Goodbye to Turkey or Goodbye to Good versus Evil?

The West is worried about Turkey.  Its spokespeople fear that the West might have “lost” Turkey since its Prime Minister, Recep Erdoğan, associated himself with President Lula, proposed to act as intermediary between the West and Iran, and, later, reacted with determination against Israel’s violent raid on a boat sailing under the Turkish flag and transporting activists against the Gaza blockade.

Turkey is the most developed country in the Middle East.  It was a firm ally of the United States during the Cold War and had the United States’ support for its admittance to the European Union.

Yet, as early as 2003, when the United States asked for permission for its troops to go through Turkey to invade Iraq, the Turkish parliament refused it.

What is happening?  Bien pensants and rash thinkers observe that the party in government since 2002 is an Islamic party, albeit a moderate and democratic one, and conclude that Turkey is changing its “axis” and allying itself with the “Islamic enemy.”  The Prime Minister and all Turkish authorities naturally reject this interpretation.  Erdogan says that only “those who are incapable of understanding Turkey’s new role and its multilateral foreign policy” are worried.  Or, in other words, first of all we need to ask whether there are an axis of good and an axis “of evil,” as President George W. Bush put it.

This is the point that middle-income countries such as Brazil and Turkey, as well as India and Argentina, reject when they formulate their foreign policy and adopt a multilateral policy.  During the Cold War, we were faced with two imperialisms, and there was a threat to the survival of capitalism and democracy that could not be ignored.  Today, there is no threat to capitalism or to democracy.  And no one embodies good or evil.

The world is divided into rich nationalist countries, middle-income nationalist countries of various ranks, and poor countries that still need to achieve their capitalist revolution and to modernize itself.  Nationalist countries are those that are able to defend their interests in the international arena and, at the same time, to cooperate with the others.

For middle-income countries, there is no reason to ally themselves with rich countries.  Rather, given the fact that rich countries are imperialist even without wishing to be so, simply because they are richer and more powerful, middle-income countries need to be careful not to become dependent on rich countries.

Experience shows that only with independence is it possible for a country to develop.  Mexico’s disastrous experience is the latest example of the damages of dependence.  After it associated itself with the United States and Canada, Mexico saw its economy practically stagnate, and corruption and drugs took control of the very politics of the country.

The United States and some of its European allies still continue to see the world as divided between friends and enemies, between good and evil.  And they seek to support their policies by identifying middle-income nationalist countries — China, Russia, Iran, and now, maybe, Turkey — as enemies.  This is a distorted view that deserves less and less credence.

Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira (Professor Emeritus, Getulio Vargas Foundation) is an economist.  Em Português.

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