Groupthink and the Turkish Government

26 October 2014, 1542 EDT

fearThe Turkish government’s unwillingness to intervene in Kobani has led to renewed violence across the country, claiming more than 30 lives. Turkey’s own Kurds demanded action, Ankara bulked, people died. The peace process between Ankara and the Kurds might now be in jeopardy. And the government is drafting a suspicious bill that, if passed, can restrict the civil rights and liberties of Turkish citizens and violate their fundamental human rights.

I was working on a post on the UN climate change summit (next post, promise) but the violence that erupted in Turkey hit home. Growing up in Turkey in the 80s and early 90s meant hearing news of bloodshed everyday. The thirty-year conflict between the government and the PKK claimed more than 40,000 lives, marring everybody… child and adult…Turkish and Kurdish.

Turkey is finally helping the Kurdish fighters in Kobani. But the government missed the historic opportunity to be the pivot of the fight against ISIS and to straighten its domestic affairs. Grupthink seems to be haunting the Turkish ruling elite.

Fearful of an autonomous Kurdish entity in Syria, the government failed to sensibly evaluate the short and long-term political repercussions of its Kobani policy and consider alternative courses of action. Turkey could have played a leading role in the fight against ISIS and revive its strategic importance in the Middle East.

Fearful of its own Kurdish population, the government failed to understand the normative implications of not helping the Kobani Kurds and grasp how its inaction would actually play into the hands of the PKK. The government could have used its assistance to the Kobani Kurds as a symbol of good faith to reach to the moderate Kurdish base in Turkey in the in the ongoing peace talks.

Fearful of conspiracies, the government stereotyped all opposition as weak-willed and disloyal to Turkey, rationalizing the anti-democratic draft defense bill.

As I reluctantly watch Turkish politics from the metroplex of Dallas-Forth Worth now, I am reconnected with the sadness I used to feel as a child as the prolonged conflict claimed many lives.

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