Following the visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the EU Council Charles Michel to Turkey, and the seating debacle that ensued thereafter, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s statements targeting President Erdogan are making headlines across the globe.
Even though statements by both France and Germany insistently say that Turkey bears no responsibility in the matter, which has been dubbed as a”protocol crisis,” however it seems to have added fuel to the fire of the power struggle among themselves.
This rings true for Turkey as well. Turkey’s opposition is also trying to pin the blame of the rivalry between France, Germany and Italy on Erdogan as well. By basing their claims on the fact that Ursula von der Leyen is a woman, the conservative opposition is adding a sexist dimension to the protocol crisis and taxing the blame on Turkey and Erdogan. In the new discourse that the Biden administration is trying to construct, the gender issue is being underscored. The conservative opposition wants to dissipate Erdogan by involving the U.S. in the process. Both the Turkish opposition and foreign countries are trying to reconstruct themselves through Turkey and Erdogan.
This is not the first time Turkey is facing such a situation. After the 19th century, when the imperialist era reached its peak, this problem has been constantly recurring.
Along with European states, the U.S. and their representatives are trying to revive the concepts of Orientalism. As will be remembered, Karl Wittfogel's concept of oriental despotism gained fame with the book he wrote under the same name and gave legitimacy to all kinds of imperialism. The foundation of the smear campaigns against President Erdogan are also based on the same perception. The fact that the Turkish opposition are tripping over each other to breathe life into orientalist concepts once again is another matter worth discussing. The adoption of discourses that evoke the concept of oriental despotism in a political environment where the conservatives are also dragged into opposition indicates that mentality shifts are shocking and extensive.
We need to attach significance to the new concept of imperialism. In the final era of the Ottoman Empire, a spectacular mobilization can be observed. Following all the developments of the imperial age, the Ottoman Empire implemented the zeitgeist which that age required. It is unfortunate that this period is ascertained as the Ottoman Empire’s “collapse.” If we just take a look at the changes implemented in education, this great effort becomes apparent. The intellectual movement that tries to understand and define its age and produces concepts according to it is at an admirable level. However, this period, too, was undermined because of the debates centering around progress and tradition.
The concept of oriental despotism hindered this period against being assessed for what it really was. It is the same today. The fact that the new concepts of imperialism and new Crusader Wars are not being discussed enough is trying to drive Turkey’s struggle today into oblivion. But this time it is clear that the situation is different.
Of course, it isn’t right to reduce the concept of cultural superiority to having the right to set the global agenda. However, the fact that the internal opposition and imperial states are trying to build themselves up by using Erdogan and Turkey points to a Gordian Knot today. Europe and the U.S. are struggling to reinvent themselves and produce solutions. Naturally, this situation is projected on the entire bloc. The internal opposition on the other hand are trying to determine their position according to the moves that Erdogan makes. A certain novelist who is a Nobel Laureate made their position clear after the U.S. branded China as its enemy. Novelists of the past century have taken positions according to France’s foreign policy. The picture of desperation both at home and abroad indicates that the concepts of cultural superiority and determining discourse need to be re-evaluated. We are now talking about a new reality; one is which the West has lost its superiority to determine the discourse of the world. However, the change lies far deeper. The Atlantic-centered world is collapsing, and they’re trying to reinvent themselves by using President Erdogan.
Turkey was at the center of the world before, too. The Seljuk and Ottoman empires formed the chains of a great state legacy. It’s important to know how to act in every possible situation. Furthermore, it is a great privilege to know how to act when one is rising. The great state tradition also points to rules of protocol. However, we need to take a closer look at the concept of cultural superiority. We are living in a time where Turkey is a determining force in shaping the global agenda.