On the morning of February 6, two large earthquakes struck southeastern Turkey and Syria. The earthquakes were so powerful that seismic waves reached Japan in the east, Denmark in the north and the coast of America in the west. As in the material world, the effects of what is experienced in social life in any part of our world ripple out to very distant regions. We might call this the social butterfly effect.
The global society, that is, the whole of humanity, is like the limbs of a single body. A disease that occurs in the limbs or a pain that is felt in the body will sooner or later be felt in other parts of the body in varying degrees of intensity. However, the borders of countries became clear and appeared in people’s minds as a result of the nationalist movement that began in the 17th century and gained influence from the 18th century. The borders we see on maps were also formed in our minds. As a result, the subject of interfering in the internal affairs of states became taboo. So much so that it became sacred.
For a long time, the fact that one country’s regime was a dictatorship or that there was no democracy in that country did not concern other states. During and after the Second World War, however, it became clear that dictators could have devastating consequences not only in their own countries, but also in their own regions, continents, and even the entire world. Hitler’s irrational passions and ambitions caused unprecedented destruction around the world. However, at the beginning of Hitler’s reign, the great powers thought that they could contain the problem with a policy of appeasement. However, their expectations were dashed, and the monster they tried to appease led to great disaster. By the time they decided to intervene, the beast had gained such strength that it took years to resolve the problem.
Unfortunately, this approach continued after World War II. Many Western states welcomed the existence of autocratic and dictatorial governments in countries, especially African states, that had gained independence since the 1950s. Keeping these countries under control in this way was seen as a much more practical approach. In the short and medium term, this approach seemed to bear fruit. The natural resources of these countries continued to support the industries of the developed world. However, at the point we have reached today, it is clear that the long-term consequences of this approach are quite devastating. Today, a wave of migration, especially from the African continent to the rest of the world, especially to Europe, is negatively affecting the stability of both Africa and the world. Civil wars, terrorist movements and health problems in the African continent seem to be much more on the global agenda in the coming period. However, if the dictators on the African continent had not been tolerated, a much more stable continent and world would have been possible in the medium and long term.
The main problem here is that the development of democracy in underdeveloped or developing countries makes them fragile, and the classical interest-based understanding of international relations makes this situation worse. The understanding that “states do not have friends or enemies, they have interests” is no longer a sustainable approach. Although this self-serving approach may seem valid in today’s world, its long-term consequences are devastating. As I mentioned at the beginning, in our world, which is becoming more global and more like a small village with communication capabilities with each passing day, global interests should be given as much priority as national interests. Otherwise, an approach that looks only at national interests will inevitably produce the opposite results.
It is an important mistake to live in history and to attribute historical mistakes to the present generation. Because the decisions made in the past bind those who made those decisions at that time and under those conditions. Therefore, the ideas expressed here are put forward to prevent the repetition of mistakes made in the past. The right decisions and actions taken today will be an important guide for future generations. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will face the same dire consequences if we cling to the mistakes of the past. The most important way to avoid this would be to remember that the global community is one body.
With this in mind, I believe there are two basic actions that should be taken as soon as possible:
- Stop supporting or tolerating the governments of other states that show autocratic and dictatorial tendencies.
- Abandon the purely interest-based approach to international politics.
1. Stop supporting or tolerating the governments of other states that show autocratic and dictatorial tendencies
As mentioned above, working with autocrats or dictators is easy. By persuading or threatening one person, it becomes easier to get an entire country to act in accordance with a certain decision. However, while this may bring short-term benefits, it has devastating consequences in the medium and especially the long term. For this reason, it will be to their advantage in the medium and long term for major states to abandon this approach, and it will have positive results for the future of the world. What must be done is clear: the support and tolerance of autocrats and dictators must inevitably come to an end. As in the case of Hitler, autocrats and dictators are unstable and do not recognize any value other than their own self-interest. They do not hesitate to use religious, cultural and moral values for their own interests. They are always a threat to their own people and to the whole world.
Today, there are many states in the world, especially in the African continent, the Middle East, and Central Asia, that are ruled by autocrats and dictators. A significant number of these leaders are people who came to power through elections and exploited the religious sensitivities of their societies. Typically, these people, who use human rights and democratic values as tools in the process of coming to power, show autocratic tendencies after consolidating their power. While consolidating their power, they dominate the press, enrich their supporters, and disrupt the legal order. Once they consolidate their power, they establish an autocratic and then a dictatorial state structure.
A significant number of these rulers initially establish good relations with democratic Western states and great powers. But as they begin to consolidate power at home, their rhetoric toward these states hardens. At least, that seems to be the case. This is the way to strengthen the image of the strongman before his own people. In general, however, the big states tolerate these leaders and try to realize their national interests through the weaknesses of this one person. While this may be advantageous for these countries in the short term, it creates major problems in the medium and long term. First, these autocrats and dictators have problems with neighboring states and begin to threaten their territorial integrity. This leads to regional conflicts and humanitarian tragedies. These problems inevitably spill over into other parts of the world. This means big problems in the medium and long term for states that tolerate these leaders.
That’s why developed countries and big states should stop tolerating these leaders from the start and focus on long-term goals, putting aside short-term interests. This requires an understanding of foreign policy based on principles rather than interests.
2. Abandon the purely interest-based approach to international politic
One of the first principles taught to students of International Relations is this: “States do not have friends or enemies, they have interests.” This understanding is at the root of many of the problems facing the world today. Yes, every state has its own interests. However, as I mentioned above, the interests to focus on should be long-term ones. Because many issues that seem to be beneficial in the short term may cause inextricable problems in the long term and may become a heavy burden for future generations. Since interests are also intertwined in our global village, we need approaches that serve both long-term interests and the general interest of the world. That’s why developed countries and major states have an important role to play. These states, which are normative in nature, should consider the concept of national interest more comprehensively. Otherwise, the shallow perspective will show that the phenomenon defined as national interest will not serve the interests of these states in the medium and long term.
As a result, the concept of national interest has an unhealthy foundation in today’s international system. In a world where our lives and futures are so intertwined, it is clear that we need long-term and inclusive solutions. We must remember that a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in the world can cause storms in a region far away. Just like an earthquake that happened somewhere in the world is felt on different levels around the world.
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