Turkish perceptions of the United States
Princeton University Press
49 - 73
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What they think of us: international perceptions of the United States since 9/11
In Turkey, when people look at the American government’s so-called war of preemption in Iraq and the Bush administration’s errant confidence in its right to make the world over in its own image, power management becomes an issue of importance. At some emotional level, some members of the political and intellectual elite can vaguely relate to the temptation, the peril, and the grandiosity of the dream of a vast order crafted in one’s own image and controlled by one’s own interests. But the long-gone Ottoman imperial reach also reminds that an empire’s longevity depends not just on the power of its military but on the quality of its statesmanship and its ability to disseminate among less powerful peoples at least the appearance of justice. Military power has to withstand the test of moral authority to insure that bloody conflict does not turn the complex pleasures and responsibilities of an empire into a nightmare of endless rebellion and resistance. Turks, today, from across the political spectrum fear that the United States, the contemporary aspirant to world hegemon, has lost its moral authority as it dispenses its own unacceptable brand of vigilante justice. Everyone registers America’s military might, its ability to “shock and awe” both its allies and its enemies. People do not, however, trust that the United States has the moral and political capacity to use that power wisely to safeguard its friends, eliminate its enemies, or manage the complexities of a world in which no nation is simply “with” the United States or “against” the United States. In particular, Turkish policy elites are frustrated by the American government’s failures to respect Turkey’s own geopolitical concerns and to understand how Turkey seeks to balance its secular raison d’etre with its religious cultural needs. And as the war in Iraq drags on and grows more horrific, the people of Turkey turn away in greater numbers from the United States. Distrust of the American government’s motives has created a popular, often hyperbolic, if also fashionable anti-Americanism in Turkey. This essay presents a tour of the horizon of Turkish perspectives on America. First it will provide a historical perspective that explores how culture, politics, and security issues created bonds between Turkey and the United States. Then, it will examine why elites’ acceptance of American alliance and a general admiration of American culture have not produced support of current U.S. foreign policies or a more stable basis for a pro-American public opinion in Turkey.
Published Version (Please cite this version)https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400827602.49