Turkey: Islamist Nightmare or Misunderstood Friend?
Published on: January 26, 2012
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  • Kenny

    “Turkey: Islamist Nightmare or Misunderstood Friend?”

    Mr. Mead. If there’s even the slightest doubt about this, then it only makes sense to expel Turkey from NATO as soon as possible.

  • Gary Hemminger


    Did you not read the article? We should stay tuned and not do anything drastic. I think you missed the intention of the article and I suggest you re-read it.

  • Vilmos

    My main problem with Erdogan is the statement he made a while ago: “democracy is like a streetcar. Once I reach my destination, I get off.”

    > If there’s even the slightest
    > doubt about this, then it only
    > makes sense to expel Turkey
    > from NATO as soon as possible.

    It is not going to happen unless Istanbul is renamed Constantinople or Byzantium. Take a look at the map. Russia has unimpeded access to to the Pacific Ocean. Her access to the Atlantic is much more restrained. It can access the Atlantic from north (Murmansk and co), but due to the nature of nature there, it is not that easy. They can also access the Atlantic via St. Petersburg and the Caliningrad exclave. However, thanks to the geography of the Baltic Sea, they can be pretty well kept in that cage. And they have their access to the Black Sea. The choke points in the Black Sea are controlled by Turkey. The US and NATO simply will do whatever they can to to keep Turkey in the alliance, so they have control over both ends of the Sea of Marmara. Or, Russia have unimpeded access to the Mediterranean Sea which is definitely not in Europe’s interest.


  • Anthony

    “Post-Kemalist Turkey is going to be a more independent force and an even pricklier ally than before” – as it should be given regional and global dynamics; nevertheless, a viable alliance serves interest of both nations.

  • what-an-idiot

    Shortcomings in democracy? Sure. An islamic terorist state? Now you’re just being ignorant you silly-buns!
    Turkey is a country where there is some rise in political conservatism in the last decade or so, very much in tune with the European political climate. But it is also a country where abortion is never, EVER a problem and completely state-paid(unlike the US or Ireland), where there is a lively yearly Gay Pride Parade (unlike any other country with a predominant muslim population), and where people pray in mosques next to churches next to tons of bars filled with heavy drinkers!

  • Thurman Poat

    Lets not lose sight of the argument, or rather what started it. Rick Perry has absolutely no weight to discuss Turkey. He is neither qualified professionally, nor was his attempt sincere at garnering a serious discussion on Turkey’s role in NATO. It was rather just a political stunt aimed at votes.

    The other issue is that if the Western nations are not happy with Turkey as a “secular” form of a muslim nation, will they ever be? That is appearing to be the more pertinent question as time goes on. Every single democratic process that has usurped a dictatorial regime in the middle east has been met by increasing criticism from the West. Since the elections in Palestine, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya the people have voted in what appear to the west as islamist parties. Why the criticism?

    To quote the bible, “Live by the sword, die by the sword” and I find it applicable in this situation. I think the only lesson is that in our haste to solve our antecedent threats from the middle east, we transported the concept of democracy.

    Back to Turkey: Let us also not forget that as Turkey attempts to appease Western fears, it does so at a substantial loss politically and economically. Politically it faces pressures from kurdish and Iranian diasporas, and economically it loses all the trade associated with a border country.

    Lastly, I don’t think that those with the capacity to bring about change in the US-Turkey relationship seek this, as they realize the strength each provides. Especially when considering the lobbying power Turkey possesses in the Eastern hemisphere, which in todays theater is fully appreciated by the US.

  • Jack Kalpakian

    At what point does prickliness turn towards hostility? The question is not whether Turkey is hostile anymore, the question is how will its hostility translate into policy and what will the US do about it? First, the Turks should not be de jure drummed out of structures; they should leave of their own volition if they choose. Second, the US develop alternatives to Turkey. Jordan, Israel and Iraq are a good start. If joined by a reformed Syria and a stable Georgia, this block can duplicate the access Turkey gets you. Third, change the nature of the relationship with Iran. There was a time when Burma was seen as a crucial country for many reasons. The coup and the isolation the country imposed on itself made its importance irrelevant. Turkey’s government may well do the same to its position on itself.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I think “Actions speak louder than words” and Turkey’s arrests of military officers, journalists, and political opponents, should be given 10 times the weight of their words of benign intentions. Their behavior towards Israel, their duplicity in 2003 towards the US war with Iraq, and their adoption of the Terrorist Hamas, all give the lie to their words of NATO alliance. Turkey’s backward Islamic culture has always held them back, and Ataturk knew it and tried to fix it, but it didn’t take and now Turkey will go into decline as Islam drags them down. Expect Democracy, and the Rule of Law to decline, and Corruption and the Abuse of Power to increase as Islam consolidates power.

