WASHINGTON — Turkey rarely bores.But or the requent visitor, some visitsto Turkey are more striking than others.I visited Turkey in mid January, at theheight o the Gaza crisis, with Turkscaptivated by the ongoing
investigation, and on the eve o BarackObama’s inauguration. My discussionsrevealed deepening concerns, not justabout the obvious eects o the globaleconomic crisis, but also about the basictrajectory o Turkish society, governance,and oreign policy. The most recent in-cident involving Recep Tayyip Erdo
an,Turkey’s prime minister, at Davos is just the latest illustration o this highly charged debate.To this analyst, the idea that Turkey isdriting—or being led—toward a new“Orientalism” is too simple. Thereare powerul long-term orces at workin Turkish society and politics, andthese are likely to reinorce an already strong sense o Turkish nationalism andexceptionalism. The net result may wellbe a steady augmentation o Turkey’sinternational agenda, in which theWestern dimension, including U.S.-Turkish relations, EU candidacy, and therole o NATO are relatively diminished.The real issue is the recalibration o Turkey’s Euroatlantic relations, not aturning away rom the West—a mean-ingul shit but not a revolutionary one.More important, it is a shit with originsin Turkish society and the strategicenvironment, and not the product o lawed Western policies per se. Change,to be sure, but change that can probably be accommodated.
Suspicion is a moveable feast
The complexities o Turkey’s burgeon-ing
scandal and investigation(described at length in Soli Ozel’s last
contribution), puzzle andworry Turks. The case is even moreobscure rom the perspective o oreignobservers. An apparent mix o criminaland political activity, civil and military plotting, and a tangled web o old andnew vendettas, the only clear aspecthas been the troubling eect on na-tional condence in institutions andgovernance. At a time o renewedinterest in reinvigorating Turkey’sEuropean policy, the daily revelationsabout arms caches and coup plots willnot make the task o Ankara’s new EUnegotiator any easier.I understanding the
aair isdicult, understanding what it is notmight be easier. The Turkish media islled with speculation regarding ties toCold War NATO stay-behind networks,the activities o Western intelligenceservices, etc. These links are almostcertainly anciul, and refect a deep-
Do We Understand Turkey?
Refections on a Visit in Troubled Times
by Dr. Ian O. Lesser
Dr. Ian O. Lesser is a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The views expressedhere are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GMF.
Summary: In mid January, I visitedTurkey at the height of the Gazacrisis, with Turks captivated by theongoing
investigation,and on the eve of Barack Obama’sinauguration. My discussionsrevealed deepening concerns, not just about the obvious effects of the global economic crisis, butalso about the basic trajectory of Turkish society, governance, andforeign policy.An early Obama visit to Turkeywould send an important signal
regarding the signicance of the
relationship, and not just to Turks.Ideally, the visit would be part of