Ibn Khaldun once wrote, "The history of a nation resembles its future, just like a water drop resembles another." For the last decade, Turkey has taken up a vital position, as it did not concur with its assigned role as a state among the empires fragmented and torn apart by World War I. Such a benevolent breach occurred thanks to politics that enabled it to develop a vision fit for the country's potential. However, the given vision emanating from politics has not yet been consolidated in the administrative branches of the state. Thus, one of the principal objectives of the new government is to abolish the divergence of vision between politics and administration.
During the academic lectures that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu gave in the 1990s, there was a topic that he insistently underlined: All the modern states that were empires before World War I have more or less regained their strengths, while the Republic of Turkey, the heir of the Ottoman Empire, fell far behind its strength during the Ottoman period. It's more than likely that one of the founding causes of World War I was the permanent fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire. One part of the blame falls on the state bureaucracy of the Republic of Turkey, which has been in existence for more than 90 years without putting an ambitious claim forward and consistently failing in the face of each and every trouble. One of the most important instances of social capital that makes citizens look forward has been the Turkish nation's capability of quick recovery in extraordinary states. In the face of the Gezi Park protests, the attempted coup of Dec. 17 and the Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) call for street demonstrations that concluded with nothing but bloodshed in the southeast of the country and the strategies of recovery envisioned by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government once again proved the prudent reflexes of the people in moments of crisis.
The second promising feature of Turkey's social capital is the existence of qualified citizens who are capable and willing to propose reform programs for each and every institution of the state. Their distinctive characteristics emanate from their authentic experiences abroad, their high skills in judgment and their ability to rejuvenate the related institution from scratch.
The government aims at making the state structure work at full capacity. Yet, in order to carry out such an ambitious objective, state institutions that had been abandoned to the mercy of bureaucratic inertia for decades must be restored. The issue of reformation is closely related to the current debates over the new buildings for the president and Prime Ministry. In the first year of the AK Party government, I visited Beşir Atalay together with Professor Ümit Meriç and Mustafa Şen in the building of the Prime Ministry. At that time, the situation and the location of the building were heartbreaking to such an extent that I wondered about the reactions of foreign diplomats who visited the Prime Ministry.
The hot debates over the new presidential palace remind me of a historical incident when Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul. It is said that he entered the city from Edirnekapı and paid attention to the massive construction in Byzantium, such as the dungeons of Animas, Tekfur Palace, Hagia Sophia and other massive churches, the hippodrome and wide streets.
Then, the sultan, who had never been in such a great capital of an empire before, realized that any empire necessitated massive buildings and construction corresponding to its magnitude. Thus, the buildings of the presidential palace and new Prime Ministry are the necessary novelties for a growing and working Turkey, as was the case with the Ottomans during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror, while the old buildings only fit a country abandoned to its fate. In order to achieve the vision put forward by politicians, the Turkish state requires a comprehensive reform and restoration of the state structure both in spatial, administrative and mental aspects. All of these endeavors constitute practicing being a great state.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.