  • the author signally fails to mention the reason for sour israel-turkey relations. The netanyahu government controversially failedto apologise to their closest regional ally for killing 9 of their citizens by israeli naval commandos when they stormed the the turkish-flag ship heading to gaza to break israel’s illegal blockade of gaza. netanyahu’s typical unyielding attitude was warmy criticsed by israelis. but then the israelis rarely apologise for their frequent civilian killings

  • Altoonaaslan

    I have spent 1 1/2 of the past three years in Turkey, and read two Turkish newspapers every day, a “Kemalist” one and a “socially conservative” one, and whatever appears in America’s press about Turkey. This column is the best discussion of the current state of Turkish politics and the Turkish- American relationship that I have seen in the American press.

  • ErisGuy

    ” these abuses of power look like political moves rather than reflecting a specifically religious agenda.”

    The exercises of power are for no particular reason and are political exercises to further some unmentionable politics. OK.

    “the author signally fails to mention the reason for sour israel-turkey relations”

    Yes, he did: the reason being Turkish support of the Turkish-flagged shipped that the Israelis stopped demonstrated the vile anti-Semitism of the Turkish regime that it has since failed to repudiate its backward and hateful beliefs. I must admit on these grounds (hatred of Jews), Turkey fits well in Europe.

  • JKP

    Israel may be an important strategic partner for the United States on military and intelligence co-operation… but Turkey is probably the most important American ally in the region for diplomatic purposes. At a time when we are navigating a wave of dramatic upheaval in the Middle East, we cannot forsake diplomatic assets. I don’t have a lot of praise for Obama’s foreign policy, but I have to give him a lot of credit for rebuilding relations with PM Erdogan.

  • Cunctator

    The collapse of the strategic partnership between Israel & Turkey after Gaza was the final straw of a long decline in relations. It began almost as soon as Erdogan was elected and when he started making references to Israel as a terrorist state, or to the plight of Gazans as “prisoners”, and to Israeli policy as the greatest threat to regiuonal peace. This was from the man who also claimed that the Sudanese president’s regime could not be implementing genocidal policies (as the whole world agreed he was) because he was a Muslim. It also the same man who accepted the Ghadaffi human rights award, and who has embraced Hamas, and whose party, the AKP, helped organise the 2010 Gaza flotilla. And people should read the UN report on the Gaza flotilla — the people on the ships were well-armed and obviously looking for a confrontation. That Israel used excessive force is an argument that can be made, but the flotilla people knew that was a possibility before they set sail.

    Actions speak louder than words, that is true. In this case, however, there are actions and words that point in a single direction regading the leanings of the current Turkish government.

  • John

    1. Professor Mead, is ever an optimist… 🙂 Why wait? The weight of evidence suggests that Turkey is going down the Islamic fascism. Listen to the announcements of the Islamist party’s leaders. AKP used “democracy” to gain power and now is slowly, but steadily, turning Turkey into an Islamic state. The daily attack on the secular order is a fact of life. The frivolous, even malicious, politically motivated attacks on the army, the once guardian of the secular state, is a logical step of that attack. Let us not forget Turkish shameless and immoral genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks! Wiping out entire nations is Turkish trademark. A country where press freedom is ranked below many African countries. Turkey that refuses to join the sanctions against Iran and falsely claims to be our “ally.” Turkey that provokes Israel and has taken the mantle of the “Palestinian cause.” Turkey that is the new patron saint for terrorist Hamas. Can you have imagined a secret Greek-Israeli-Cypriot military agreement against Turkey 5 years ago? No, but it was in the making based on Turkey’s neo-Ottoman policies. I can go on and on…
    2. It is time to expel Turkey from NATO. Unfortunately, it will take time. And it will come later due to foreign policy inertia, short-sightedness of the political class, and the lobbyists who sold their souls to genocidal Turks; oh well, money talks…
    3. As stated before, a true, classical Islam, the way it was understood and propagated by the nomad, called Muhammed, cannot coexist with the Western “liberal democracy.” Koran and the Bill of Rights don’t get along well, do they?
    4. Take Ataturk’s famous quote “This is Islam, an absurd theology of an immoral Bedouin, a rotting corpse which poisons our lives.” Mustafa Kemal, surely, knew more about Islam, than most professors at Harvard and Yale.

