It always struck me that of the Turkish Kurds I know none had a fierce wish for their own nation. What they want above all is self determination but even for the PKK an independent Kurdistan no longer is a must have. What they do want other than less interference is unclear, but the idea of having a nation and territory and a capital, parliament, and all those trappings seems absent. There is nothing fundamentally nationally centripetal other than language and culture, and even those identities aren’t internally very cohesive between regions. Kurds gain definition when comparing them to the Turks, Persians and Arabs around them but in the end, in self-definition they themselves remain somewhat of an enigma. Being a people of an arid and inaccessible mountain area that yet finds itself on the crossroads between three if not four different cultural zones explains a lot. “Don’t bother us” the national theme will be.
And I think Erdogan is seeing that he can become a bit of a Kurdish leader. Through being a champion for increasing self determination within Turkey, he can champion increasing self determination for others too. And that is a threat to the national model in the Middle East which is rigidly enforced (like now in Syria). With that national model is dead now in Iraq and Syria, Turkey offers an alternative: stability, self-determination, association and trade with Turkey. Ignore Baghdad or Damascus, they are Arab capitals and don’t serve the interests of the people.
It is the new Neo-Ottomanism; the hardest form of soft power there is. There’s no land grab, simply a setting of example versus the bloodthirstyness of Damascus and the corruption and impotence of Baghdad. And it’s working.
It really is fascinating, it is very post nationalist. It’ll be hugely interesting to see how Erdogan is going to go forward.