Turkey's Soft Power

Unlike "hard power," soft power epitomizes the different influence and attraction areas beyond economic indicators and military power.

Turkey's Soft Power

Famous Azeri poet Bahtiyar Vahapzade said in his statement to Zaman that Iran sent him special treatment plans when he was paralyzed but Turkey did not even wish him a "speedy recovery."

"I never loved Persians in my 80- year life. They helped me even though I reflected my negative attitude towards them in my works." This statement reveals the sensitivity Iran shows over the geo-cultural depth in the region. Turkey, on the other side, has a limited action area in foreign policy due to its internal problems. Iran, which is pincered by the US, wields significant influence over Sunni majority areas despite its "radical" and "revolutionary" character and "Shiite" identity. Turkey still approaches the opportunities it has hesitantly. Turkey's stance on Iraq, still marked by uncertainty, including Northern Iraq under a de facto administration of the Kurds, is only one of the factors which shows the ambiguity in Turkish foreign policy. The problem is not the Iran-Turkey rivalry but the ability to use soft power policy. The in-depth understanding of the strategies, which opened new horizons in Turkish foreign policy, has given Turkey the ability to be able to use its soft power in foreign policy.

Soft power vs. hard power…

Joseph Nye, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who used the "soft power" concept for the first time in the 1980s, acted on the idea that there are different power types which shape international relations, besides the military and economic. There are three ways of getting anything you want: threatening the opposing side with brute force and going to war if necessary; buying over the opponent in various ways; and convincing him/her by using your "soft power." According to Nye, soft power means "getting something you want not by using brute force but by making others accept your goals." This is possible by convincing the opposing side with plausible evidences and rational policies. Here plausibility and the ability to convince are basic means of power.

Nye, who uses the "soft power" expression in order to understand and explain the alternatives in US foreign policy, believes the US has lost its plausibility, persuasiveness and attraction; the cost of this situation cannot be measured by any economic indicators. According to him, for the US to continue its success of the Cold War era depends on regaining its lost soft power not on occupying new countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. In a world where anti-Americanism has established itself as a global phenomenon, it is not possible anymore for the US to become a preferred and dependable political power. The US soft power is losing significance day by day.

Unlike "hard power," soft power epitomizes the different influence and attraction areas beyond economic indicators and military power. Many elements reinforce soft power: Education, universities, art, written and visual media, inter-country forums, nongovernmental organizations, platforms for economic cooperation, films, poetry, literature, translated works and other influence areas related to real life of a society.

This delicate power is directly linked to those organic methods of production and therefore has a civil quality in itself. The role of STKs here is far more important and permanent than that of the state. It is impossible for the state to generate such power on its own; however, it can canalize them, use them as an affirmative value and give them new opportunities for development. Brute force alone, a sign of military and economic power, is not a guarantee for that delicate power. If it were so, such Gulf countries as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, some countries listed among the Top 10 in terms of income per capita, could have generated massive delicate power and this, for example, could have produced Saudi diplomacy, Qatari architecture or Kuwaiti literature as well. If the military and economic means were good enough to create delicate power, Iranian cinema could never have had the success it now retains. In both examples, plausibility and persuasiveness require action beyond relying on military and economic power.

Power as a contextual element

In short, delicate power includes all values and elements a nation produces other than military and economic power. There is necessarily no link between brute force and delicate power. The existence of brute force is no guarantee for delicate power. Nye shows Canada, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries as examples of nations with effective delicate power although they have limited military and economic power. Such nations have a sphere of influence not proportionate to their brute force, owing to the values that they continuously produce, social organizations and the positions they occupy in educational and international platforms. For instance, Norway is a small country with a population of 4.5 million. It is not a member of the European Union. The official language is Norwegian, a language that is not common and popular. In terms of income per capita, Norway is among the first five countries in the world; however, there are some other things that really make Norway acquire delicate power: its active role in international aid organizations, its approach to the Palestinian problem, its freedom of press, its fight against corruption, its adherence to human rights and children's rights. Accumulation of capital may be a requisite for success in these areas, but that's definitely not enough.

Power is contextual, no matter its nature and form. The definition of power takes shape according to the prevailing conditions. It is not possible to mention "absolute power" in this sense because every claim to power includes seeds of weakness. A seemingly difficult quality in a certain historical or geographical context may appear as weakness in another context. America's unrivalled military power is an advantage in terms of hard power but weakness from the perspective of soft power. It is not possible for people in different parts of the world to sympathize with a country that spends more than the budgets of dozens of countries on weapons annually. We cannot ignore the fact that the over-emphasized military power and wrong policies executed by the Bush administration gave rise to anti-Americanism in the wake of September 11. The US military power that enables it to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, prevents it from making economic and political leaps in other parts of the world. In brief, if there is something like "absolute power" that is worthy of note.

Hard power that has no support but gains profundity through soft power cannot have a permanent effect. There was a disproportionate difference between the military powers of the Seljuks and Mongols in the 13th century. The people in that era, most probably, thought human history would be Mongol-oriented thereafter. However, the Mongol military power disappeared in a short period of time. Mongolians, deprived of soft power, unlike the Seljuks or Ottomans, had a history of occupation and plunder. [Adolf] Hitler and [Joseph] Stalin, who had similar destinies in the last century, made the same mistakes. The United States, the only military superpower in the world at present, is proceeding in a similar manner and wasting all the positive values that made America great, in order to protect its hard power.


Dr. Ibrahim Kalin,



Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16