  • You forgot to mention the Kurdish problem in relation to northern Iraq.

  • Wait and see is probably a wise attitude when it comes to a country whose leading politician was proud to accept the Ghaddafi Human Rights prize in late 2010, and a few months later was ready to condemn its sponsor for human rights violations… What I personally find a bit worrisome is that Obama recently singled out Erdogan as one of the politicians with whom he has a particular bond of trust.

  • Heretical thought: Western European societies and their overseas outposts are the sole examples of liberal democracies based on free enterprise and the rights of the individual. There are a few partial exceptions in the Far East (Japan, South Korea). But we have imposed our values on these societies after conquest, and even so they are barely two-party states.

    Possible conclusion: it might be better for Western societies to use their resources to establish a system of international law instead of trying to accomplish the impossible in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, China, Turkey, Pakistan, etc., etc..

  • @Jack Kalpakian. You underestimate Turkey’s importance. Economically Israel is about a third Turkey’s size. All the other countries you mentioned come to about a sixth the size, combined.

    @everyone. I think you are making too much out of growing pains.

    @kenny. You are an idiot.

  • Carlos de Souza

    My wife and myself have just returned from an extensive 24 day holiday tour of Turkey. The place is LIBERAL, believe you me. Even India, a secular democracy, where I live, is far more orthodox than is Turkey. Yep, women dress stylishly and bars are everywhere. Turkey has just got to be the most LIBERAL secular country where more than 95% of the people are Muslims. Hope it remains LIBERAL forever. Cheers !!

  • Ed Snyder

    Yet another insightful and well-written essay from Mr. Mead. Like Mr. de Souza above, I not only found Turkey to be “liberal,” but the Turks to be some of the most welcoming and hospitable hosts I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. The ones who really come out looking bad are the French. Not news, really, but it needs to be noted from time to time, I guess.

  • Aivaz

    I cannot even believe how ignorant you all are. The Jews who control the world determined the modern history a few decades ago, and puppets implement their commands. The Jews determined that Turkey will be an Islamic country, then be the leader of Islam, then the West will declare war on Turkey, and all other outrageous Muslim countries will sell their brother as usual. Then the ideas of Great Greece, and Great Armenia will be realized. Turkey is going to be an Islamic country not because the Turks want it, it is going to be because the West, and the Jews planned so. Shame on these evil creatures – The Jews, and the Westerners.

  • Nihat

    I’m a Turkish citizen who is deeply concerned with the direction the country is slowly but surely heading. At first Erdogan had US and EU support. He would not be elected or remained in power otherwise. He seemed to cooperate with some seculars, bring in democratic freedoms, made promises to keep it that way. As soon as his need for liberal support ended with his second term he started anti-terror operations againgst opposition much similar to German National Socialists. There is no strong evidence against these people yet evidence has been manifactured and the trials are going for more than 4 years now. There is no doubt that Erdogan is a bully and fundementalist Islamist who can’t stand critism and most opposition members are classified as “Ergenekoncu”. A bottomless pithole that links most opposition members to a few dirty bureaucrats. Thus he keeps and increases his authority over this fictious fear of that organization. Erdogan recently mentioned he would raise religious youth instead of addicts (explicitly thinner inhalers – which is popular among homeless poor youth). This I belive is a subliminal metaphor for those who are not with him. His party keeps labelling opposition, discriminates his own people using religious slogans.
    He intereferes with secular life style. I am a witness of the daily changes. For example you can’t watch any documentaries regarding “Evolution” anymore(even in foreign broadcasts such as Discovery or National Geographic) because Erdogan and his party hates this matter. He grants some rights to other religious minorities primarily on education. I believe his motivation is to be able to give a much broader right to Islamist in exchange.
    I hope foreign support/symphaty/endorsement to this government ends as soon as possible. They don’t want to rule the country but shift it to the Islamic state where they can oppress people forever.

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