Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A new Ottoman Turkey – an unforgivable courage [O nouă Turcie Otomană – un curaj de neiertat]

Even before WWI ended in the autumn of 1918, The Ottoman Empire had been theoretically sliced by the Perfidious Albion, and France – the two world powers which had stood by the ailing empire (dubbed “the Sickman of Europe” by its greatest rival, Tsarist Russia) for a century before.

The former empire – whose rise and decadence shaped the history of the Eastern half of Europe since 1299 to the dawn of the 20th century – was supposed to be reduced to a third of Anatolia (97% of today’s Republic of Turkey).

Still, that would have been a remarkable survival of a moribund country that had beaten all bets against it, and should have collapsed under the burden of public debth some 45 years before.

By the mid 1800s, the Ottoman Empire was probably one of the least popular countries in Europe. “The Turks are coming!” had long before been a frightened scream heard in this part of the world, especially in Greece, Romania and in other realms in the Balkans.

Even the Austrians, some of the Europeans most vigorously opposed to Turkey’s Accession to the EU these days, probably used these words in 1529 and 1683.

Seen as backward, corrupt, yet still dangerous as any ailing predator, the Ottoman Empire had nothing good to offer, many believed.

Although the Ottoman Empire did not mean exclusively repeated savage attacks on civilians, plunders, mass abductions of children, desecration of Christian churches, suppression of religious identities (mainly of Greeks, Serbs, Albanians etc), these were the sad things that people rememebred over the centuries.

The Ottomans were probably no worse than the Romans or the Crusaders, and were certainly more religiously tolerant than Catholics and Protestants proved to be among themselves and to their Orthodox brethren or to Jews.

Yet no one remembered any ‘positive shades’ from the Sublime Porte’s history; it was a relic of the past just like the Austria-Hungary, and both were seen as ‘doomed’.

Industrial progress had erupted in Britain and was spreading from Germany towards the rest of the world, democratic ideals burst in the USA and France, while Russia was offering a glimpse of hope (albeit shadowed by wariness) to the Orthodox nations still regarded as ‘Ottoman subjects’ in Istanbul.

In the meantime, ‘The Sickman’ refused to die, because he was not let to die by his ‘quacks’ (the UK and France), who even dared putting their ‘medical skills’ at risk in the Crimean War and who were also his largest creditors.

In a way, supporting the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century by the great powers of the time was similar to supporting Gaddafi’s Libya against a presumed threat al-Qaeda (in the early 2000s) or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq against theocratic Iran (in the 1980s).

But that was over 100 years ago. ‘The Sickman’ refused to bow to the last blow (Treaty of Sèvres), and reborn from the ashes (Treaty of Lausanne + Proclamation of the Republic).

Thanks to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s aggressive secular reforms, Turkey was allowed to be, and underwent massive changes.

However, economic advancement was rather slow for a few decades marked by coup d’etats, and only the past 15-20 years have allowed the rise of a ‘Turkish miracle’ (if its not a bubble?!) comparable to what is hailed as a ‘Chinese miracle’.

Brought into NATO (in 1952, even before West Germany), Turkey would be kept up to these days in a humiliating antechamber of the EEC/EU… just until the country no longer needs, nor truly wishes to be part of the extremely ‘dizzy’ Union of today.

With the second armed forces in NATO, with an economy growing by 9% per year, having earned its place among the strongest economies of the world (G-20), with the fastest expanding population in Europe, Turkey has been showing signs that it is becoming a world actor to be reckoned with.

Nevertheless, almost no world power of our age would have considered Turkey’s growth a ‘threat’. At least not openly, as it would be ridiculous to believe that Moscow’s GRU and SVR didn’t assess the risk posed by the rebirth of a former archenemy.

Even the fact that Ankara befriended Teheran didn’t appear to be excessively worrisome, as long as Turkey was regarded as a staunch ally of the Western World.

