A very interesting article – link below – about the role (causes/effects) of conspiracy theories in Turkey and how they’re driving an increasing level of antagonism against the United States – a recommended read for anyone interested in this concept and/or this region. What I would add is that conspiracy theories are on the rise not just in Turkey but also throughout the Middle East particularly in relation to western government motivations and strategies. As the article suggests in the case of Turkey and indeed in my view throughout the Middle East, these theories are based mainly on flawed foreign policy influence/interventions by western powers in the region that have in fact resulted in either creation or exacerbation of conflicts. But I would also add to that 2 other elements feeding off this main issue of flawed foreign policy;
- The tendency of autocratic regimes to point the blame on foreign powers/influence as a convenient defence to legitimise their own power and lay the blame in case of their own failures.
- Fake news being used as an effective tool both internally and with the assistance of foreign/more sophisticated actors that help ensure freedoms are virtualised rather than materialised, by driving narratives that promote these conspiracy theories and in effect secure these autocratic regimes.
The main takeaway’s for me from this article are as follows;
a) We need experts (NOT novices) – with relevant credentials – to take charge of Foreign Policy and with the bias towards long term/pragmatic vision/strategy when it comes to foreign relations particularly in zones of conflict; NOT through the influence of financial incentives or lobbyists. It is the abject failure of our governments to recognise the importance of Foreign Policy as a critical area of policy with it’s direct impact on our lives that is causing pretty much most – if not all – the main issues we face today; but that’s another discussion altogether.
b) We need more effective Diplomatic missions that are able to better interact not just with foreign governments/officials but also interact with civil society and media to ensure there is no confusion or misinterpretation in terms of strategy and/or motivation whether malign or not. We also need a constant self-assessment mechanism of the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Missions abroad to ensure failures are reversed and successes are better utilised/learned from because they are a big part of our soft power base.
c) We need an offensive/sophisticated strategy to help ensure we’re 10 steps ahead of the game when it comes to Information Warfare not just targeting our own citizens but also perpetrating falsehoods about our strategy/motivations in other countries. We also need to hold these actors accountable in action not in rhetoric and ensure these falsehoods are called out not just nationally but with the help of our Diplomatic missions abroad as well. There are also plenty of lessons from history – back in the “old” days of the cold war – that we can also adapt.
d) Any effort along the lines above will be insufficient without solid alliances – in our case the EU remains the only viable alliance based on experience. So there needs to be strong/constant coordination in formulating foreign policy particularly as mentioned above in conflict zones.
Finally let me suggest that there are ways to formulate policy in a more effective/prudent and proactive manner – which is an initiative I call the “Strategic Policy Framework Initiative”; a structure that not only insures a sound approach in policy formulation but also promotes transparency and accountability.
Hope this helps.