The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Dec 282009

Check out this article in the NY times:

Frustrated With West, Turks Revel in Empire Lost

OK, we got it: We’re all into our imperial “roots” these days. The Russians are reveling in nostalgia about Stalin and the glory days of the USSR. The Chinese are confessing their cultural ties to Confucius and all those pre-western millennia when China was indeed the “Middle Kingdom” (those characters still form the Mandarin anagram for China). And yes the Persians, reaching a bit further back, are playing up big the glorious imperial precedents of the Achaemenids (CyrusDariusXerxes, et al.) and the Sassanids (ever hear about Shapur the Great?). But now the Turks join the ranks of the revanchism brigade. I could have told them all along that the EU would never accept them. Their Ataturk-inspired “westernization” has reached a dead end. So now it’s time to turn back to the great Ottoman Empire.

Maybe you were taught in high school or college that this was the perennial “sick man of Europe”? How wrong you were! Did you know that if they had taken Vienna in 1683, they could have driven straight into the heart of Europe? Maybe Lawrence of Arabia, who did so much to help the Arabs liberate themselves of the Turkish Empire, did history a bad turn. From 1517 to 1924, the Ottoman Turk “Sultan,” number one in political power, chose the “Caliph” of the Muslim world, number one in religious authority. Not only were the Arabs under the Turk thumb. Islam itself was under the Turk thumb.

Well, thanks to Lawrence, the Turkish thumb eventually disappeared. And ever since all hell has broken loose. Question: Now that Obama has blown a fateful (and deadline-delimited) trumpet on behalf of our effort in Afghanistan, and now that he has to worry that Al-Qaida could (even if Obama is successful in roughly 550 days) just as easily regroup in Somalia or Yemen, could it not be the moment to enlist the aid of the ancient Turkic virtue? Their empire, revived? Their noble Janissaries? The Turks were always better warriors than the Arabs. It was the Turks who booted out the Crusaders. And the Turks (Mamluks) who turned back the Mongols. Why not turn back to the Turks again? Just a thought.

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  • morleywinograd

    So its time to let the Turks in on the Iranian reprocessing deal as Iran has suggested and let the nuclear future of the region return to being a Turkish worry.

  • Richardboomer

    Is there a parallel to Nazis coming to power in Germany after First WW?
    Suppose Islamic party continues to increase in power and take over Turkey, making it an Islamic state by passing new laws. Suppose Turkey and Iran form a secret military pact against the USA and then other states like Pakistan turn on the US to join them. Is this the path to the crisis climax of the 4th Turning?

  • A travelling Millennial

    When I was studying abroad in Vienna (Wien), I had the blessing of having two Hungarians as professors in a kind of cultural exchange program for Austria & Hungary. To paraphrase one of my professors, he once went to a conference in the '90s where he met a woman from Turkey. She asked him what country he was from and he answered Hungary, and–with a great big smile on her face–oh you were once part of the great Ottoman Empire! As if they were old neighbors reuniting after a long separation. To simply put it, as a Hungarian, he was not flattered by the statement, but exited the conversation politely. However, what it shows is that Turkish nostalgia for the great Ottoman Empire is something that isn't that new, and that its only our awareness of it that is. It's also no surprise to me that Turkey is being refused to join the EU, Austria & Germany are tired of the Turkish immigrants who moved to their country in the '60s & the '70s, and old memories of what the Turks did 500 years ago still run deep in the culture. The joining Eastern European nations aren't exactly thrilled to have Turkey become a member either, since they've only escaped Turkish rule less almost a hundred years ago (which is like yesterday/last week in an European mindframe). For a comparison that Americans can understand, it would be like Mexico applying to become part of the United States–it just doesn't go over that well.