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How A Nation Slides Into War - A View From Turkey, As Syrian Tensions Mount

Article illustrative image Partner logo Turkish soldier

ISTANBUL - “Will we go to war with Syria?” That is the singular question on everyone’s mind these days. We journalists are being pounded with it every day from friends and close relatives -- but how can we give a direct answer?

I say talk of war between Turkey and Syria is overblown and I believe an all-out conflict would be detrimental to both countries. But then I question myself. In fact, sometimes I even laugh at myself, because these decisions are not made by those with my logic or reasoning.

Looking back at history, journalists and academics are often asked if mounting tensions are a prelude to war. Once weighed, the response is usually dismissive. But the fact that the question of war is even being asked, shows that war has reached close enough to our shores

It is at this stage that the government then steps up to say: “We don’t want war, but…”

As soon as we hear the tentative “but,” things start to get critical. No one is going to come out and say, “Yes, we are going to war, gather the troops.” Different words will be uttered so people believe that we have no choice but to go to war.

When we look at wars retrospectively, aside from struggles for independence, we see that the power and mainstream mentality that controls society, has interest in these wars. And usually, such decisions are taken in order to overcome economic austerity.

Political and, more significantly, economic hardships affect sovereign powers in their decision to declare war. This should not be confused with the invasion of a territory in order to colonize it. No, what is meant by economic hardship is that the new production order initiated by war will create a surplus value for the country, so that sovereignty will strengthen its power.

Looking for an enemy

Behind the scenes, the industrial powers desire this type of economic order every now and then. (I am not saying that we are now going to war because of this, though it was very interesting to see that the shares of ASELSAN, which produces military vehicles, gained value in the stock market on the day after Turkey’s retaliatory strike in Syria. Some people know what war means in this country, that’s for sure.)

Sometimes a country goes to war as a result of political hardship. Power, especially strong power, is mesmerized by that very power, so much so that they believe they can obtain a kind of eternal power through a new war.

One might ask where the hardship is in this scenario. It is actually there, because the strong power would look for new conditions to carry forth its strength when previous conditions are entirely exhausted. For instance, the opposition is entirely defeated, there is no opposition force left in the country that would undermine their power. These are the conditions where a country’s power is supported by a declaration of war. Because, if they stop, they will fall.

More accurately, they convince themselves that this is the right scenario. They have to bring new targets and new enemies before society because a strong leader cannot shout without pointing out someone else as a target, and who could he shout at in those given circumstances? The weak opposition? A bunch of intellectuals? Political representatives of the ethnic or religious minorities? Say you shout at them, how far can you go? After a while, you become an authoritarian leader in the eyes of the rest of the world. However, a small-scale war, which would not be opposed by the rest of the world, would open a new political arena for power inside the country.

Yet, a small-scale war unforeseeably can, suddenly, become a big-scale war. Events go beyond the initial plans, an atmosphere spins out of control with one spark, fueled by a strong nationalist atmosphere.

This brings us back to the conjunction used after war. It is after the “but” that everything is revealed. This becomes apparent when we look back at passages from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric last Friday.

“We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either.” 

"You have to be ready at every moment to go to war if it is necessary. If you are not ready for this, you are not a state. If you are not ready for this, you are not a nation.

"Nobody should ask: But what will happen if a war were to begin and bring us to that point? You should be ready for it and have the memorandum in hand. What is necessary will be done, if it does become necessary."

When it comes to Turkey, this is how matters are explained. With the U.S. elections coming up, the deadlock in the UN and the recent cross-border shelling, what should we do? Just sit and watch? 

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