Thursday, March 12, 2015

Strategic Depth: The Brilliance in the Bullshit

With his giant book and academic credentials, Ahmet Davutoglu has always generously fulfilled an odd and insatiable collective desire for ideology and history in foreign policy discussions. Everyone wanted theoretical window dressing when talking about Turkey and Davutoglu ladled it on (this is not a mixed metaphor. I pour soup on my windows).

The map above is from a Milliyet article about Davutoglu's Strategic Depth Doctrine. The Green and Yellow regions correspond to Turkey's strategic "basins." Yellow is Turkey's "close territorial basin" and Green is its "close continental basin." The dotted red line meanwhile, show's the extent of Turkey's "close maritime basin." In short, the map conveys the essence of the Davutoglu's belief that Turkey is "a country with a close land basin, the epicentre of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus, the centre of Eurasia in general and is in the middle of the Rimland belt cutting across the Mediterranean to the Pacific"

It also looks suspiciously like what you'd get if you took a world map and colored in all the countries  near Turkey. The point is Davutoglu knows how to make this kind of bullshit sound like it means something.

Thisis all to say that in my fixation with how terrible neo-Ottomanism was as an analytical approach to Turkish foreign policy I never gave it enough credit as a rhetorical success. Davutoglu's implausible zero-problems with neighbors policy seemed a lot more plausible because of the neo-Ottoman crate it came dressed up in (also not a mixed metaphor if you've ever gone as a crate for Halloween). For people who embraced or feared Davutoglu's "neo-Ottoman" policies, the historical language really did seem to make it all more realistic.

Looking back now, it's sad to think that if any concrete belief about the Ottoman Empire actually influenced Davutoglu, it was probably his  misguided faith in Ottoman tolerance, rather than a commitment to  Ottoman piety or Ottoman martial valor. Anyways, much more on this courtesy of Foreign Affairs and the Suleyman Shah tomb raid