The Deinstitutionalization of U.S. and Turkish Foreign Policy: Why Societal Ties Are an Enduring Anchor in Bilateral Relations

28 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2024

Date Written: May 31, 2024

Abstract

This paper offers a domestic institutional explanation for the rising volatility of U.S.-Turkey relations and conceptualizes societal ties as an anchor in the bilateral relationship. In doing so, this paper challenges the prevailing narratives that international and individual-level factors are responsible for changes in U.S.-Turkey relations and that bilateral relations are uniformly bleak. In contrast to these perspectives, this paper advances two interrelated arguments. First, I argue that a key driver of volatility in U.S.-Turkey relations is the deinstitutionalization of U.S. and Turkish foreign policymaking. In the United States, the root cause of deinstitutionalization is intensifying polarization over foreign policy, fueled by the rise of populism. In Turkey, by contrast, foreign policy has deinstitutionalized through personalization: the steady concentration of decision-making power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Second, against this backdrop of deinstitutionalization, I show that societal ties between the United States and Turkey provide a uniquely stable and enduring area of bilateral cooperation. I provide evidence for this argument in two key domains: 1) civil society and media and 2) higher education. These societal linkages, I argue, are often resilient precisely because they are disconnected from domestic politics and foreign policy. These societal ties should thus be understood not as agents that can reshape interstate relations but as anchors that prevent the two nations from drifting apart.

Keywords: foreign policy analysis, bureaucratic politics, U.S. foreign policy, Turkish foreign policy, political polarization, civil society, media, higher education

Suggested Citation

O'Donohue, Andrew, The Deinstitutionalization of U.S. and Turkish Foreign Policy: Why Societal Ties Are an Enduring Anchor in Bilateral Relations (May 31, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4704174 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4704174

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