The AKP, like most democratic political parties, has designs on becoming something of a permanent ruling party. Luckily for them, the opposition CHP is all too happy to play the role of the Washington Generals to the AKP’s Harlem Globetrotters. Fresh off Davutoğlu’s aggressive statements last week on Syria and Turkey’s role in the world, CHP deputy leader Osman Korutürk decided that the proper response was to blast the AKP’s policy on Syria, which he dubbed as damaging to Turkey.
Defining the policy a failure, CHP Deputy Chairman Osman Korutürk maintained that “Turkey has turned into an interventionist country, meddling in the internal affairs of its neighbors, instigating war and taking part in regional conflicts.” “Turkey has become an isolated country within the international community due to its Syria policy. It pretended to back Annan’s peace plan but has created a perception that it supports a military intervention in Syria,” Korutürk added.
There are two simple lessons that the CHP needs to learn. First, nobody wants to listen to politicians telling you how terrible and unworthy you are. It is simply not a recipe for winning elections, particularly in a country like Turkey that has very strong nationalist feelings and state pride. When refugees are pouring across the border, it just won’t do to talks about Turkish meddling or war-mongering. It is tone deaf at best, dangerously cynical at worst. In addition, Syria is a strange issue on which to go after the AKP. The government might have dragged its heels at the outset, waiting interminably for Assad to carry out the various reforms that he had promised his buddy Erdoğan were forthcoming, but Ankara has arrived at a place where it has a principled and praiseworthy position on Syria. Why in the world would the CHP attack Erdoğan and Davutoğlu on this aside from just wanting to jump up and down and wave their arms in the hopes of getting some attention? The strategy here basically seems to be to look at what the AKP is doing on foreign policy and then do the opposite, irrespective of the actual policy or issue at hand. There is a reason that the CHP has been out of power for three decades, and this type of nonsense is not going to help matters.
Second, it is not enough to just tear down the other side without having a coherent policy of your own. What would the CHP have Turkey do in Syria? Is Korutürk arguing that it is actually in Turkey’s interests to just leave Assad alone to do his own thing? Note that Korutürk did not accuse the government of trying to intervene in Syria themselves, but rather of supporting a military intervention in Syria, which implies an international force of some sort, whether it be NATO or the UN. This is an aggressive posture to be sure, but given that this is precisely what happened in Libya, it doesn’t read as being totally outrageous or unprecedented. It is unclear to me why the CHP thinks that Turkey has in any way instigated war or how it believes Ankara is now isolated, and what its solution is to contain the enormous problem in Turkey’s backyard that is spilling over into Turkey itself. Also, bear in mind that this is the very same party that was going hard after the AKP one year ago for being inconsistent on the Arab Spring, supporting the people in one instance and the regime in another, and now its position is that Turkey should just sit on its hands in every situation? Rather than generating endless sound and fury, the CHP needs to take a step back, figure out what its position actually is, and become proactive rather than always react to what the government is doing. Until this happens, Davutoğlu is going to continue running circles around the CHP’s foreign policy voices and the party will keep on consigning itself to irrelevance.