Turkey and IS: Populism and the manipulation of terror have killed geopolitics

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Taha Ozhan's picture
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Turkey has tried to pursue constructive policies for regional crises, but tactics of chaos used by various powers has derailed traditional politics

One of the central concepts of the 20th century is in its death throes. Geopolitics, the “miraculous” subject of libraries full of books, is a term rapidly losing its meaning amid the rise of global populism and the crises of capitalism. 

These days, the geopolitics of the Pacific can be blown away with a tweet of half a sentence and less than 140 characters

These days, the geopolitics of the Pacific can be blown away with a tweet of half a sentence and fewer than 140 characters!

The entire European Union (EU) project has come into question following a domino effect set off by an ordinary and meaningless referendum in the Netherlands. And the list goes on.

Of course, geopolitics hasn't had much of a chance: in a period in which the political, economic and social dynamics of the global system have transformed into centrifugal forces, it’s a concept destined to be one of the first victims.

From Washington to London today, think-tanks, universities and research centres – institutions built upon geopolitics – find themselves redundant in the face of multiple crises. 

Sensible policies in the face of slogans and populism, sound solutions against rage, realism in the presence of activism, and the truth vis-a-vis post-truth have lost a great deal of meaning.

Comfortable enemy

Naturally, what the world is experiencing now is not just a deep intellectual crisis. If it were only that, we would simply call this a vicious cycle or a period of depression.

Growth and sustainability of chaos have actually become a tactical preference for certain powers

This current crisis is giving rise to bloody results and the terrorism of the Islamic State (IS) group is one of the most striking examples.

IS had already turned into a legitimate excuse to scrap realistic policies, divest from robust security strategies and let go of visionary foreign policies.

The group has been transformed into a comfortable global enemy, a cheap camouflage used to cover grave political crises and breakdowns in the Middle East over the past four years. Turned into a tool of terrorism, it had conducted its bloodiest attacks in Turkey.

In fact, during in the past five years, Turkey has been left on its own as it seeks constructive and long-term approaches to security issues as against the short-term tactical steps preferred by others to establish order in the region.

In fact, it is possible to say that the growth and sustainability of chaos have actually become a tactical preference for certain powers.

The only thing we have not heard about are political road maps out of a crisis involving many actors, from Russia to the United States of America, from the Gulf countries to Jordan, and from Turkey to the EU.

Filling gaps with IS

At this stage, in addition to being a real and bloody threat, IS has morphed into a centre of what the Russians call maskirovka – or tactical military deception - where different actors invest in the group for their own ends.

The ignorance that has emerged in the absence of global political and intellectual seriousness is not that much different from IS's primitiveness

Just as the gap of politics is filled with populism, attempts have been made to fill the gap of geopolitics with IS. The result has been a total fiasco.

We have lost four years and welcomed 2017 with the irrationality and nonsensical analysis that views IS independently from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab uprisings of 2011, the policies of crisis and chaos in post-invasion Iraq, and the genocide perpetrated in Syria.

In the first minutes of 2017, IS put its signature on yet another bloody massacre in Istanbul.

Those who can't even form a sentence about the geopolitical gap arising from IS's emergence discussed the Istanbul attack in the most impotent and ignorant way with clichés about secularism and Western lifestyles.

The ignorance that has emerged in the absence of global political and intellectual seriousness is not that much different from IS's primitiveness.

At this point, we do not know if it is possible to return to politics and geopolitics. What we know, however, is that the absence of principled politics has become the most valuable gift for IS and its like.

The scenery is one of a kaleidoscope of crises. IS's primitiveness is nurtured by the absence of geopolitics; those who invest in populism, on the other side, use the fear of IS as a tool.

This vicious cycle will produce more disasters. The only solution is nothing but a return to geopolitics.

- Taha Ozhan is a member of Turkish Parliament and chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee. He is an academic and writer. Ozhan holds a PhD in Politics and International Relations. He frequently comments and writes for international media. His latest book is Turkey and the crisis of Sykes-Picot Order (2015).

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: People lay flowers in front of the Reina nightclub on 3 January 2017 in Istanbul days after a gunman killed 39 people during New Year celebrations (AFP)