherness of the Arab world. 70   Thus, the Kemalist modernisation project directly detached the Turkish Republic from their Arab neighbours. In order to secure the territorial and political integrity of Turkey, Atatürk concluded a series of treaties of friendship. In March 1921 the so-called “national government” signed a treaty with the Soviet Union that was extended in 1925. In June 1926 Ankara accepted that the area around Mosul became Iraqi territory. The treaty of friendship with Greece 1930 and the Balkan Pact 1934 among Turkey, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece was aimed at a normalisation of Turkey’s relations with the former European provinces of the Ottoman Empire. In 1934, Reza Shah of Iran visited Ankara and a number of agreements on tariffs and trade, borders and security were signed between Iran and Turkey in the 1930s. Finally the two countries signed together with Afghanistan and Iraq a non-aggression pact, the Saadabad Treaty of 1937, that later proved to be ineffective during the Second World War. 71

The territorial consolidation of the Turkish Republic ended eight months after the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as in July 1939 the then independent republic of Hatay decided for its integration into the Turkish State. A decision that Syria has never accepted. 72   Although Atatürk was following in domestic politics a clear policy of westernisation, his foreign policy remained indifferent in terms of integration. The normalisation of foreign relations was accompanied by the will to keep the country neutral. His immediate successor, Ismet Inönü, was basically following this line and “insisted on balanced budgets in order not to be dependent on foreign aid”. 73   Furthermore, he tried to keep Turkey neutral during the Second World War, before Turkey eventually declared war against Germany in February 1945. On the basis of the described social habitus of the republican élite, it seems obvious that Atatürk and Inönü were suspicious towards both the intentions of the European powers and the emerging Arab states. As leaders of a state with scarce power resources, however, the Sévres Syndrome led them to pursue a cautious foreign policy which was guided by détente without engagement, 74   by a deliberate neutrality without being isolated from outside.

The second phase of Turkish foreign policy began after the Second World War. This phase was characterised by Turkey’s integration into the western system. With Moscow’s abrogation of the Turkish-Soviet friendship pact in 1945 and Stalin’s demands to return the Kars and Ardahan provinces as well as the establishment of Soviet military bases along the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, Turkey started to seek full affiliation with the West. 75   The security and integrity of the Turkish State, now, could no longer be guaranteed by neutrality and the deep-rooted suspicions against the West had to be overcome. From its previous neutrality Turkey switched to the other extreme and was “acting as if she was a cold war warrior”. 76   Between 1946 and 1959 the development of her alignment with the West to a large extent took place in the form of relations with the United States. 77   The decisions to recognise Israel in 1949, to send troops to Korea in 1950, and to join NATO in 1952 are cases in point. The Cold war pushed Turkey back in a role that the Ottoman Empire already had played. The Ottoman challenge to counterbalance Russia’s power in the Eastern Mediterranean was thus inherited by the Turkish Republic. As the Ottoman Empire had played for Great Britain, the Turkish Republic played a key role in the US-containment policy against the USSR.

Since then, the historical and political integration of Turkey with Europe and the U.S. has been materialised in a number of institutional relations. Turkey was a founding member of the Organisation of European Economic Cooperation in 1948, and is a member of the Council of Europe since 1949 and of NATO since 1952. In 1963 the Ankara association agreement with the European Community was concluded and a customs union with the European Union was signed in 1996. Hence, the internal westernisation of Turkey was completed with the westernisation of her foreign relations.

Turkey began also to play a new role in the Middle Eastern policies of western powers. She joined the so-called Middle East Command (MEC) together with the U.S., Britain and France in October 1951, in the face of Arab suspicion. In June 1952 Turkey supported the Middle East Defence Organisation (MEDO) between the United Kingdom and the United States. Starting with the “Northern Tier”, Turkey became under Prime Minister Menderes the leading regional force to forge the Baghdad Pact among Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey. The Menderes government was thereby not only pushing for the Baghdad Pact, but also tried to intimidate anti-western regimes. In both the Syrian crisis of 1957 and the Iraqi crisis of 1958 the West had to discourage the Turkish government from taking any kind of unilateral military action against her neighbours. 78   Not only were the politics of neutrality abolished, but there was also a first sign of activism in Turkish foreign policy, although restricted by western interests.

The ten years under the rule of the Democratic Party (1950-1960) were characterised by an almost complete westernisation of Turkey’s foreign policy. This westernisation brought Turkey back into Middle Eastern affairs, but as an ally of the West and therefore at the expense of an increased alienation from her Arab neighbours. In contradiction to his western attitude in foreign policy, however, Menderes started domestically a “re-Islamisation” of the Turkish society in order to get support for his populist government. His Democratic Party promised respect for Islamic traditions and presented itself as the voice of the marginalised Anatolian majority. 79   Both the increasing signs of activism in foreign policy and the weakening of secularism in domestic politics, were followed with suspicion by the generals. In May 1960 the Turkish army, the guardian of the state and its Kemalist principles, toppled the civilian government and Prime Minister Menderes was executed in 1961. This second phase of Turkish foreign policy brought about Turkey’s institutional integration into the western world and her increasing isolation in the Middle East. However, the new course of western integration was not due to a change in the worldview of Turkey’s élite, but was rather triggered by security threats from outside and by Turkey’s increasing economic dependency on the West as a political rent-seeker in the Cold War.

