Turkey's New World: Changing Dynamics in Turkish Foreign Policy

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Turkey's New World: Changing Dynamics in Turkish Foreign Policy, ed. by Alan Makovsky and Sabri Sayari. Washington DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000. xi + 221 pages. Contribs. to p. 224. Index to p. 234. $19.95 paper.

Reviewed by Philip Robins

In America everything comes big. And there's nothing quite as big as the hyperbole of a Washington-based, advocacy-oriented think tank. For evidence one needs go no further than the Preface of this new edited book on Turkey from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In it, Fred S. Lafer and Michael Stein (president and chairman respectively of the Institute's executive committee) have big things to say about Turkey. The reader is told that Turkey is "a pivotal state" (p. ix), Turkey has been "central to countless US policy initiatives over the past decade" (p. x) and that Turkey is a "strategically crucial nation" (p. x).

Unfortunately, these bold assertions go unsubstantiated and largely unexplored in the Preface, the editors' Introduction and the multi-author text that follows. This is unfortunate, partly because these statements are not self-evidently true (certainly not to a European or, this reviewer suspects, to many who live in regions of which Turkey forms part), and partly because of the policy implications of such views. In the absence of any attempt to engage in a debate on them one can only conclude that this is a work for the already converted; that this is but the latest attempt of the US-based Israeli lobby to soft soap the Turkish political establishment.

Getting stuck at the Preface of this book is a pity. First, as the editors state, the book follows a series of successful seminars that took place at the Washington Institute in 1997 and 1998 to explore various aspects of contemporary Turkish foreign policy. This reviewer was one of those who participated in what was indeed a rare and stimulating exercise. Second, there is no doubt that the editors, Alan Makovsky and Sabri Sayari, are two of the leading US-based commentators on Turkish affairs, with long experience of the country and US policy towards it. …