"Turkey's Strategic Vision and Syria"
NWC faculty member Omer Taspinar published "Turkey's Strategic Vision and Syria" in the Summer 2012 issue of The Washington Quarterly. The essay discusses the evolving character of Turkey's foreign policy through the lens of its approach to the Arab Spring and the Syrian revolt. It dismisses simplistic theories of an emerging "Islamist" foreign policy and instead outlines "the three grand strategic visions that have driven Turkish foreign policy: Neo-Ottomanism, Kemalism, and more recently, Turkish Gaullism."
For Taspinar, "neo-Ottomanism" in Turkish foreign policy is based on secularism at home and a more assertive vision abroad which uses soft power to enhance Turkish influence in former Ottoman areas. It balances regional interests with a pro-Western outlook and does not commit Turkey to any one exclusive orientation; the approach is inherently multicultural. Kemalism, on the other hand, is more restrained in its approach to the Middle East and Muslim world; at the same time, Taspinar argues, Kemalists-once pro-Western-are now "increasingly resentful of the European Union and the United States for perceived slights against Turkey and a Western embrace of the Islamist turn in Turkish politics, which the secularist Kemalists oppose.
Finally, Taspinar discusses the rise of a more assertive doctrine of Turkish Gaullism, in part reflecting a convergence of elements of both neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism. Gaullism in a Turkish context, Taspinar writes, "unite[s] the country around a sense of Turkish grandeur and independence. The West might witness the emergence in Turkey of not so much an Islamist foreign policy but of a much more self-confident, prestige-oriented, and occasionally defiant strategic orientation-in short, a Turkish variant of 'Gaullism.'" A Turkey influenced by such thinking might "decide to no longer pursue an elusive EU membership, and might even question its military alliance with the United States. Burdened by a sense that it never gets the respect it deserves, Turkey might increasingly act on its own in search of full independence, full sovereignty, strategic leverage, and most importantly, Turkish glory and grandeur."
Taspinar then examines Turkey's approach to the Arab Spring uprisings in light of these contesting strategic visions. He examines Ankara's specific policies over the last years and finds, unsurprisingly, that the collision of theory and practice has proven challenging for Turkish policymakers: Ankara has been unable to follow a clear or specific version of any of the three concepts. Instead it has employed elements of eachâ€”seeking influence but being wary of intervention; using a bold narrative of an independent policy and seeking its own interests while still working with others toward common goals. "In dealing with the Middle East," Taspinar concludes in part, "the challenge for Ankara will be to carefully balance its Neo-Ottoman, Kemalist and Gaullist instincts."