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Selim Deringil's Balance Game: A Review of Turkish Foreign Policy in the World War II Era
Selim Deringil is a prominent Turkish historian who has written extensively on the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. His book, Denge Oyunu (Balance Game), published in 2003, is a comprehensive analysis of Turkish foreign policy during the World War II period, when Turkey faced the challenge of maintaining its neutrality and sovereignty amid the conflicting interests of the Axis and Allied powers.
In this book, Deringil argues that Turkey's foreign policy was not passive or opportunistic, but rather a strategic and pragmatic response to the changing international environment. He shows how Turkey used diplomacy, propaganda, economic cooperation, and military deterrence to balance the pressures from Germany, Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States. He also examines the domestic factors that influenced Turkey's foreign policy decisions, such as the role of President Ismet Inonu, the public opinion, the press, and the opposition parties.
Deringil's book is based on extensive archival research and primary sources, such as official documents, memoirs, newspapers, and diplomatic correspondence. He provides a detailed account of the major events and crises that shaped Turkey's foreign policy during the World War II era, such as the Montreux Convention, the Balkan Pact, the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, the outbreak of war in Europe and Asia, the British-French ultimatum to Turkey in 1939, the German invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, the assassination attempt on German ambassador Franz von Papen in 1942, the Cairo Conference in 1943, and Turkey's declaration of war on Germany in 1945.
Deringil's book is not only a valuable contribution to Turkish history, but also a relevant and timely study of how a small and weak state can survive and thrive in a turbulent and hostile world. His book offers insights and lessons for contemporary Turkish foreign policy makers and scholars who are interested in understanding Turkey's role and position in the global system.
One of the main themes of Deringil's book is the concept of \"balance game\", which he defines as \"the art of playing off one great power against another without committing oneself to either side\" (p. 30). He argues that Turkey's balance game was not a new invention, but rather a continuation of the Ottoman tradition of maintaining a delicate equilibrium among the European powers. He traces the origins of this tradition to the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Ottoman Empire faced the decline of its power and prestige and the rise of nationalist movements and imperialist ambitions in its territories.
Deringil also challenges some of the common assumptions and myths about Turkey's foreign policy during the World War II era. For instance, he refutes the idea that Turkey was a passive and isolated actor that avoided any involvement in the war until the very end. He shows how Turkey actively participated in various regional and international initiatives, such as the Balkan Pact, the Sadabad Pact, and the United Nations. He also rejects the notion that Turkey was a loyal and obedient ally of Britain and France, or that it betrayed Germany by joining the Allies in 1945. He demonstrates how Turkey pursued its own national interests and security concerns, and how it tried to maintain good relations with both sides without compromising its sovereignty and independence.
Another important contribution of Deringil's book is his analysis of the cultural and ideological aspects of Turkey's foreign policy. He explores how Turkey constructed and projected its identity and image to the world, and how it responded to the propaganda campaigns and public opinion pressures from both the Axis and Allied powers. He examines how Turkey used various symbols and discourses, such as Ataturk's legacy, Kemalism, Islam, democracy, modernization, and civilization, to justify and legitimize its foreign policy choices. He also discusses how Turkey dealt with the ethical and moral dilemmas posed by the war, such as the Jewish question, the Armenian question, and the human rights violations committed by both sides. ec8f644aee