Turkey's Transformation and American Policy

By Yesilada, Birol | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview
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Turkey's Transformation and American Policy


Yesilada, Birol, The Middle East Journal


Turkey's Transformation and American Policy, ed. by Morton Abramowitz. New York: The Century Foundation Press, 2000. vii + 266 pages. Notes to p. 281. Index to p. 295. Contribs. to p. 298. $24.95.

This edited volume is an excellent overview of Turkey's transformation during the last two decades and the effect of these changes on USTurkey relations. Contributors include prominent scholars and analysts on Turkey, as well as former diplomats of the US State Department who share first-hand experiences with the readers. The task of the book is quite monumental, and the authors succeed in giving the readers a thorough account of the domestic and external challenges Turkish leaders face. These include political and socioeconomic developments, Turkey's foreign policy and security concerns, the impact of the end of the Cold War on Turkey's relations with her Allies and neighbors, and a discussion of what the future holds. The book is organized logically into two parts, with the first three chapters analyzing domestic challenges and the last four chapters examining Turkey's external relations with a special focus on American policy.

The chapter by Heath Lowry explores Turkey's changing political structure and cleavages, which hold the key to the country's future stability. His candid assessment of the Turgut Ozal decade is refreshing. The author correctly points out that economic liberalization in Turkey was put in place "without any meaningful legal infrastructure or controls to regulate and limit its excesses" (p. 27). This is indeed the root cause of socioeconomic inequality that came to characterize Turkey's economic liberalization in the 1980s. Subsequent voter realignment and the socio-political problems of the 1990s can be viewed as byproducts of Ozal's economic policies.

Philip Robins' chapter is an in-depth look at how the Kurdish question evolved into a multidimensional complex problem that divides the country. Its domestic implications touch on identity issues, social and economic inequality, and difficulties faced with political mobility channels (e.g., political parties) through which Kurds could voice their aspirations. It is disappointing, however, that the question of how this problem affects Turkey's external relations receives little attention, i.e., some reference to the European Union (EU) and the Middle East (pp. 73-75). Robins then provides three very important and plausible scenarios for how Turkey's Kurdish problem might play out in the foreseeable future. They are realistic and thought provoking.

The economic shortcomings of Turkey's transformation follow in a chapter by Ziya Onis.

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