01 May 2017

Erdogan's Byzantine Tactics

Turkey continues to move away from the West. While still ostensibly a member of NATO it is clear the EU accession project is now dead. In many ways Ankara is moving toward the Moscow orbit, itself a great coup in terms of modern geopolitics.

And yet I am still somewhat sceptical of the long-term sustainability of such a relationship. History is very much against it and even now the Syrian War is preventing Turkey and Russia from becoming full partners. When it comes to Damascus, they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. This is but one of several historical points that almost necessarily drives them apart.
The Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran and the Balkans are also potential fault-lines. And those are just old geopolitical faults. There are the potential economic tension-points, such as energy and trade. Right now they're on the same page but the situation is hardly solid.
Erdogan continues to dismantle the Kemalist state which was the only basis for an alliance with the West. After the recent coup he seems to no longer care about appeasing Berlin, Brussels or Washington. It is with the latter that he knows he must tread carefully. The present chaos within Washington's ruling circles has afforded him an opportunity to continue plodding along and more importantly consolidate power. No one can accuse him of being idle. He knows there are still some very powerful forces that would seem him removed and thus he's doing all he can to insure that his rule is airtight.
Would-be Neo-Ottoman Turkey and Third-Rome Moscow are both heirs of the Byzantine tradition and yet historically they have been mortal enemies. At present the Crusader intrigues of the West seem to be bringing them together... both functioning (to put it in Medieval terms) as the Byzantine foil to Frankish intrigues. And yet it's all rather fragile.
It's pointless to speculate as almost predictable past norms seem (at present) to be less than fully applicable. The Trump era only increases the uncertainty. Are we in a new era of history? Yes and no. Some things never change and the old issues cannot simply be dismissed but we can enter into temporary artificial arrangements (like the Cold War) in which the normal patterns of history are set aside. They're not eliminated but simply put on the back burner or on pause where they simmer. The chaos and bloodshed of the past 25 years are the result of those pressures being put on hold during the decades after the World Wars. History is trying to revert to its old patterns and the United States is doing all it can to 'turn the page' and transform the anomaly that was the Cold War into a permanent unipolar American dominated order.
There is a titanic struggle afoot as the various players attempt to manipulate the falling chips that resulted in the explosion of 1989-91. It hasn't ended and continues to grow more complicated and tense.

I cannot recall a time more rife with tension and peril nor a period in which so much mis- and dis-information is being bandied about. The Internet while present in 2002 was not as prevalent or as ubiquitous in the day-to-day lives of people as it is now. The 18 months after 9/11 was a period of lies, rumour, hysteria and deception. I think the present period is actually worse... and becoming more dangerous.


  1. I'm curious what your opinion is on the present situation with Korea. Given the sensationalism in the media about how we're on the verge of a third world war, I'm surprised you haven't said anything about it.

    In one of your prior posts, you mentioned a conversation you had with a colleague years ago. It was just after the Twin Towers were attacked. He rushed to tell you and you responded with certainty about the US going to war. I guess as a former serviceman yourself, you have a ken about this sort of thing.

    I know Western media will only present a one-sided view of Chinese-American relations vis-a-vis North Korea, which leads me to conclude that we aren't getting all the facts about what's going on. While it's reasonable to assume that this is part of a larger geopolitical strategy to deal with China and perhaps Russia, I can't really say anything beyond that without going into baseless speculation.

    Your thoughts?

  2. It's hard to say. Trump has certainly extended himself a bit and is played no small part in escalating the tensions. With ships and subs closing in, THAAD, red lines being drawn, the recent stunt with the senate being brought to the White House etc., it would seem some kind of showdown is almost inevitable. There's been some debate on the news regarding 'his generals'. Are they leading him or are they drooling lapdogs eager to fulfill whatever orders he's willing to give? It's not clear. Few things are right now other than he has completely abandoned much of the stance and platform he ran on. This is true domestically and increasingly true with regard to foreign policy.

    I haven't really paid much attention to the mainstream coverage of the issue. I know they're always eager to cheer-lead the public into the next war. The coverage of the Syria airstrike has been absolutely sick and utterly deceptive besides.

    It's hard to imagine that Trump won't turn to the war machine at some point. There's also a long track record of presidents turning to foreign policy and militarism when they run into the brick wall of legislative failure. When Congress locks up and their hands are tied domestically they are almost naturally drawn to look to the Pentagon and Langley as realms in which they have a free hand.

    There's so much afoot right now. Turkey, Korea, Trump, Europolitics, Syria, the media... it's nuts.

    I'm woefully behind on everything right now. Articles, email, everything. Work has been killing me the last few months. I've been involved in a stressful time consuming and energy draining project. Thankfully it's almost done. My apologies to all.