The third phase, which can be described as a move towards rapprochement with the Arab world, was also a reaction to the changing political and economic environment. The deep-rooted suspicions against the West never disappeared and were strongly reconfirmed during the developments of the 1960s and 1970s. The Jupiter missile crisis 1962, the Cyprus crises 1964 and 1974, and recently the rejection of the EU to accept Turkey’s candidacy for full membership, are events during which the Sèvres Syndrome with its conspiracy theories re-emerged. 80   Especially the letter of U.S. President Johnson to Ismet Inönü, written during the Cyprus crisis 1964, seemed to prove Turkish suspicion and stirred anti-American and neutralist sentiments. In this letter, Johnson was “cautioning Inönü that if Turkish action on the island would invite a Soviet attack, then NATO was not obliged to defend Turkey”. 81   Another proof was provided by the arms embargo the American government put on Turkey after her military intervention in Cyprus 1974. The attempt to normalise relations with the Arab world was a response to these disappointments with western policies. The Turkish decision not to allow the U.S. to use its military base in Incirlik during the Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973 and Turkey’s recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), whose formal representation in Ankara began in 1979, 82   are examples of her willingness to act against western interests.

While rooted in political problems, Turkey’s rapprochement with her Middle Eastern neighbours was also due to economic problems and to rising Islamic sentiments in her populace. The 1973 oil crisis, Turkish supplies of manpower to Arab states and later the search for new markets in the Middle East were economic aspects of Turkey’s change in foreign policy. 83   In 1973 the Islamic National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi), founded in 1972 by Necmettin Erbakan, joined a coalition government and favoured a withdrawal form the “Western Club”. 84   Although the Democratic Party was instrumentalising religious sentiments in domestic politics during the 1950s, its leadership was still following the Kemalist way. It was not before the rise of Erbakan during the 1970s, that the Islamic politics entered Turkey’s political scene. 85   However, the change in Turkish foreign policy was still reactive, an attempt to adjust to the changing international and regional environment under the dominant principles of the Kemalist habitus.

The fourth phase, characterised by a new quality of activism, started after the military coup in 1980 and was to a large extent related to political decisions made by Prime Minister (1983-1989) and later President (1989-1993) Turgut Özal. His domestic policy of economic liberalisation and gradual Islamisation was accompanied by an active export strategy especially towards Middle Eastern countries. Between 1980 and 1985 Turkish exports to the Middle East increased fivefold, in 1985 64 % of total exports went to neighbouring Iran and Iraq. 86   Turkish exports to Iran rose from 12 million US-Dollars in 1979 to a peak of 1.1 billion in 1985. 87   In the mid 1980s Özal opened the country also for Saudi capital and Turkish-Saudi joint ventures. 88   While the economic ties with the Arab world and Iran steadily improved, the relations with Israel deteriorated further after the coup of September 1980. Ankara recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and relations were not restored to the ambassadorial level until December 1991. 89

Whereas in the 1980s Özal’s new activism was following the pattern of rapprochement with Turkey’s neighbours, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 marks a radical turning point. Meanwhile Turkey’s economic boom with her neighbours had proved to be a passing fancy. Turkey’s export rate with Arab countries was falling, reaching a marginal percentage of 12 % of her total exports in 1994. 90   The export boom to Iraq and Iran in the 1980s was not due to the establishment of solid trade relations, but a result of the First Gulf War 1980-1988 and Turkey’s neutral stand and willingness to trade with both sides. In the run-up to the Second Gulf War (1991) the Turkish President had changed his mind. Özal now saw a chance for a reorientation in Turkish foreign policy. While his diplomats and the army rather advocated a neutral policy, he was eager to play a major role in the US-led coalition against Iraq. Uninformed about Özal’s decision to close the Iraqi oil pipelines and under the President’s pressures to adopt a more active military stance, the then General Chief of Staff, Necip Torumtay, resigned in December 1990. 91

The degree of activism and boldness, that characterises the fourth phase of Turkish foreign policy introduced by Turgut Özal, has still been visible after his death. The new Turkish Israeli axis, re-emerging dreams of Turanism, Turkish military operations in Iraq and the threat of force against Syria in October 1998 are clear examples that Turkey adopted a more active role in Middle Eastern politics. Whereas the reconciliation with the Middle Eastern neighbours was triggered by the dissatisfaction with Europe and the U.S., the reorientation in the fourth phase was due to the volatile decisions of a strong political leader. Although the army and parts of the Kemalist establishment were critical to Özal’s policies, they didn’t escape his impact. They are now on their part proponents of a more activist foreign policy.

Since the end of the Second World War, Turkey was more and more dragged into regional politics, without accepting herself as a part of the Middle East. The powerless threatened state of Atatürk’s time is now a regional power with an attitude to use its capabilities in a more active and independent way. However, this regional activism is not guided by a new vision of Turkey’s role in Middle Eastern politics, but is still under the impact of the traditionalist Kemalist worldview. This is on the one hand shown in the still existent mistrust towards both the West and the Middle Eastern neighbours. 92   On the other hand it is incarnated in the political structure of the Turkish State and the inherited narrow notion of security as limited to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state. A brief glance at the problems of Kurdish separatism and religious fundamentalism with regard to Turkey’s relations with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia makes this more transparent.


