Anti-Americanism is on the rise in Turkey and, fueled by pop conspiracy theories and hypocritical American policies, now threatens relations with the United States, said Hudson Institute scholar Zeyno Baran to a group of journalists in Istanbul.
This troubling trend is at odds with the two countries’ history of cooperation that dates to the 1947 Truman Doctrine, Baran said. Turkey once gladly served as NATO’s eastern bulwark against communism, but now only 12% of its population views the United States positively.
Baran says that the rest are making blockbuster successes of militantly anti-American pop-culture products.
Baran pointed to the best-selling novel Metal Storm (2005), which was popular even among Turkish leaders, that told of American troops fighting to “liberate” Istanbul from the Turks and to re-establish it as a Christian capitol. And the hit movie Valley of the Wolves: Iraq (2006) showed American troops massacring Iraqi families at a wedding and executing captured civilians in the back of a truck.
Movie trailer for Valley of the Wolves: Iraq
“Although these objectives would appear sensational and unrealistic to Americans, there is very real fear among some Turks that the United States and the EU are in fact actively plotting such campaigns,” said Baran.
But Baran insists that Turks’ negative opinions of the U.S. reflect substantive differences in the way Turkey and the U.S. view the world in a post-September-11 world. The U.S. is motivated by the transnational threat of terrorism, she said, while Turkey is concerned about its own internal threats of Kurdish separatism and Islamist political gains.
Pointed disagreements have arisen as the U.S. has courted “moderate” Islamist partners in order to reassure critics that the war on terror is not a war on Islam, Baran said. One such partner is Turkey’s current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who rose to power despite charges of corruption and ties to Turkey’s Islamist right.