Drones have “elevated” Turkey and its military capabilities on the international area and signal a historic shift in warfare with which Turkey is changing the Middle East, according to the famed American political scientist Francis Fukuyama.
In an article entitled ‘Droning on in the Middle East,’ published earlier this month by American Purpose, Fukuyama speculated on the rise of drone warfare over the past decade. Eleven years ago, he said, it looked as if armed drones would in the future be used only for “targeted assassinations” of political figures or “against critical infrastructure like nuclear power plants.”
It came as a surprise, therefore, that armed drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – have instead been utilised for warfare itself. And those capabilities, he notes in the article, have been developed significantly by Turkey instead of remaining limited to the likes of the United States and Israel.
Fukuyama has in the past been infamous for eccentric political theories such as the “clash of civilisations”, in which the Western and Islamic civilisations are inherently pitted against each other, and that of the “end of history”, in which he stated that the dominance of Western democracy and the collapse of communism meant that history had reached its peak.
His observations of the rising significance in drone warfare is, however, a more recognised and credible one. Fukuyama states that in the 1967 war between Arab states and Israel, “only a couple of Egyptian tanks were killed from the air in Israel’s massive opening air strike, because it was too difficult to hit so small a target with an airplane.”
That eventually changed with the development of precision-guided munitions and finally with armed drones which are “cheaper, hard to defeat, and smaller crafts” which “don’t even risk the life of human pilots.”
Over the past decade, therefore, Turkey has dramatically developed its drone technology to overcome numerous arms embargoes and restrictions imposed on it, resulting in models such as the Bayraktar and Anka-S drones which brought global attention to Turkey’s ascendency in the global arms industry.
Bayraktar TB2 drones particularly had wreaked havoc on Syrian regime forces in March last year in retaliation for the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers, they were also instrumental in helping the Libyan government defeat Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli that summer, and enabled Azerbaijan to capture strategic areas of Nagorno-Karabakh and win the conflict in November.
Such developments, Fukuyama wrote, meant that Turkey “elevated itself to being a major regional power broker with more ability to shape outcomes than Russia, China, or the United States…Drones have done much to promote Turkey’s rise as a regional power in the year 2020.”
It had also made the Middle East much more geopolitically diverse, as Turkey neither aligned its foreign policy with the Arab Gulf states, nor Iran and its network of proxies, nor entirely with the US or Russia. “It has opposed its fellow Sunni powers, the Gulf States, in Libya; simultaneously sided with Russia by buying the latter’s S-400 air defense system while attacking Russian forces in Syria,” he said.
The only drawback is that, like any revolution in military arms, Turkey’s element of surprise and dominance that the drones had given it could soon be countered with newer technology in the coming years. States and their militaries, Fukuyama observed, are “scrambling to figure out how to defend themselves against drones, and it is not clear who will win the arms race between drones and drone countermeasures.”
The controversial American political scientist is not the only notable figure to have praised Turkey’s advancement in drone warfare, but it was deemed so effective that the British defence secretary himself hailed it as “game-changing“, a US security expert called it “unprecedented” and a European Council analyst warned that it should worry Europe.