TURKEY-Turkey and Its Neighbors: Foreign Relations in Transition/Turkish Foreign Policy: Islam, Nationalism and Globalization

By Hale, William | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

TURKEY-Turkey and Its Neighbors: Foreign Relations in Transition/Turkish Foreign Policy: Islam, Nationalism and Globalization


Hale, William, The Middle East Journal


Turkey and its Neighbors: Foreign Relations in Transition, by Ronald H. Linden, et al. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner. 2012. 257 pages. $62.50.

Turkish Foreign Policy: Islam, Nationalism and Globalization, by Hasan Kösebalaban. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2011. 240 pages. $85.

Over the last decade, interest in Turkey's foreign policy has snowballed, both in academia and outside. During the Cold War, there seemed to be little to write about: Turkey played an important, but apparently stable role in NATO, and seemed isolated from most of its neighbours, except for Greece and Cyprus, with which it had a fraught relationship. Since the collapse of the Baghdad Pact in 1958, it had barely figured in Middle Eastern politics. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Turkish governments failed to exploit the new opportunities effectively until the start of the new century. Since then, the impressive change to a much-enhanced international role is based partly on the emergence of a far more stable domestic environment, thanks to the continuous hold on power of Tayyip Erdo gan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2002. The results have not always been positive, but the AKP government has at least provided a stable platform from which effective long-term strategies can been launched. Its impressive record of economic growth has also vastly enhanced Turkey's ability to advance more vigorous and assertive foreign policies. Coincidentally, America's defeats in Iraq and (apparently) Afghanistan, together with domestic turmoil in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, have lefta vacuum in Middle Eastern politics which Turkey has appeared to fill. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has sought to re-position Turkey as a "central country," exploiting its geographical location, and working for "zero problems" with its neighbours. For the first time ever, public opinion in the Arab world is taking a positive view of Turkey, whether this consists of addiction to romantic Turkish TV soap operas, or applauding Turkey's role in standing up for the Palestinians and challenging Israeli bullying. Western policy-makers are trying to promote it as a model for the rest of the region, and even traditionally hostile nations in the Balkans are welcoming its attempts to settle local ethnic conflicts.

By focusing on Turkey's relations with its regional role, Turkey and its Neighbors helps to make sense of an important part of this story, with a series of papers by some distinguished scholars. Newcomers to the subject would do well to start in the middle of the book, where Kemal Kirisci's well argued and original chapter, while concentrating on the Turkish role as a regional promoter of democracy, starts offwith some valuable statistical data on the growth of Turkey's trade and movements of people with neighboring states, as well as its domestic political evolution. These underpin the discussions in other chapters. On his central theme, a criticism of current Turkish policy is that it has double standards - promoting "good governance," while ignoring flagrant human rights abuses in countries with which it seeks better relations, such as Iran and Sudan - and that, as an illiberal and imperfect democracy, it does not have the right to preach to others. Kirisci accepts the criticisms, but points out that Turkey can engage in democratic assistance to its neighbors with a sense of "we are in it together," rather than moral sustudy periority (p. 157). The evolution of Turkey's regional trade is taken up in more detail by Thomas Straubhaar, who looks at Turkey as an economic neighbor, while reminding us that Turkey's links with the European Union are still of fundamental importance. In an earlier chapter, Juliette Tolay tackles the neglected topic of international migration, in which Turkey now acts as a magnet for the inward movement of people - both legitimate and clandestine - rather than merely performing its previous role as an exporter of labor to western Europe. …

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