What Turkish politicians can learn from WikiLeaks

Turkish politicians are very honest. You will, for example, never see CHP leader Kilicdaroglu warmly shake hands with Prime Minister Erdogan and tell him that the AKP government has made such a great contribution to the self-confident positioning of Turkey on the world diplomatic stage. And Prime Minister Erdogan would in return never thank Kilicdaroglu for trying to make the CHP more democratic and thus contributing to the democratization of Turkey. An ultra-nationalist would never say to a pro-Kurdish politician that he’s a nice guy or a great woman despite their political differences, or vice versa.

Actually, the most dishonest thing I’ve seen in recent years was a DTP politician (the former pro-Kurdish party) shaking hands with a MHP politician (ultra nationalist) in parliament, right after the elections of 2007. The hand-shake was applauded, but neither man meant his kindness and smiles even a tiny little bit.

Turkish politicians from different political colours in general despise each other. And they don’t hide it. Even when they meet on formal occasions like funerals of fallen soldiers or informal ones like weddings, they simply don’t talk. They hardly talk even behind closed doors, away from the media and the public eye. The CHP and AKP didn’t have any meeting whatsoever in the last couple of years.

They do address each other through the media. And very honestly too. For example Erdogan accuses Kilicdaroglu or Bahceli (MHP leader) of something, and soon after that there will be a ‘sert yanit’ (harsh answer) from the targeted politician on another channel or in another paper. Then Erdogan in turn comes out with a ‘sert yanit’, and so on and so on.
On the subject of WikiLeaks too, the ‘sert yanits’ go back and forth. In one cable, for example, there was something about Erdogan having secret bank accounts in Switzerland (which was, by the way, just something a diplomat had ‘heard’ and of which there is no proof so far). Erdogan denies it, Kilicdaroglu says ‘Prove it by going to court!’, Erdogan answers harshly, Kilicdaroglu even more harshly in return. They fool nobody: they hate each other’s guts, and they show it.

I read and I have heard Turks say that the cables prove what the USA really is: two-faced, dishonest. Play friends with a nation and say bad things behind its back. Well, I guess Turks can be proud of their leaders. They never play friends. But of course, in the meantime, this damn honesty leads absolutely nowhere. It basically blocks all development in the country. And we are not talking minor issues here. It would have helped get changes to the constitution and acceptance of them if all parties had sat down together to discuss their views on the constitution. The process of solving the Kurdish issue might have advanced a few steps further than it is now if only politicians had been hypocritical enough to sit down and face each other and talk like adults and negotiate like politicians.

In short: if they had behaved a little bit more like American diplomats. If they had been brave enough to throw overboard the immense Turkish machismo that stands in the way of any compromise or even approach. Share all necessary information openly without constraint in your own group, base a policy on it and then step into the outside world. Talk to as many actors as possible, even to those you like least or even the ones your informants despise. If not to make the world a better place, then at least to get as many as possible of your own policy goals realized. In my humble opinion, a little bit more American diplomatic hypocrisy would do Turkey a lot of good.

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