31 January 2010 – Political Opinion
While most Arab states are basking in their impotence and bickering amongst themselves over a long list of issues, Turkey is slowly, but definitely, asserting itself as a leading power in the Middle East, besides Israel and Iran. Turkey, especially under the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been taking, and continues, to take strident steps in expanding its influence eastward, effectively grooming itself for the auspicious title of the leading state in the Sunni Muslim world.
The Turks are filling a certain psychological-strategic vacuum in the Middle East, especially the Arab region.
To be sure, this vacuum was created mostly as a result of the receding influence of traditional Arab powers, such as Egypt, which has become very much a stagnant, non-aspiring entity, thanks to its crippling subservience to the United States.
The continuing aggrandizement of Turkey’s regional status is a real success story, which could be seen as a role model for other countries.
The Rising Sun of Turkey
Indeed, when the AKP came to power in 2002 through the ballot boxes – not political thuggery, as it is often the case in most Arab countries – it sought quietly and wisely to tackle a host of chronic problems besetting the Turkish republic.
Eventually, the successful treatment of these mostly economic ills produced amazing effects and aftereffects, enabling the Turkish economy not only to reel from its erstwhile chronic stagnation, but also to make phenomenal growth, especially in the production and export sectors.
Today, Turkey is the world’s 17th economic power. It is also a country that can proudly stand up and say “No” to Israel and the United States.
Internally, the Turkish government sought to quietly resolve, or at least defuse, the enduring Kurdish problem mainly by acknowledging Kurdish grievances and recognizing the legitimacy of the Kurdish people’s linguistic and cultural rights.
This very much helped stabilizing the domestic arena, and enhancing internal security, an essential requirement for economic prosperity.
Under the Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey succeeded in resolving old problems with Armenia, thus depriving Israel and the American Jewish lobby of a sensitive pressure card that had been used repeatedly against Turkey in order to keep it revolving in the Israeli-American orbit.
Nonetheless, the most remarkable thing about the AKP has been its adamant determination to preserve its free political will especially vis-ˆ-vis the United States and Israel.
Seven years ago, when the United States was about to invade Iraq, the Turkish Government firmly refused to allow American warplanes to use the Incirlik Air Base to attack Iraq.
Prime Minister Erdogan defended the decision, which he said reflected the collective will of the Turkish people.
This happened while most Arab regimes were vying among themselves to please and appease the Bush Administration, which was slaughtering Iraqis in the tens of thousands.
Erdogan did not have to explain anything to the Americans. He just said “No” and that was it.
Maintaining his country’s dignity in a world that looked more like a jungle and less like a civilized human community, Erdogan did not hesitate to fly in the face of the world’s special sacrosanct state, Israel, for its manifestly murderous and Nazi-like aggressions against the helpless Palestinian people.
Eventually, while carefully maintaining relations with Israel, for certain practical necessities, Erdogan made it blatantly clear to the leaders of the Israeli regime that the future of Turkey’s relations with the Jewish state would very much depend on Israeli behavior, especially toward Palestinians.
These are serious words coming from the leader of Israel’s erstwhile strategic ally in the Middle East. Israel got the message, but remains at a loss as to how to internalize and come to terms with it.
It is true that non-Arab Turkey is not going to become a pro-active ally of Palestinians in the foreseeable future.
However, one can safely argue that from now on, Turkey will not play deaf and dumb, and it will look the other way if, and when, Israel decides to embark on another Nazi-like, genocidal episode against the people of Gaza or other Palestinians.
At the very least, Turkey will no longer be counted as a strategic asset for Israel as it had been the case for many years prior to the AKP’s advent to power.
The Stagnant Arab World
In contrast to the Turkish success story, the Arab world remains divided against itself, with many Arab states struggling to remain afloat economically while seriously and conspicuously ceding their sovereignty and national dignity to the United States, Israel’s guardian ally. In fact, the collective Arab situation is probably the worst since the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate, following the World War I. The collective Arab failure to perform a comparatively easy task, such as lifting the crushing blockade of the Gaza Strip, seems to reflect profound impotence and paralysis transcending all levels.
Similarly, the intensive preoccupation of each Arab state, or Sheikhdom, with its internal affairs, is really precluding any concerted Arab effort toward economic and political integration.
The main reason for this enduring political paralysis – this overwhelming calamity – is the continued prevalence of tribal mentality and dynastic despotism throughout the Arab world.
One of the most solid expressions of this tribal mentality is the fact that the mostly autocratic Arab rulers, irrespective of whether they adopt the royal or republican polity, exist in order to control their people and perpetuate themselves and their sons in power, not to lead their nations and advance their interests.
For example, Egypt is a country of 80 million people that has immense human and other resources at its disposal.
This very important country, which had once been nominated to become an African tiger, has been retreating in every conceivable sphere of life, thanks to the regime’s despotic policies and dismal political management.
Predictably, this state of affair helped breeding and deepening the feelings of collective depression, apathy, and helplessness among ordinary Egyptians, which in turn pushed thousands of professionals to leave the country in search for dignity, respect, and work abroad.
The Gulf States
As to rich Arab countries ruled by ignorant, decadent, and dynastic despots, they are caught in the grip of the same frustrating circle, because the ultimate strategy of the ruling Sheikhs is to remain in power at any price, including succumbing to the will of foreign powers.
Needless to say, these despots are in many instances plainly ignorant, as they have scandalously failed to translate the immense financial resources at their disposal into tangible and durable economic realities.
Some Arab Sheikhdoms are actually so stupid that they have squandered billions of dollars building ostentatious, but economically fruitless, projects, such as high towers to show off their wealth.
However, these tribal chieftains lack the primary means to shield their economies from real financial cries, as we saw recently in Dubai.
It is this destructive tribal mentality that has prevented culturally homogenous countries, such the member states of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council, from establishing a real common market or achieving monetary unity.
Nor has it been able to build a credible military force that would shield these countries against a possible foreign aggression.
There is no doubt that the collective Arab situation will continue to deteriorate further until the collective Arab house collapses completely.
This is unless the Arab masses wake up from their dormancy, despair, and apathy, and decide to empower themselves and restore the usurped Arab dignity and freedom.
Arabs are not stupid, and they can, if they want, learn from Turks, our brothers in faith.
However, you can lead the proverbial horse to the water place, but you cannot force it to drink.
It is really sad that in the very country where the Qur’an was revealed unto the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) while wealthy billionaires are running after their beastly desires and mendaciously claiming to be upholding the rule of Shariah.
Well, what is the kind of Shariah that allows a decadent prince, for example, to squander the Ummah’s resources on his prurient desires, while millions of Muslims cannot find food to feed their kids?
In the Qur’an, Allah warns such decadent people that their punishment would only be a matter of time.
[If ye turn back (from the Path), He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!]( Muhammad, 38)
In the meanwhile, we say to our Turkish brothers, welcome back.
We have long missed the Ottomans.