V. Kurdish Nationalism, Islamism and Turkey’s Foreign Policy

In a recently published statement, the Turkish Armed Forces reiterated that they will preserve their image “as the Turkish people’s stronghold against all domestic and foreign threats” and will therefore continue their fight against separatism and religious reactionaries. 93   With respect to both targets, Kurdish nationalism and political Islam, issues of domestic security are indeed linked with regional foreign policy. While the Kurdish question and Turkey’s war with the PKK transcends her borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria, the confrontation between the secularist Kemalist state and Islamist forces brings Iran and Saudi Arabia in, both known as supporters of Islamist groups. Thus, the three most important littoral states of the Persian Gulf region, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia play an eminent role in the Turkish security complex. Moreover, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia are also competitors in Central Asia, supporting different political and social forces. This factual overlap of internal and external security concerns has the potential to cause severe conflicts in the region, involving the Middle East as a whole.

The Kurdish question and political Islam are not two recent phenomena, but two major sources of internal conflict of the Turkish Republic from its outset. Therefore, Kurdish nationalism and political Islam are almost by nature interpreted through the prism of the Sèvres Syndrome. In the foundation phase of the modern Turkish state 18 rebellions against the republican regime have been reported between 1924 and 1938 out of which 17 took place in eastern Anatolia and 16 of them involved Kurdish groups. 94   The crucial date for the eruption of these series of rebellions was the abolition of the caliphate in March 1924. The famous Sheik Said rebellion of 1925 clearly shows that in the east-Anatolian resistance against the republican regime a clear distinction between Kurdish and Islamic aspects cannot be made. The Kurdish Naqshbandi Sheik Said was mobilising his followers by denouncing the republican government for its godless policies and he was claiming that he had come to restore religion. 95   What characterised the leadership was even more true for the participants, “ (...) religious and nationalist loyalties cannot be separated: they coincided and were virtually identical”. 96   It was the modernisation of the Turkish society under republican rule itself that resulted in the separation of Kurdish and religious opposition against Kemalism. Therefore, secular Kurdish nationalism is a product of the Kemalist reforms themselves and not the result of foreign intervention.

The close connection between the rise of Kurdish nationalism and the modernisation process in Turkey is also proved by the change in its leadership. Whereas the revolts in the 1920s and 1930s were led by traditional tribal and religious leaders, from 1945 onwards, modern forces within the Kurdish society have become more relevant. The extension of state bureaucracy, the spread of modern education and the growing integration in the world market have contributed to the emergence of a modern stratum of Kurdish society. Until the 1970s Turkey was rather successful in containing the national aspirations of these new social actors. This had happened either through integration into the modern political and economic sectors of Turkish society or through the repressive subordination of radical forces. During the sharpening of the economic and political crisis in the 1970s, when violent clashes among radical right- and left wing groups, and between them and the state authorities, claimed almost daily victims, the Kurdish movement also became radicalised. 97   In 1978 the PKK was founded, based on Marxist-Leninist ideology. In combining nationalists and social revolutionaries, the PKK called for armed struggle against the state and for the establishment of a socialist Kurdish state. The PKK later was the only Kurdish political organisation that managed to reorganise itself after the military coup in 1980. In 1984 the PKK started its guerrilla war in the south-east of Turkey and became a tool in the hands of Turkey’s neighbours.

Like the Kurdish question, political Islam developed within the country and was not stirred from outside. It was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk himself who needed Islam as a component to define the Turkish nation, to form a people out of the ethnically and religiously fragmented Anatolian society. Even the war of independence against Greek occupation forces was sometimes called a holy war. Since the inception of the multi-party system after the Second World War, Turkish politicians have been instrumentalising religious sentiments for political gains: “(...) political patronage became the basic strategy of obtaining votes, in which religion was frequently used for political purposes”. 98   In Turkish politics a double discourse was adopted: “Islam was disestablished as the state religion while religious language was incorporated into the nationalist discourse, without making its conceptual grammar essentially Islamic”. 99   The development of political parties like the National Salvation Party, Refah or Fazilet is therefore nothing more than a logical outcome of both the use of religious language in politics and the existence of strong religious sentiments in Turkey’s population.

Not only politicians, but also the generals tried to instrumentalise Islam. After the civil unrest in the 1970s and the subsequent military coup, Islam seemed to be the means at hand to discipline and stabilise society. In the aftermath of the coup, “the State Planning Organisation prepared a report for the leaders of the 1980 coup suggesting the reintegration of Islamic ethics into public education as a means of consolidating national unity”. 100   In order to achieve a new social consensus it was the state-élite itself that politicised religion under the official banner of a “Turkish-Islamic synthesis”. 101   Turgut Özal further strengthened this new discourse and so both the generals and leading politicians of the 1980s paved the way for the relative success of Refah and its successor Fazilet. With the decision of the National Security Council on February 28, 1997, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Erbakan and to the closure of Refah, the military tried to get rid of a “monster” they themselves helped to create. But meanwhile this Islamic political identity is rooted in a new urban and modern context, brought about by the same forces of social change that are behind the rise of Kurdish nationalism. 102   With the accelerated modernisation of Turkish society, especially during the last two decades, a new modern segment of society has emerged which has challenged the position of the Kemalist élite with new patterns of Islamic and Kurdish identity. 103