But that’s no longer the case, and what has been a bewildering success story is rapidly turning into a geopolitical nightmare.

Turkey is now at odds with Israel (therefore with the USA), with the EU, while vigourously claiming back its influence over parts of the world that had been snatched from the Sublime Porte by its ‘friends’ almost a century ago: Cyprus (1878) and Egypt (1882) by the Perfidious Albion, Libya  (1912, by Italy) and Palestine (1917), by the UK again.

And let no wise leaders of today excuse themselves that they haven’t been warned! Let’s remember what Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on the night when he won the third consecutive elections, this time by a landslide:

Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul, Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, Jerusalem won as much as Diyarbakir.

He enumerated places that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. Obviously, Erdogan made no territorial claims, but a symbolic claim – that any change occuring in Turkey could only be for the better of the above mentioned places.

Aren’t all empires claiming that? Doesn’t Uncle Sam say that his democracy and his solutions are the best for the world? Wasn’t Adolf Hitler promising his peace for a thousand years?

Anyway, before Erdoğan’s words that can be (mis)interpreted as ‘imperialistic’, his Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, set the stage for the ‘New Ottoman Turkey’ shortly before the historic elections of June 2011 in a different tone.

At the United Nations’ 4th Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), held in Istanbul (9-13 May 2011), Davutoğlu launched a bold diatribe against the current world order:

We don’t want to have political hierarchy in the world, where certain countries, certain nations, have more to say on the future of political order in the coming decades and centuries,” the minister said.

There are permanent members in the U.N. Security Council, and permanent [means] they will decide what will be happening in the world [in the future], it means they have the right of veto,” Davutoğlu the explained, calling this system unjust and in need of change, according to Hurryiet newspaper.

This sounds like the position of a country whose leaders wish to lead a new ‘Non-Aligned Movement’ and to speak on the behalf of the opressed.

Or could they have in mind some kind of moderately secularised Ottoman Caliphate, as Davutoğlu’s book Alternative Paradigms theoretizes that a mix of Western-style democracy and Islam is perfectly feasible?

As an admirer of Turkey – I dare assuming that few Romanians who visited the country or made friends with ordinary Turks wouldn’t agree with my admiration – I can only say that this new Ottoman courage shall not be forgiven.

Irrespective whether it is morally right for Turkey to support Turkish Cypriots, irrespective of the fact that those sickened with Uncle Sam’s unilateralism need to have their voices heard in the world, no matter how logical is to break free from EU’s hypocrisy, Erdogan is not putting Turkey on a path to a better future.

On the contrary, he may be taking a huge gamble just like Hitler did in September 1939, when the Führer foolishly imagined that the UK and France wouldn’t react to his invasion of Poland.

Rather sooner than later, the current world order – just or unjust as it it, that can be debated but unchanged! – will punish Turkey.

Up until now, Erdoğan, Davutoğlu along with President Abdulah Gül have proved to be incomparably wiser than the former Austrian corporal of the Bavarian Army.

But we cannot cast aside the sad hypothesis that –  just like Muslims all over the world, irrespective of nationality, wisdom, wealth etc – they may have fallen into a tragic and implacable trap.

This trap is the reckeless assumption that ‘their Allah’ would eventually grant victory to those standing up against Israel.

I may not be offering an earthly (political, military, economic) argument but a religious one, yet here I say it – no human beings could ever beat a nation whose’s name is Israel, the one who wrestles with God.

Only the Lord will vanquish Israel, only when and how He finds it right. And that defeat may be only quantified in metaphysical terms, having nothing to do with ‘wiping Israel off the map’ as some of the newest friends of Turkey (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) imagine.

[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


Balan Claudiu said...

Excellent Bogdan!
I don't know much about world's political and military strategies, but this article made me understand better what happens among us.

MunteanUK said...

Thank you for your appreciative remark!

It's an essay about worrisome things happening on the world's stage, but only the Lord knows how everything will eventually turn out.

