22 September 2006

1032) Why the US Cannot Understand Turkey: The Turkish 'Experts' in the US

It is the US which employs the highest number of Middle East experts to understand the Middle East. You probably cannot find that many experts in any other country, including the Middle Eastern countries. Every year, American universities and think-tanks are recruiting more and more Middle East experts, whose number is already too high. . . The attention, which was on the USSR during the Cold War, is now being given to the Middle East region. New departments are opened and new chairs are formed on the region. The state offices are having the experts make research on extremism, terrorism, energy, ethnic relations etc. in the Middle East by providing large amounts of funds for researchers.

Despite all these, one can say that the US is the country which understands the Middle East the least. There are many reasons for that. But the most important one is that the US institutions want to hear what they want to hear rather than the facts. This is particularly the case for the Turkish studies.

The Turkish Turkey studies experts in the US, whose numbers have grown recently, can get these posts after a fierce competition. It is even more difficult to retain the posts. It is very difficult for them to maintain their posts and gain credibility of the institutions. For this reason, they have to do exceptional things. On the one hand, these “experts” have to tell what the US wants to hear, because the US institutions are not quiete used to hearing criticisms about the US foreign policies. On the other hand, these experts, with their own wills, favor the US policies much more than the US wants to hear. They use auto-censorship in their researches, because, for these experts, downgrading Turkey and praising the US are the easiest ways to assure their seats.

The strange relationship between the US institutions and the Turkish Turkey experts in this country has also other dimensions. The Turkey experts from Turkey can hold posts in programs usually funded by lobbying groups, and hence, they cannot cross the limits of the agenda set by these lobbies. Recently, the best-known lobby in the US is the rightist Jews. They want the current AKP (Justice and Development Party) government to change. As a result, the Turkish “experts” in the US are confused. They are competing with each other to display Turkey as a country where there is a sharp polarization among the political groups. There are even those who identify the governing AKP (Justice and Development Party) with al-Qaeda, or those who picture Turkey as polarized between the Islamists and the others.

Another handicap of the Turkish experts is their close relations with the officials. They sometimes become such a part of their subjects that they even act like courier between Turkey and the US Governments. Once they start doing this, they don’t quit their habits easily. With this “mediation”, they assume great missions from planning a military coup in Turkey to a false imagination that they can restore Turco-American relations.

The Turkish experts in the US really seem to have remained in between. They have done everything to get the appreciation of both sides. On the other hand, some think that their personal interests are the highest values. They reflect their personal matters with Turkey to their political assessments. It is apparent that these people are sometimes extremely merciless against Turkey. Some of them almost feel hate and animosity against Turkey. They act like they went to the US not from Turkey but from another country. They mention Turkey as a dictatorial country and Turkish politicians as the most radical leaders in the world. However, they criticize the US very little. When they criticize the US even softly, the US officials immediately warn them.

In such a situation, it is so sad and misleading to see that the US officials see Turkey from the viewpoint of these people.

Nilgun Gulcan
Trns. by Noyan OZKAYA
19 September 2006
© 2005 www.turkishweekly.net

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