Under the traditional Kemalist perception, however, the Kurdish insurgency and the rise of religious parties are attributed to conspiracies from outside. Domestic conflicts caused by social change are thus associated with attempts at foreign political interference. This is clearly visible in Turkey’s relations with her neighbours, in which fields of possible cooperation tend to become battle-fields of confrontation. Although it is true that Syria hosted PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan for more than 15 years, it was not Syria which created the PKK and the national sentiments among Turkey’s Kurdish population. Syrian support for the PKK was a means of extortion in the conflict about the waters of the Euphrates than an attempt to destroy the territorial integrity of the Turkish State. It was used as a tool in the foreign relations between two states historically suspicious of each other. Contrary to the fact that Kurdish separatism is against the security interests of Ankara and Damascus, the Kurdish question contributed to increased tensions between the two states. The same situation, although in a more complex way, applies to Turkish-Iraqi relations.

Since the PKK began its war against the Turkish State in 1984, the Turkish army intervened in northern Iraq not less than 57 times, according to official Turkish accounts. 104   After the Second Gulf War and the Kurdish refugee crisis in Iraq in April and May 1991, northern Iraq became the theatre for major Turkish military operations. In August 1991, almost 5.000 Turkish troops entered northern Iraq to create a buffer zone along the border. More than 20.000 troops backed by tanks and the Turkish airforce crossed the border area to Iran and Iraq in October 1992. In the aftermath of a military operation in March 1995, in which 35.000 Turkish troops went 40 km deep and 220 km wide into Iraqi territory, Turkey’s president Süleyman Demirel publicly spoke about a change in the Turkish-Iraqi border in favour of Turkey. 105   This statement together with operation Murad, during which more than 50.000 Turkish soldiers entered northern Iraq in May 1997, raised suspicions in the Arab world that Turkey could have territorial claims and might want to revoke the Mosul decision of 1926. 106

Operation Provide Comfort, which created a Kurdish sanctuary in north Iraq, brought Turkey in a paradoxical situation. While denying a Kurdish question at home and claiming the up-keep of the integrity of the Iraqi state as a major goal of her foreign policy, Turkey is now fully embroiled in the Kurdish struggle in northern Iraq and participates in the upholding of its de facto division. On the one side Turkey wants to avoid a Kurdish “buffer state” in northern Iraq and therefore a possible spill-over of Kurdish self-determination. On the other side her war against the PKK allies Turkey with Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which for decades has been a major force in the Kurdish struggle with Iraqi regimes in Baghdad. 107   In March 1991 representatives of the KDP and of its Kurdish adversary, Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) were invited to visit Ankara. A U-turn of the previous policy of not contacting the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. 108   Meanwhile Barzani and his KDP, who was in the 1970s fighting the Baathist regime in Baghdad supported by the CIA and Iran, became the main ally in Turkey’s fight against the PKK in northern Iraq, receiving military and logistic support.

The results of the Second Gulf War and Özal’s reorientation turned out to be not a new chance, but a new predicament for Turkey’s foreign policy. There is now the permanent danger of a complete disintegration of the Iraqi State, which would have a tremendous impact on the Kurdish question in Turkey. Furthermore, Turkey’s military interventions in northern Iraq evoked new suspicions in Baghdad and the Arab world over Turkish irredentist claims to the Mosul province. Both issues became confused with the water issue and the question about the reopening of the two oil pipelines between Iraq and Turkey. In addition to this climate of increasing mistrust and suspicion, Turkey is confronted with enormous economic losses due to the embargo against Iraq. According to senior officials in the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs the Turkish economy had to bear a loss of around 40 billion U.S.-Dollars since the end of the Second Gulf War. 109   This negative economic situation has been further aggravated by the U.S. containment policy against Iran.

Contrary to Iraq, whose current problems are mainly linked to its lack of a tradition of statehood, Turkey and Iran have the historical background of patrimonial and imperial rule. Their current frontiers were established under the Treaty of Zohab in 1639, and although the history of Iranian-Turkish relations has not always been characterised by a friendly neighbourhood, territorial claims do not exist. In spite of their cooperation in the Baghdad and Cento pacts, a mutually shared mistrust towards the other side always exists. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979 the ideological difference between Ankara’s secularism and Tehran’s Islamism has aggravated Turkish-Iranian tensions over issues such as the Kurdish question, Turkey’s alliance with the West, and competing interests in the post-Soviet Republics. While Armenia and Iran provide “physical obstacles” to Turkey’s entry into the Caucasus and Central Asia, 110   Turkish nationalism in Azerbaijan poses a threat to the national integrity of Iran. This was especially apparent during the early 1990s, as the then Azeri President Elchibey used a heavy Azeri and pan-Turcic rhetoric and nationalistic political claims to unite “northern and southern Azerbaijan” became known. 111

Whereas the pan-Turkic wave has almost faded away, 112   the Kurdish question is still a major source of tension. For a short period from 1992 to 1995, Turkey, Iran and Syria tried to coordinate their policies towards northern Iraq in order to prevent a Kurdish state. 113   However, the common ground of those Tripartite conferences was dissolved with the outbreak of warfare in northern Iraq between the KDP and PUK in 1996. Since then the three states are again supporting their Kurdish clients: Turkey the KDP, Iran the PUK and Syria the PKK. 114   Besides Iranian support for Talabani’s PUK, there is an rather unsubstantiated support for the PKK from Iran. Turkish sources are talking about an estimated number of 35 PKK camps on Iranian territory. 115   Moreover, Iran is suspected of supporting Hizbullah, a terrorist organisation close to PKK, operating in Turkey and aiming at the establishment of an Islamic state in the Kurdish areas. 116   These Turkish accusations are countered by Iranian allegations that Turkey harbours opponents of the regime in Tehran and supports the Mujaheddin-e Khalq. 117

