No matter how many countries are shattered, no matter how many times the consequences of ‘humanitarian interventions’ fail to live up to their expectations, nothing seems to shake the fairytale version of Western foreign policy that emanates from a broad spectrum of the mainstream media, from the centre-left to the right.
This week for example, the supposedly centre-left New Statesman has a horrendously militaristic front cover showing a slavering Russian bear embracing the world in its claws, with the headline ‘Time to Rearm?’ And The Observer has a hand-wringing article which seeks to discredit the ‘Blair doctrine’ of humanitarian intervention once again in Syria.
Both discussions reflect a fairytale narrative of Western foreign policy which includes the following essential components:
- The world is divided into good guys and bad guys. The good guys consist of all Western governments and their allies, whether taken individually or collectively as members of the ‘international community’. Like Don Quixote, these governments are out there in a perilous world, perpetually slaying dragons, saving maidens in distress, and fighting injustice.
- On the other side there are assorted dictatorships, authoritarian and undemocratic states, terrorists, jihadists, gangster states like Russia and ‘bad guys’ who are out there doing evil.
- In this fairy tale world ‘we’ have no aggressive intentions. We do not engage in realpolitik. We have no ulterior motives. Our foreign policy is guided entirely by lofty moral principles. We have no geostrategic or economic interests. Energy resources and pipeline routes do not interest us.
- We do not and never would conspire to bring about ‘regime change’ or other political outcomes to suit our geopolitical interests, and nor do our allies, and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of ‘conspiracy theory.’ We do not engage in ‘terrorism’ and never ‘talk to terrorists’ or deal with states or organizations that do. We are led by decent folk, who only want to do the decent thing.
From time to time evidence emerges to challenge these assumptions. This week, for example, Turkey’s beleaguered Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been engaged in a futile and counterproductive attempt to prevent leaks about the corruption of his administration by banning Youtube and Twitter.
Despite these efforts, leaked Youtube posts have revealed what seems to be a recent conversation between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and a number of high-ranking officials earlier this year, discussing previous weapons shipments to Syrian rebels and the possibility of carrying out a faked an al-Qaeda attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, founder of the Ottoman Empire, in Syria, in order to just a military invasion with tanks and special forces.
The authenticity of the recording has not been verified, but nor have I heard any evidence to suggest that it is not authentic. It is not clear when this conversation took place, but its participants included intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, army deputy chief of staff Yasar Guler, and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, and there is no doubt about their intentions.
Discussing the plan, Sinirlioglu says ‘We’re going to portray this is Al-Qaeda, there’s no distress there if it’s a matter regarding Al-Qaeda. And if it comes to defending Suleiman Shah Tomb, that’s a matter of protecting our land.‘
To which Güler replies:
‘We don’t have any problems with that.’
And Prime Minister Erdogan also appears to be aware of the planning for this operation, according to this extract:
Davetoglu: Just between us, Prime Minister said that this (attacking the Tomb of Suleyman Sah) should also be considered as an opportunity in this conjuncture Hakan
Fidan: Sir, look, if the justification- we can- I can send four men to the other side, and make them fire 8 missiles to deserted territory. It is not a problem! Justification can be created.
Indeed it can, if the will is there, and with this lot it certainly is. Faking such an incident is clearly so normal in their world that the morality of it doesn’t even emerge as an issue to be discussed. The problem lies in its follow-up strategy and doability, according to Guler, who worries:
‘We cannot implement the decision, we are paralyzed for various reasons, this is our problem Mr. Minister. The apparatus of the state is not working’.
And then there are other protagonists to consider:
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Yes, we will pass on to that okay take it and I am coming. You cannot say to the US Secretary of State, “we need to take strong measures.”
Hakan Fidan: Well, sir, what I am saying is–
Ahmet Davutoğlu: Then he will say, you did not even defend your own land. We had many friendly conversations, mostly with Kerry and he told me exactly this, did you decide to strike and …
Yaşar Güler: Sir, we did, we did a hundred times. With US…
Whether this means that Kerry was actually aware of these particular plans, or whether the US had more generally been pressuring Turkey to attack Syria is not made clear in the conversation. In any case it suggests a very different way of conducting international relations to the one that appears in the mainstream press.
You might expect the revelation that a key Nato member has been plotting to fake a terrorist attack to justify a war, with the possible collusion of the world’s greatest democracy to be at least worthy of further analysis and discussion. But with the exception of Reuters, this leak has barely aroused any attention at all.
And why should it? Because fairytales about knights and dragons may not be true, but as every child knows, they do leave you with a warm glowing feeling, don’t they?