Research Intern, Jindal Centre for Global South, O.P. Jindal Global University
The politics of folly and ethnocentrism refers to a kind of governance that lacks all rational thinking and morality, instead implementing tragically foolish ideas into policies. (Merriam Webster , n.d.) It also involves an inherent belief in the superiority of one’s ethnic group or culture, causing intense outgroup negativity. (Bizumic & Duckitt, 2012)
To understand these two terms, it’s helpful to look at present-day politics in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where the decisions taken by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and USA’s Donald Trump have been highly counterproductive. These further culminate to highlight the ulterior motives of Erdogan, namely, to dominate the MENA region and become its ‘sole Sultan’.
Opposite trends emerging in the Middle East
In these contemporary times, two highly contrasting trends exist and prosper in the Middle East. The first trend is of appeasement, stabilization, and the prevalence of progressive policies in the Arab Nations that are led by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and their respective allies, whereas the other trend is highly expansionary and destabilizing. (Ammourah, 2020) This trend can be seen in the actions of Turkey and Iran.
When Turkey was a member of NATO and supported the idea of “secular democracy”, it was seen as a modern nation that advocated peace and stability for the Middle East. But in modern times, it is seen as a domineering country that is hungry for absolute control over the Arab World.
Cruelty at the hands of President Erdogan
Erdogan’s foreign policy aims to heighten his nation’s security by assaulting its neighbors, highlighted by his actions in Syria, Iraq, and against the Kurds. (TOI, 2020) The Turkish President’s obsession with establishing Turkey’s supremacy over the Islamic world has led to decisions that ruin the interest of other Islamic countries and their people.
The Turkish regime has terrorised minority groups like the Kurds, using terror tactics that include bombing villages that house these ethnic groups. (Maalouf, 2020) They’ve also become entangled with ISIS militants, with Erdogan’s family being accused of profiting from his association with ISIS.
Not only has Turkey been a ruthless neighbor to Europe and the Arab world, but the President has also managed to destroy democracy in his own country with his authoritarianism. He has toppled Turkey’s secular nature by driving it towards Islamic rule, gaining excessive control over the Turkish media, and jailing its opponents to crush dissent. Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, Taner Kilic, Gunal Kursun and Veli Acu of Human Rights Agenda Association and journalists Idris Sayılgan, Mehmet Altan, Asli Erdogan are some of the many people detained by the Turkish government. Erdogan’s purges have led to tens of thousands of members of the police, military, judiciary, civil servants, as well as academics and journalists being either detained or dismissed for raising their voice against the government. (Shaheen, 2017)
Erdogan has gone as far as threatening the European Union (EU) into releasing millions of refugees while insinuating war against Greece, a NATO ally. It has intervened in the Libyan war, an intervention that was uncalled for and tried his best to appease the Muslim Brotherhood, therefore causing a lot of tension in the Arab World. Along with that, Turkey has had tensions with France, Greece, Italy, and Cyprus. The President even made it a point to trigger Egypt due to his support for Muslim Brotherhood and intruded in Syrian matters. Erdogan made every possible decision and implemented every possible policy to disturb the Middle East for the sole purpose of re-establishing Turkey’s presence in the MENA region. (Ammourah, 2020) All of Turkey’s efforts and its controversial foreign policy are attempts to disturb the sensitive equilibrium of the MENA region. His decisions have driven him to lose out on many of its strongest supporters instead of gaining endorsement. This has left the nation very alone and alienated.
President Erdogan’s Intentions
President Erdogan has been obvious from the get-go about his intentions in regards to the MENA region. Ever since being chosen as the supreme leader of the Global Muslim Brotherhood Movement, he has tried to revive the orthodox and tyrannical Ottoman empire in order to re-establish Turkey’s presence in the region and dominate MENA. (Ammourah, 2020)
Every one of Turkey’s rulers has maintained a healthy distance from the Ottoman Empire’s legacy to reflect an image that is more ‘western’. But Erdogan has done quite the contrary, by actively glorifying the Empire’s past and its Islamic heritage. (Mikhail, 2020) He has not only selectively embraced controversial historical figures and mangled their history, but has also elevated hatred and polarisation among people.
It is known that political actors like Erdogan do not possess the power to cause major shifts in the world, or the capability to achieve their micro-imperialist goals. Yet they still have the ability to trigger destructive wars that could engulf the MENA region.
Erdogan’s Turkey is a perfect example of the practice of ethnocentrism. The leader’s belief in the ‘Political Islam Doctrine’ and desire to inculcate that not just in Turkey, but the whole of the MENA region shows his regressive political beliefs. Erdogan continues to interpret the world with a very fixed and stagnant approach, which hinders his process of making the right decisions for his people. His hunger for power and his misconception about the world and worldly politics also justify politics of the folly. Erdogan’s greed disallows him to be patient to get what he wants, therefore making military mis-adventures not his last resort, but the first step he takes, causing potential international confrontations.
Folly. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/folly
Bizumic, B., & Duckitt, J. (2012). What is and is not ethnocentrism? A conceptual analysis and political implications. Political Psychology, 33(6), 887-909. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2012.00907.x
Maalouf, Maria (August 9, 2020) Erdogan’s Foreign Policy Illusions, Arab News. Retrieved October 9, 2020, from Arab News: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1716986.
Shukla, Manish and Tiwari, Pushkar (September 26, 2020) Turkey playing destabilizing game in the Middle East as President Erdogan’s role threatens world peace. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from Zee News: https://zeenews.india.com/world/turkey-playing-destabilizing-game-in-middle-east-as-
ANI (October 5, 2020) Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Are Erdogan’s Ambitions for a Superpower Status for Turkey Crumbling? Retrieved September 10, 2021, from Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/78489038.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest.
Shaheen, K. (2017, March 23). Revealed: The terror and torment of Turkey’s jailed journalists. The Guardian. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/23/turkish-journalists-solitary-confinement-maltreatment-jail.
Ammourah AF The Mediterranean Between Struggle and Cooperation ( 2020)Damascus:Al Farqad publishing house.
Corlu, A. (February 13, 2020). Erdogan’s Micro-Imperialism Could Prove Disastrous for Turkey and its Neighbors. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from Mirror Spectator: https://mirrorspectator.com/2020/02/13/erdogans-micro-imperialism-could-prove-disastrous-for-turkey-and-its-neighbors/
Mikhail, A. (September 3, 2020). Why Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Love Affair with the Ottoman Empire Should Worry The World. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from Time: https://time.com/5885650/erdogans-ottoman-worry-world/
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.