While Pan-Turksim and Kurdish nationalism have always been possible sources of tension between Turkey and Iran, the ideological conflict has further increased them. Right after the revolution, Khomeini condemned Kemalism and Iranian representatives have frequently refused to visit the mausoleum of Atatürk while on an official visit in Ankara. Furthermore, the Iranian regime has produced anti-secular propaganda material that has been smuggled into Turkey. 118   The domestic rise of Islamist political forces could therefore easily be attributed to foreign intervention. How this situation affects the bilateral relationship between Turkey and Iran was clearly shown by the “Jerusalem incident” in Sincan, a small town in the vicinity of Ankara. On 1 February 1997, the mayor of Sincan, who was a member of the Islamist Refah party, organised a rally to protest the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. During the event, placards supporting Hizballah and Hamas were displayed and the Israeli-Turkish agreements were denounced in the presence of the Iranian ambassador. Three days later tanks turned up in Sincan, the mayor was arrested and the ambassadors were mutually withdrawn from Ankara and Tehran. 119

Although the support of Islamist groups in Turkey is mainly attributed to Iran, Saudi money, rather than political influence also plays a role. With the economic opening for Saudi capital in the 1980s, Turkey also attracted the influx of “ideological money” from non-governmental organisations in Saudi Arabia. At this time even Turkish imams in Europe were financed by Saudi money with the consent of the Turkish government. 120   It is apparent that Saudi money contributed partly to the Islamisation of the Turkish society, although Saudi Arabia has no interest in destabilising Turkey. However, both countries are competitors in the Middle East and Central Asia, where Saudi Arabia is using its monetary resources as well as Sunni Islam as a means to enhance its influence. 121   That Turkish-Saudi relations still bear the historically rooted mistrust and suspicion between Turks and Arabs was proved by the “cool reception given by Saudi Arabian officials to Turkey’s offer to send troops during the Gulf War”. 122

To sum up: although there are apparent links between Turkey’s domestic conflicts and the above-mentioned neighbours, the roots of the Kurdish question and of political Islam are within Turkish society. The neighbours just capitalise on Turkey’s unsolved social conflicts. In these conflicts the traditional Kemalist establishment is confronted with the claims of a “counter-elite” to participate in the political and economic sectors of society. The exclusiveness of “Kemalist enlightenment”, a legacy of Turkey’s top-down modernisation and its conservation in the social habitus, is losing its legitimacy. Under the dominant Kemalist worldview this domestic conflict is perceived as an attempt to destroy the integrity of the Turkish State. Again internal and external threats are equated, internal social conflicts interpreted as a result of external interference that has to be countered by force. The factual overlapping of domestic causes and foreign support of terrorism especially in the Kurdish question seems to marshal evidence for this conspiracy theory. With regard to the reaction of Turkey’s Kemalist élite and the quotations in section two of this article, it’s hard to tell conviction and instrumentalisation apart. Most likely it is both. On the one hand the instrumental usage of threat perceptions attached to the Sèvres Syndrome to legitimise the endangered position of a privileged élite. On the other hand the expression of a social habitus still guiding the political action of an élite that has lost the pace of social change it once has initiated.


VI. Conclusions

This article sets out to shed light on the question of the future of Turkish foreign policy and whether the country should play a more active role in the Middle Eastern context. The question has partly been answered by the factual development of the Turkish Republic. From the Menderes era onwards, Turkish politicians became gradually more activist in their foreign policies and more involved in Middle Eastern affairs. The demise of the Soviet Union added new challenges and opportunities to this general development and at the same time Turgut Özal introduced previously unknown patterns of activist behaviour into Turkish foreign policy. Adding Turkey’s economic interests and her security concerns related to the Kurdish question and political Islam, there can be no doubt that the country is already highly involved in the Middle Eastern scene. Furthermore, the economic and military agreements between Israel and Turkey introduced a new power axis into Middle Eastern politics that will have a major impact on regional security. Thus, factual developments in the international system and the region forced Turkey to become a regional player and to confront her Ottoman legacy. 123

This confrontation with the Ottoman legacy and Turkey’s historical and cultural roots in the Middle East brings us back to the social habitus of the Kemalist élite. Although the structural environment of the region and the social and economic structure of Turkey’s society have changed, the Turkish establishment is inclined to perceive the region and Turkey’s position still in categories of the 1920s. This applies not only to foreign policy perceptions, but also to the way the Kemalist élite is dealing with domestic problems. These problems are not due to the fact that the country is a “torn state” in the sense of Huntington’s analysis, 124   but grow out of a society with a high proportion of uneven developments. The coexistence of an individualised urban society in the western cities with tribal societies in the east, the blend of modern and traditional values among its youth, 125   the mushrooming of nepotism and corruption under the impact of an accelerated neo-liberal reconstruction of the economy, these are examples for a modernising country in which traditional forms of social integration give way without being sufficiently replaced by modern ones.

