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    Middle East
     Oct 23, 2007
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Why does Turkey hate America?
By Spengler

With Turkish troops poised to invade the Kurdish sector of Iraq over Washington's protests, it seems helpful to understand why Turks hate America more than any other people in the world. This is surprising given the 60-year history of military alliance, a thriving Turkish economy and functioning democratic institutions.

In June 2007, the Pew Research Center polled citizens of 47 countries on their attitude toward the US. Turkey turned up at rock bottom, with 83% of respondents holding an unfavorable view

of the United States and only 9% of Turks expressing a favorable view, compared to 21% of Egyptians and 29% of Indonesians. [1] In 2000, 52% of Turks expressed a favorable view of the United States. This is not a general result. Only 46% of Nigerians held a favorable view of the United States in 2000, for example, compared to 70% in 2007.

A national tantrum against the United States is in full flourish, expressed in popular culture through such things as the rabidly anti-American film Valley of the Wolves. Wildly successful, and hailed by most of Turkey's leading politicians, the film shows American soldiers shooting Iraqi civilians in order to harvest their organs for sale to Jewish doctors. From the American way of looking at things, the Turks seem to have gone barking mad.

There are many obvious reasons for Turkish discomfort about America, but the intensity of Turkish hatred had me puzzled - until I read a two-year-old paper by Omar Taspinar, the resident Turkey expert at the Brookings Institution. [2] The culprit, he argued convincingly, is Washington's misguided promotion of Turkey as a model of "moderate Islam". The abominable stupidity of American policy towards the region - I would use stronger words if I could find them - is in large measure responsible for the looming catastrophe.

Professor Taspinar, who also teaches at the National War College, is one of America's best-known experts on his native country, and I am chagrined to have overlooked his analysis until now. He places most of the blame on Washington's portrayal of Turkey as a paragon of the "moderate Islam" it wants to sell to the rest of the Muslim world.

As I wrote last week, the humiliating spectacle of Washington trying to squelch a congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide points up fundamental failings in American foreign policy, as well as foundational flaws within Turkey itself. Taspinar’s paper in the main reinforces my view of Turkey’s weakness; Turkish rage and paranoia express conflicts in its national identity.

Dr. Taspinar writes,
As the Cold War came to an end, so did the era of ideology. It was as if Turkey had suddenly once again returned to its formative decades of the 1920s and 1930s, during which Ataturk's Ankara faced multiple Kurdish-Islamic rebellions challenging the secularist and nationalist precepts of Kemalism. This is mainly because the central point that I would like to emphasize is that Turkey’s anti-Americanism essentially stems from Turkey’s own identity dilemma. At its roots, Turkey’s current wave of distrust of the United States is Kemalist identity problem.
By promoting "moderate Islam" on the Turkish model, Taspinar adds, America undermined the secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. That is why secular Turkish nationalists hate America just as much as Turkish Islamists.

Taspinar writes:
America's advocacy of "moderate Islam" against the "radical Islam" in the Middle East worries Turkey the most. Turkey being portrayed as a model within the moderate Islam project has been conceived as a support for the moderate Islam in Turkey, thereby led to a clash between America’s approach and Turkey’s laic and Kemalist identity. Already alarmed over the landslide victory of Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republic’s laic reflexes have become overwhelmingly concerned with the "model" expression of the US, which allegedly promoted Turkey’s moderate Muslim identity. In the aftermath of his victory, Washington’s invitation to the AKP Chairman Tayyip Erdogan, who was not confirmed as a prime minister then, was perceived [by the Turkish intellectuals] as the weakening of the secular foundations of Ataturk’s republic by the United States.
Ataturk suppressed Islam ruthlessly, banning Islamic dress, emancipating women, requiring universal secular education, and crushing armed Islamist resistance to his reforms. Ultimately he failed; the artificial secular culture of Turkishness that Ataturk sought to conjure from the pre-Islamic Anatolian past left a vacuum which the new Islamism gradually has filled. Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, as I reported earlier, portrays this vividly in his novel, Snow.

Turkey is enmeshed in a terrible battle for its national identity, in which neither the secular nor the Islamist parties have any use for "moderate Islam". The Islamists do not wish to be moderate, and the Kemalists know that the Islamists are not moderate. By pursing the phantasm of a "moderate" Islam as harmless as George W Bush’s Methodism, Washington’s strategists have succeeded in enraging both sides in the battle.

I have never believed that such a thing as "moderate Islam" exists, any more than I believe that "moderate Christianity" exists. Either Jesus Christ died to take away the sins of the 

Continued 1 2 

Turkey fears Kurds, not Armenians (Oct 16, '07)

1. Bhutto bombs kick off war against US paln

2. Pakistan plans all-out war on militants

3. Benazir's second homecoming

4. Who's bluffing on the Turkish-Iraqi border?

5. Leave, or we will behead you

6. Dear Dinosaurs

7. Bush's faith run over by history

8. Caspian summit a triumph for Tehran

9. Masters of war plan for next 100 years

10. US House waffles on genocide

(Oct 19-21, 2007)


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