Gregor said...

An interesting article Bogdan

Strangely enough I was speaking about Erdogan recently and pointed out that the politicians of the developing world (Vladimir Putin/erdogan) seem to be getting clverer whilst the first world seem to be getting stupider (McCain/Palin/Clegg).

I suppose the thing is though that I am more West European than I thought. I am no fan especially of Israel or Turkey, nor am I a critic especially. But I just think that they have a long way to go before they are as civilised as the West of Europe. Maybe that is why Western Europeans in general see little to appreciate about Turkey (though I have heard nice things about Turkish people and would very much like to visit some day) and feel little affinity to Israel.

Whilst I can’t speak of what will happen in the Middle East, I am certain that Europe (including Britain) will not get involved in any potential warfare in the Middle East. Our politicians would love it, but the people are (I think) standing up in a way that is almost imperceptible.

I also don't think the USA would risk destabilising its only ally in the Islamic world.

Hope things are well with you

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor,

As almost each time you comment my articles, you are making another witty observation!

Indeed, leaders like Turkey's Erdogan and Russia's Putin are cleverer than their Western counterparts. Actually, I'd prefer the word 'cunning' :-)

On the other hand, I can agree that the 'civilised' (?!) West's leaders are dumber, however, I don't see your examples quite adequate.

McCain didn't make it to the White House, Palin probably never will, whilst Clegg became a Deputy PM of the UK by mere chance.

All these are some kind of 'second class' politicians, however, even when compared to the 'great Obama', Putin & Erdogan look better :-)


In regard to this - let's call it - 'level of civilisation' of Turkey and Israel, you may be a little biased.

'Civilised' according to whose standars, if not those of the West?

When compared to our 'civilised' EU or to 'great democracies' like Great Britain, France and the US, these two countries may seem pretty defficient.

When compared to almost all other countries in the region, both Israel and Turkey could serve, at least partially, as 'role models'.


I am glad you also heard a lot of good stories about Turks, and I hope that those you met in the UK were fitting this good description.

In 2008, when I first set foot in Inverness I know that there was a fast food outlet kept by a Turk in the square where the Library and bus stations are.

What I don't to what extent is politically visible the Turkish community is in Britain...


Concerning a possible war in the Middle East, and the odds that massive public opposition could prevent Western politicians from military involvement, I beg to differ.

Alright, I can agree that Merkel would bow to popular pressure, along with other neutral countries in the EU (Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Austria) - but they didn't militarily count anyway!

But do you think that Cameron and Sarkozy would stay aside?

And if they did, this would only add more weight to an array of 'prophecies' intensely discussed in the Orthodox world these days.

According to these, Turkey would go to war with Cyprus, Greece and Israel.

Then, with the West's consent, The Russian Federation would intervene to save the three countries from the Turks, just like Mother Russia posed as a 'saviour' of the Balkan nations and Orthodox Christians from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

However, as it has been repeatedly proven throughout history, the Russians would not be willing to stop. Some say that the Russian armies would not stop at the Bosphorus, but advance up to Jerusalem, in order to 'protect' it.

Then the West would intervene against Russia, and there would be total war...

This is, in a nutshell, what some 'prophecies' claim. Some ideas can be read here:


I preferred to refrain from basing my little Foreign Affairs essay on these 'prophecies', yet I can't hide the fact that I find them very intriguing.

Having had firsthand experiences both with the Turks and the Russians, I would say that these ideas (dismissed as 'conspiracy theories' in the civilised West) are taken seriously in Orthodox countries like Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Serbia and Russia.

Note the fact that there are different 'versions' in different countries and 'circles' of people!


Of course, Uncle Sam wouldn't like to see Turkey destabilised, for the profit of Russia... But my question is: can Americans prevent Turkey's defection?

Can they actually do anything (apart from having large military clans on their payroll) to stop an Islamic coup d'etat in Pakistan?