Like in its reaction to the changing regional environment, the Kemalist establishment reacts to the domestic challenges according to the same anachronistic patterns of interpretation. The attempt, however, to stop this process of social disintegration by the means of authoritarian corporatism is bound to fail. The unitarian idea of a corporatist society of the 1920s has to give way to a pluralistic approach to reintegrate Turkey’s population based on a consensus of identity as diversity. The major threat to the integrity of the Turkish State is not posed by foreign powers with territorial ambitions as it was at Sèvres, but is caused by centripetal societal forces that are themselves a result of the Kemalist modernisation project. Although the process of redefining Turkey’s social identity is in full process, the uncompromising reaction against Kurdish nationalism and political Islam and their association with foreign intervention could lead to destructive political decisions, making Turkey a predicament for regional stability.

The future role of Turkey depends on the ability of her élite to come to terms with its own history and its Ottoman and Kemalist legacy. To assume an appropriate regional role, Turkey has to overcome the Sèvres Syndrome so that feelings of suspicion and encirclement could give way to a new self-confidence based on the material capabilities the country has achieved. A self-confident, pluralistic and democratic Turkey would have a major impact on the region. It could spearhead the forces of economic and political integration and play a decisive role in pacifying the conflictive Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Turkey, then, could develop into a cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East. The contentious issues of Central Asia, the Kurds, Water etc., need not necessarily lead to confrontation. On the contrary, once escaped out of the Sèvres trap, they could provide opportunities for cooperation between a strong and self-confident Turkey and her neighbours.

However, Turkey won’t be able to shake off its historical ballast and to develop a post-Kemalist vision without assistance from outside. On the one hand, the European Union had to revoke the Luxembourg decision of 1997, a historical mistake as many observers see it now. 126   The solution of the critical domestic situation in Turkey needs the “strait-jacket” for reforms provided only by an accession strategy to the EU. The revitalisation of Turkey’s European track would support her civil society in its fight against a new stream of nationalist isolationism within the state élite. On the other hand one has to understand that in the current situation any attempt for confidence building in the region bypassing Turkey can be counterproductive. Under the present conditions it could be very likely that the Turkish élite will perceive any security regime in the region by-passing Turkey as a direct threat to the Turkish State.

Ironically, from the Turkish perspective, a cooperative security arrangement among the countries of the Persian Gulf region or the Middle East could then lose its cooperative character. It could be perceived as a collective security arrangement of Iran and the Arab world targeting Turkey as their mutual foe. Neither Turkey nor their neighbours should deny the Ottoman legacy and the strong impact the decline of the Ottoman Empire had on both the modernisation of Turkey and the formation of states in the region. Therefore, any security regime concluded in the “Greater Middle East” that does not include Turkey to some extend, could swing to the other extreme and increase instability in the region. 127   If cooperative security stresses informal cooperation and dialogue between regional states as well as the development and implementation of agreed principles among theses states, 128   the inclusion of Turkey in this process seems to be a must.




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Note 1: The Ashes of Smyrna” is the title of a novel about the Turkish war of independence by Richard Reinhard.  Back.

Note 2: Karpat 1996: 2  Back.

Note 3: See: Mango (1994), Vorhoff (1998) or Yavuz (1997 and 1999).  Back.

Note 44: The Refah Partisi had been closed down in January 1998, its immediate succesor is the Fazilet Partisi (Virtue Party).  Back.

Note 5: So Robert Devereux in his introduction to Ziya Gökalp’s “The Principles of Turkism” (1968:X).  Back.

Note 6: Gökalp (1968: 45-46).  Back.

Note 7: With regard to this intellectual movement see the classical study of Hourani, Albert 1983: Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939, (first Oxford University Press 1962) Cambridge: CUP.  Back.

Note 8: For a cogent critique of the Luxembourg decision see: Bayart (1998: 16-17).  Back.

Note 9: See: Ruggie, John G. 1993: Territorialtiy and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations, in: International Organization, 47/1, 139-174 (pp. 172-174).  Back.

Note 10: Rosecrance, Richard 1996: The Rise of the Virtual State, in: Foreign Affairs, 75/4, 45-61, (p. 46).  Back.

Note 11: See: Badie, Bertrand 1995: La fin des territoires, Paris: Hachette.  Back.

Note 12: Huntington, Samuel 1996: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon & Schuster.  Back.

Note 13: Ernst Cassirer elaborated his cultural theory in a series of books under the title: “The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms”.Cassirer, Ernst 1953-1957: The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, translated by Ralph Manheim, 3 bd., New Haven.  Back.

Note 14: See: Gost (1994: 141).  Back.

Note 15: Compare: Lewis (1961), for a detailed account of the Ottoman Reforms in the second half of the nineteenth century see: Davison (1963).  Back.

Note 16: Schölch (1987: 403-405).  Back.

Note 17: Cited in Steinbach (1996: 233).  Back.

Note 18: Some of the preconditions stipulated in Copenhagen are the guarantee of a democratic order by stable political institutions and the protection of human and minority rights.  Back.

Note 19: For a detailed study on this constitutional period in the Ottoman Empire see Devereux (1963).  Back.

Note 20: A good example of the spirit of this legacy represents a statement of the General Staff against critics of the military, published in the Turkish Daily News (January 11, 1999). In this statement the generals point out: “The place of the army is very important in the Republic of Turkey which emerged from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire by challenging the strongest nations of the then-world”.  Back.

