“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
“The Sound of Silence”, a hit by Simon & Garfunkel in the 60s conveys a strong message about the dangers of ignorance which still feels inconvenient today. The well-known song’s lyrics go very well with the days we’re going through, in which we have been under the siege of a virus. It reflects the desperation or existential anxiety we are feeling these days, and also, ends with an enigma, just like our visions of the future.
The spread of the virus is not similar to catastrophes like earthquakes, avalanches or floods. Our generation will have something new, something unique to experience. After this outbreak, the concept of “normal” that we know about our lives will certainly change. As human beings, we live in groups; therefore, it is not possible to isolate oneself from others for a long time. As a social body, people rely on each other to fulfill their needs. This includes learning to live more calmly than ever before, and becoming able to rebuild a system without panic. We can only suspend the schools or work for a while. While we have been focused on isolation, outbreaks, diagnosis, and so on, the world is spinning around. As of the beginning of March, we have frozen our foreign affairs issues; such as Syria, Libya, S400, refugee problems etc.
It is quite possible to create a fairer, more egalitarian society with stable relationships with its neighbors, after these days. Although I know its wishful thinking, the circumstances will compel us to approach that at least. At this point, it is relevant to ask whether the epidemic would affect the foreign policy of Turkey or not. We can analyze the strategies, policies and precautions of the government in the extra-ordinary days of the virus to shed a light for the future.
The President is present in all dimensions of the outbreak fight. It is claimed that he distanced himself from negative issues–such as tests, cases, deaths, economic effects etc.–on the contrary, he made comments about positive steps taken, such as the Economic Stability Shield Plan, which includes assistance of TL 100 billion. However, it can be said that all decisions were taken either by him or after his approval, from the suspension of schools to the quarantine of pilgrims, from the closure of mosques to Friday prayers to the closure of bars, pubs, museums and bookshops. There is a Science Board, of course, but it is more of an advisory committee.
The major problem here is the current Presidential system. It’s very difficult to describe the system; it’s a type of presidential system but it doesn’t match any of the examples or definitions. Hence, it was named the Turkish-style presidential model, which is more like an Unidentified Governing Object. We know there is a system of government but we cannot describe it. The new system has put all government institutions under the president’s control and now it has dramatic results in every field. It has undermined the institutions while contributing to monopolizing the decision-making process of the country towards the president.
Yet, as a hopeful sign, he said Turkey is prepared for all imaginable scenarios amid the global coronavirus pandemic in a live televised address on March 25. “The world is moving towards a time in which after this epidemic disease nothing will be the same and a whole new global, political, economic and social structure will be established,” said President Erdoğan.
Noting that cross-border military operations are high in expense, it may not be practical or feasible to bear the costs of them for long periods under these economic conditions. As a result, this could lead to slight improvements in the policies in Syria and Libya. Nevertheless, it should be noted that President Erdoğan has built his entire political life over the doctrine of political Islam, and his tendencies towards Ikhwan are no mystery, so it cannot be called goodwill to expect major changes in his foreign policy, but it is wishful thinking.
Once again mankind is in a process of transition, and is in darkness. The definition of “normal” about everything – including states, governments, and ideologies-definitely will change in the days of the outbreak. While keep holding on hope, one should remember that “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”