Despite Warm Official Relations, Turks Remain Anti-American

You must be tired of hearing about this: relations between Ankara and Washington in recent years are at their warmest — in a sort of golden age. It is a “model partnership” or a “strategic alliance” based on mutual interests and values. At a time when Israeli-Turkish relations are at a low, relations with the US remain fabulous despite the presence of the notorious Israeli lobby which is supposedly controlling them.

Why? It depends on who you ask. Some say that it is because of the genuine dialogue between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan. There are some who say, “Obama understands Turkey well because he has his own problems with Israel.” However, there are also some who think that boiling down the state of relations to the personal traits of the two leaders is an oversimplification.

According to the realist perspective on international relations, “Countries don’t have friends, they have interests.” Obama and Erdogan had serious disagreements over Iran only two years ago. Why were they unable to understand each other then? There are two basic reasons why relations improved in 2010. First, Turkey reacted positively to the proposal to install a NATO radar base on its territory. Second, Turkey’s political, strategic and potential military importance has been increasing since the beginning of the Arab uprisings and Syrian crisis. Common interests between two countries are just as important explanatory factors as good relations between the two leaders.

But a paradox remains: despite the smooth US-Turkey relations there is incessant anti-Americanism in Turkey. Indeed, the anti-Americanism that peaked during the Bush Administration continues under Obama.

Sure, everyone wants to send their children to the US for their education and applications for green cards and visas are ever increasing. Nevertheless, serious suspicions and fears of US conspiracies in its regional foreign policies are very much present. Even Obama’s positive image does not help. Thanks to Obama, anti-Americanism seems to have lost its intensity all over the world … except in Turkey.

Why? It is because anti-Americanism in Turkey is hardwired. We believe that Turkey’s main identity problems have their roots in the US. For example, take our most serious identity problem: the Kurdish issue. No matter who you talk to in Turkey, you can immediately see that, in the eyes of the Turkish public, the US wants a Kurdish state. There is a common perception that Washington supports the PKK and US imperialism seeks to cut Turkey into pieces. This is why, no matter what the US does, it will not be able to get the Turkish public to approve of it.

We have other identity problems too, such as the debate between secularism and Islam. There is a significant segment of the population who believes that it was the US which introduced the concept of “moderate Islam” and created the AKP.

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