Note 21: See: Heper/Günay (1996: 645).  Back.

Note 22: The “social habitus” is a sociological concept introduced by Pierre Bourdieu. The habitus consists of a set of classificatory schemes and ultimate values which as durably installed generative principles produce and reproduce the practices of a social group. Bourdieu, Pierre 1979: La distinction: critique sociale du jugement, Paris: Editions de Minuit  Back.

Note 23: According to the figures of Weiker, 85 per cent of the bureaucrats and 93 per cent of the officers in the early Turkish Republic had already acquired their positions in the late Ottoman Empire. Another clear sign of élite continuity. (Weiker 1981: 21).  Back.

Note 24: Mehmed Ali Birand (1991), a Turkish journalist, provides an interesting study about the internal structure of the Turkish Armed Forces and the “making of an officer” in his book “Shirts of Steel”.  Back.

Note 25: See: Heper (1993: 38-40)  Back.

Note 26: Beriker (1997: 449).  Back.

Note 27: See: Alpay (1993: 70-78).  Back.

Note 28: Heper/Demirel (1996: 121).  Back.

Note 29: See: Alpay (1993: 83).  Back.

Note 30: According to official Turkish sources, more than five tons of hashish and three tons of heroin were seized by Turkish police in 1998. Alone the amount of seized heroin represents an increase of 50 per cent compared to 1997. (Turkish Daily News, 21. December 1998). Official figures of the ministry of interior give the number of 23.000 village-guards having been dismissed for being involved in criminal actions (Erzeren 1997: 24).  Back.

Note 31: Seufert (1998: 390).  Back.

Note 32: Catli began his criminal career in the Grey Wolves movement of the extreme right-wing MHP under Alparslan Türkesh. Despite his involvment in organized crime he also commanded death squads operating in the South East of Turkey. The Sursuluk incident revealed that Catli had been protected by the former minister of interior, Mehmet Agar (Erzeren 1997: 43).  Back.

Note 33: Önish (1997: 752).  Back.

Note 34: Önish (1997: 758-759).  Back.

Note 35: Concerning this conception of “counter-élites” compare the article of Göle (1997).  Back.

Note 36: See: Gökalp (1968: 39).  Back.

Note 37: Carley (1996: 3).  Back.

Note 38: Eralp (1996: 93).  Back.

Note 39: Göle (1997: 47).  Back.

Note 40: Fuller/Lesser (1993: 163).  Back.

Note 41: Türsan (1996: 216).  Back.

Note 42: Robins 1991: 16.  Back.

Note 43: Data from Korkisch (1999: 140) and Nato’s Sixteen Nations & Partners for Peace—Defence and Economics in Turkey; Pillar of Regional Stability”, Special Supplement, edited by Manfred Sadlowski, Bonn 1998: Moench.  Back.

Note 44: “The Ninth International Seminar on Persian Gulf: Present Realities and Future Perspectives”, Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran (Feb., 22-23, 1999).  Back.

Note 45: Although Turkey is mentioned as particular important (Jones 1998: 19), only one of the participants/experts came from Turkey. Furthermore, Turkey is excluded from the Middle East by definition (22).  Back.

Note 46: For the Turkish-Israeli agreements see the article of Wolfango Piccoli in this book.  Back.

Note 47: Wendt (1995: 71-73).  Back.

Note 48: Compare: Keohane (1993: 288).  Back.

Note 49: Bohmann (1991: 67 pp.).  Back.

Note 50: Wendt (1995: 72); Ruggie (1993: 152-160).  Back.

Note 51: See: Elias (1988: 244)  Back.

Note 52: Bourdieu (1992: 33).  Back.

Note 53: Bourdieu (1992: 33).  Back.

Note 54: Müller (1986: 164).  Back.

Note 55: Quoted in: Mufti (1998:33).  Back.

Note 56: Quoted in: Mufti (1998: 34).  Back.

Note 57: Quoted in: Arikan (1998: 127).  Back.

Note 58: Quoted in: Gözen (1997:119).  Back.

Note 59: Interview with the Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit in: Die Zeit, No. 13, 25. März 1999, p. 15.  Back.

Note 60: Quoted in: Meyer (1999: 496).  Back.

Note 61: So the official turkish news agency Anatolia, 9 May 1999.  Back.

Note 62: Karaosmanoglu (1985: 68).  Back.

Note 63: All quotations from: Cevik Bir: Turkey’s Role in the New World Order, in: Strategic Forum, Institute for National Strategic Studies, Number 135, February 1998.  Back.

Note 64: Turkish Daily News, April 1, 1998.  Back.

Note 65: Davison (1963: 6-8).  Back.

Note 66: Russia, Hapsburg, Prussia, Britain and France.  Back.

Note 67: For an detailed description and analysis of these developments, see: Zürcher (1984 and 1991).  Back.

Note 68: It is worth to mention that one of the last founding members of the Turkish Republic, Ismet Inönü, died in 1973.  Back.

Note 69: See: Birand (1991: 23).  Back.

Note 70: Yavuz (1998: 27).  Back.

Note 71: Pahlavan (1996: 71).  Back.

