Thursday, November 20, 2003

No Turkey Shoot 

Two pairs of car bomb attacks within a week in Istanbul makes Turkey a new pivotal battleground in the war against Islamic terrorism. Turkey isn't perfect: its human rights history. especially towards its minorities, is horrendous. Also, the Turkish military has served as a political Sword of Damocles (albeit to align it in a secular Kemalist direction). But its citizens are well-educated and Western in their outlook, which make them our ally and an enemy of the Islamists.

I've read much analysis that suggest that attacking Turkey, a Muslim state, would isolate the Islamists within the Muslim world. While I hope that this would happen, I would argue that there is just as likely a move within the Muslim world to isolate Turkey. Turkey, after all, is probably the only Islamic nation that has grown up and is moving to join the rest of the world. Muslims stuck in the past will want nothing to do with such a country. But most importantly, Turkey's relations with much of the Arab world is based on a history of Ottoman colonial rule. Turks are seen both as oppressors of Arabs and the failed keepers of Islamic glory (they were the ones who lost the Balkans and Africa to the West). I would imagine that, in some quarters of the Muslim world, people have a smug smirk and the thought that the apostate Turks got it coming to them.

Some Turks are already urging a return to Islamic roots. That is a dangerous step: Turkey has gone so far towards freedom and prosperity, and to turn back now would be disastrous. To battle the Turks' fear of abandonment, the West must do more to ensure them that we will not shut them out. That means the US must continue its efforts to facilitate Turkey's entry in the EU (Turkey is the only country I would support joining the EU!). It means intense efforts to resolve the issues of Cyprus and the Kurds, major sticking points between the two sides. It means making sure that Turkey maintains its military alliance with Israel, which benefits both countries. The Turks have shown in the past that they do not yield easily to threats. If we make it clear that we are on their side, Turkey will be a key partner in defeating Islamism.
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