Friends No More? the Rise of Anti-American Nationalism in Turkey

By Grigoriadis, Ioannis N. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Friends No More? the Rise of Anti-American Nationalism in Turkey


Grigoriadis, Ioannis N., The Middle East Journal


This article examines the rise of anti-American nationalism in Turkey. While Turkish public opinion has developed strong views against a set of foreign policies furthered by the United States, recent findings allude to the development of an emerging anti-US bias in large segments of Turkish society. The deterioration of the US image in Turkey could be considered a result of the recent US involvement in the Middle East, as well as socio-political shifts inherent to Turkey's democratization process.

Since December 2004, when the European Council gave Turkey a date for the start of its EU accession negotiations, a significant rise in manifestations of nationalist feeling has been documented in Turkey. A slowdown in the democratization reform process, a sharp drop in public support for Turkey's EU membership, an increase in attacks against liberal intellectuals and minorities, and the striking commercial success of nationalist books and movies have attested to this nationalist upsurge. One of the most interesting facets of this phenomenon is that it is distinctly anti-American in character. While anti-Americanism has been a feature of several European and Middle Eastern nationalisms, until recently Turkey comprised an interesting exception. Yet recent global opinion surveys1 classified Turkey among the countries where the United States enjoyed the least favorability.

This study sets out from the analytical framework provided by Peter Katzenstein and Robert Keohane in their edited volume Anti-Americanisms in World Politics to examine why anti-American nationalism recently has emerged in Turkey and to evaluate its features. Following their classification of anti-Americanisms into liberal, social, sovereign-nationalist, and radical types, it is argued that the Turkish version of anti-Americanism falls into the sovereign-nationalist type. The - until recently - absence of strong anti-Americanism could be attributed to a set of intrinsic features of the Turkish political system which no longer hold true.2 While Turkish public opinion has developed strong views against a set of foreign policies furthered by the United States, recent findings allude to the development of an emerging anti-US bias in large segments of Turkish society. This could presage the establishment of anti-Americanism as a permanent feature of Turkish political discourse. The deterioration of the US image in Turkey could be considered a result of the recent US political and military involvement in the Middle East and the perceived clash of US and Turkish national interests in the region. The rise of anti-Americanism also could be attributed to socio-political shifts inherent to Turkey's democratization process. While the United States has set support for democratization among its primary global strategic targets, it needs to be aware that democratization could complicate US relations with affected states, especially so long as the United States seems indifferent to the sharp decline of its global image. The election of Barack Obama has mitigated the trend but has not reversed it. Unless the Obama Administration delivers solutions on the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine, the US image may suffer a new slump.

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF US-TURKEY RELATIONS

As Turkey had remained neutral until the very last days of the Second World War, it risked isolation as the post-war security map of Europe was drawn. The situation became more pressing when a victorious Soviet Union made explicit demands for territorial concessions, including joint military control of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits and recovery of the Kars and Ardahan provinces which were ceded by the Soviet Union to Turkey in 1921. Turkey had no option but to join the Western camp. The articulation of the Truman Doctrine in 1947, in which the United States stated that deterring Communist subversion in Greece and Turkey was a primary US strategic concern, was vital against Stalin's blunt invasion threats. …

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