Mitigating anti-Americanism in Turkey through public diplomacy
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Record-high anti-Americanism in Turkey goes deeper than the ongoing Iraq War. The build-up to and aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Turkey’s neighbor ignited preexisting sensitivities in Turkey due to its past relations with America and its own identity issues and fears. Turkey views the U.S. through the lenses of 1) an exaggerated view of American agency coupled with mistrust and 2) a reactionary phobia about threats to undermine the Turkish Republic. Seen through theses lenses, anti-Americanism is driven by a perception that America is supporting 1) Kurdish self-determination, which will lead to the eventual dismemberment of Turkey and 2) political Islam as a part of its broader plan for Middle East politics, which threatens to erode Turkey’s secular state. Because anti-Americanism is mostly based on distorted perceptions caused by the lenses, public diplomacy is an effective tool that should be utilized by the U.S. to bring about understanding with the Turkish public. If the politically-rooted anti- Americanism in Turkey continues, it will solidify into a view of the U.S. as a threatening power, squandering Turks’ natural affection for Americans. U.S. public diplomacy for Turkey can be improved by Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Ankara by acting from an understanding of the uniqueness of Turkey and the reasons that drive its anti-Americanism. Reinvigorated public diplomacy offers hope for strengthening a relationship that is in the best interests of both Turkey and America.