chapter  13
Concluding thoughts
Pages 7

One hesitates to draw firm conclusions about the impact of globalization on the Turkish state, its people and its foreign policy. As noted in the introduction to this volume, it is sometimes difficult to be certain that forces of globalization constitute the major explanatory factor behind shifts in political behaviour and policies, as opposed to more organically indigenous and internal pressures. In any case, processes of globalization, in all their variety, weave into and become integral to how we think and act, and what we think and act about. Thus a heavy dose of ultimately subjective assessment has to be involved, and indeed has been involved, in the preparation of this work. On the other hand, it is evident that the environment, the opportunities and the problems that states and societies face have shifted substantially owing to profound changes in the international system. This volume has sought to identify the key shifts in the operating environment of the Turkish state and society, to explore whether and how those shifts have altered that state and society, and to trace the consequent adaptations made by Turkey, not least in its foreign policy. It has also offered observation and analysis of how forces emanating from within Turkey – ideas, people, products, activities – have themselves contributed to the wider river of globalization processes beyond Turkey’s borders. The circumstances and cognitive mindset of the founders of the Turkish

republic enabled them to embark on an experiment in social and political engineering. They had a vision of how Turkey should evolve, and imagined they could shape the state and society they inherited with little interference, obstruction or, indeed, popular participation. Whenever they met with internal resistance, notably from Islam or dissatisfied Kurds, they acted as if they could simply remove, or at any rate control, the source of friction. Few beyond Turkey’s borders took much interest in this Turkish laboratory. The republic’s founders genuinely believed they could achieve a kind of ideological and political as well as an economic self-sufficiency. However, global developments marched on. The Turkish republic was born into a world far different from the one in which it must today make its way. In particular, in 1923 much of Europe was only uncertainly or not at all democratic, and the continent was rife with conflict rather than bent on integration. Furthermore,

Europe was then rather distant from Turkey. There was relatively little interaction between Turkey and Europe of any kind in either direction beyond the machinations of Europe’s imperial diplomats. Given the destiny laid down by the republic’s founders, European develop-

ments have been crucial to Turkey’s evolving fate. The post-1945 European story has been a remarkable one. It reaches far beyond its institutionalization in the form of the EU and other bodies. Democratization, transparency and the emergence of shared norms are key features of modern Europe. Europe is at the forefront of a mostly ‘soft power’ campaign to spread ‘western’ norms – of human and minority rights, freedom of thought and worship, the rule of law – throughout the world. Turkey aspires to, and is expected to embrace, these norms, and ultimately to join the EU. However, the emergence of this increasingly norm-based international political environment, especially in Europe, was not and could not have been fully anticipated by the republic’s founders in 1923. In any case, throughout Europe’s transformation Ataturk’s followers remained faithful to his vision for Turkey – or, rather, the vision they regarded him as having had – and many still are. Remarkably, they somehow contrived to overlook or discount the fact that Europe had changed profoundly and had become both a major driver behind, and a manifestation of, forces of globalization that in so many ways were eliminating the scope for self-sufficiency and autonomy that Ankara still sought to exploit. Today, millions of Turks live in Europe, thousands of Europeans visit

Turkey, around half of Turkey’s trade is with EU states, the EU is the biggest source of inward investment into Turkey, and modern forms of communication have led to an explosion in the interactions between Turkish and European societies, and indeed those of the wider world. Turks have surely become more ‘Europeanized’ than could have been imagined in 1923, yet what ‘being European’ consists of has altered profoundly, and continues to shift. Turkey may have changed dramatically, but so has Europe. The result is that a gap remains in place. Turkey’s level of economic development, and its attachment to human rights, the rule of law, democratization and civilian control of the military are less than what its European partners would wish. Furthermore, Turkey’s Islamic root is regarded in some quarters as a disqualification for membership of the European family, and is even sometimes suspected of being part of the explanation for Turkey’s tardy political and economic development relative to that of most of Europe. The Turkish relationship to Europe does raise a number of bigger questions of relevance to Turkey, Europe and beyond. Are the West’s ‘globalized’ values in fact western rather than universal, and rooted in specifically western culture and historical evolution – its Christian roots, or the Renaissance, for example? Is Islam compatible with democracy and modernity in their fuller senses? Is Europe, too, in its cautious approach to Turkey, more constrained in its embrace of a globalized world than many of its inhabitants would be prepared to admit?