Note 72: The decision was based on the Franco-Turkish agreement of 1921 in which France acknowledged the existence of a Turkish majority in the province inhabited by Turks and Arabs. In 1937 Hatay was supposed to become an independent territory, however, represented by Syria in foreign affairs. Elections in July 1938 resulted in a thin Turkish majority in the newly established parliament that declared the independent Republic of Hatay. (Steinbach 1996: 149-150).  Back.

Note 73: Heper/Keyman (1998: 260).  Back.

Note 74: For relations between Arab nationalists and the Turkish republican movement see: Eppel 1992 and Tauber 1994.  Back.

Note 75: Mufti (1998:41).  Back.

Note 76: Gözen (1995:74).  Back.

Note 77: See the introduction of: Karpat (1975: 3).  Back.

Note 78: Sever (1998: 75-85).  Back.

Note 79: Yavuz (1997: 24).  Back.

Note 80: An interesting account of this suspicion can be found in Heper/Öncü/Kramer (1993). The book comprises a number of articles on structure and mind-set of social groups in Turkey such as the military, journalists, bureaucrats, politicians etc.  Back.

Note 81: Bilge Criss (1997: 119).  Back.

Note 82: Gözen (1995: 74-75). For a detailed account of Turkish policy in the Palestine question see: Aykan 1993.  Back.

Note 83: In 1975, for example, Turkey and Libya agreed about 600.000 Turkish workers to be supplied to Libya (Aykan 1993: 98).  Back.

Note 84: Karaosmanoglu (1985: 76).  Back.

Note 85: Erbakan entered the Turkish Parliament as an independent candidate in 1969 and founded the National Order Party (Milli Nizam Partisi) in 1970. After the National order Party was closed down for violating the constitution, Erbakan formed in 1973 the National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi) which served in several coalition governments until it was closed down during the coup of 1980 (Gülalp 1999: 22; 33)  Back.

Note 86: Dalacoura (1990: 210).  Back.

Note 87: Eralp (1996: 101).  Back.

Note 88: Bagis (1985: 87).  Back.

Note 89: Yavuz (1997: 24).  Back.

Note 90: Yavuz (1997: 27).  Back.

Note 91: Mufti (1998: 44). For an account of these events from Torumtay’s memoirs, see: Hepper/Günay (1996: 626-629).  Back.

Note 92: The perceptions of encirclement quoted in the second section may be a proof of this insecurity feeling.  Back.

Note 93: So in a pamphlet published by the General Chief of Staff on April, 8, 1999. (Turkish Daily News, April 9, 1999).  Back.

Note 94: Kirisci (1998: 74).  Back.

Note 95: Olson (1989: 95).  Back.

Note 96: Bruinessen (1992: 299).  Back.

Note 97: For a study about this crucial phase of radicalisation and insurgency in Turkey, see: Sayari/Hoffmann 1994.  Back.

Note 98: Heper/Keyman (1998: 259).  Back.

Note 99: Cizre-Sakallioglu (1998: 16).  Back.

Note 100: Yavuz (1998: 29).  Back.

Note 101: Yavuz (1998: 30).  Back.

Note 102: Compare: Yavuz (1998: 25).  Back.

Note 103: Compare the article of Göle 1997 and her notion of “counter-elite”.  Back.

Note 104: Gunter (1998: 40).  Back.

Note 105: Former President Özal and the founder of the extrem right-wing MHP, Alparslan Türkesh, are also known for loudly contemplating about the “Mossul question”.  Back.

Note 106: Gözen (1997: 110) and Gunter (1998: 36-38).  Back.

Note 107: Compare: Marr (1996: 54-56). Since 1945 the Kurdish organisations in Iraq fought in six wars against the regime in Baghdad (Jung 1997: 340-342).  Back.

Note 108: Aykan (1996: 347).  Back.

Note 109: This is the figure mentioned by representatives of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara, interviewed by the author on April 7, 1999.  Back.

Note 110: Eralp (1996: 88).  Back.

Note 111: Eralp (1996: 106).  Back.

Note 112: See: Bal 1998.  Back.

Note 113: Gunter (1998: 35).  Back.

Note 114: For a good account of the intra-Kurdish fighting, see the articles of Gunter (1996a;1996b).  Back.

Note 115: Interview with the Foreign Policy Institute (see: endnote 71).  Back.

Note 116: So senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara during an interview conducted by the author on April 8,1999. About Hizbullah see the article in Turkish Daily News of April 2, 1999.  Back.

Note 117: Calabrese (1998: 76).  Back.

Note 118: Dalacoura (1990: 211-218).  Back.

Note 119: Yavuz (1997: 22).  Back.

Note 120: Dalacoura (1990: 218).  Back.

Note 121: Pahlavan (1996: 84).  Back.

Note 122: Birand (1996: 172).  Back.

Note 123: Compare: Karpat (1996: 2)  Back.

Note 124: Huntington comes to the conclusion that Turkey as “a torn country,..., has a single predominant culture which places it in one civilization but its leaders want to shift it to another civilization.” (Huntington 1996: 138).  Back.

Note 125: Konrad Adenauer Foundation 1999: Turkish Youth 98. The Silent Majority Highlighted, Ankara.  Back.

Note 126: Bayart 1998.  Back.

Note 127: For the term “Greater Middle East” see the article of Gulshan Dietl in this book.  Back.

Note 128: Jones (1998: 9).  Back.