Turkey in the Syrian Crisis: What Next?
Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad treats Turkish military reprisals as pin-pricks. Nonetheless, while massacres continue inside Syria, confrontations and counterblows proliferate along the country's border with Turkey, including exchanges of mortar-shell fire. But how long will this stalemate continue?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his public comments, is addicted to candor, if not bluster. He condemns the weakness of the United Nations in the face of the Syrian bloodletting, yet is even more dismayed, it seems, to realize that Turkey cannot wage war on the Al-Assad regime. Turkey cannot save Syria; it cannot march to Damascus; it cannot remove the Al-Assad state apparatus, and it cannot reconstruct Syria as a Turkish protectorate.
The Syrian Army is a significant military force, and would respond with a wholesale offensive, devastating poor Turkish villages. The Syrian war is spreading into Lebanon; its extension northward could produce a general conflagration in the area.
For these reasons, and not out of sympathy for the Syrian tyrant, the overwhelming majority of Turks oppose a military campaign against Damascus. The Turkish political opposition calls on Erdogan to renounce his bellicose rhetoric. Turkey will, it is hoped, avoid a war with Syria, even as Erdogan postures as a great military figure and proposes a "vision" for resolution of the crisis.
Erdogan tours the Middle East and in many places is applauded. This, of course, increases his popularity at home. Arab sympathy for Erdogan most likely reflects his adoption of an anti-Israeli stance. He has also called for Islamic unity. "Brotherhood" and "community" are the pillars on which Erdogan has constructed his project for a Muslim-dominated Mediterranean.
Turkish "neo-Ottomanism," combining Islamist supremacy with patriotic fervor, is not limited to Ankara's initiatives in foreign policy. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has made Ottoman nostalgia a central feature of Turkish cultural life. (continue reading...)