TURKEY: Suits and Uniforms: Turkish Foreign Policy since the Cold War

By Barkey, Henri | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

TURKEY: Suits and Uniforms: Turkish Foreign Policy since the Cold War


Barkey, Henri, The Middle East Journal


TURKEY Suits and Uniforms: Turkish Foreign Policy since the Cold War, by Philip Robins. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2003. xiii + 387 pages. Sel. bibl. to p. 389. Index to p. 404. $30 paper.

Philip Robins's aptly named Suits and Uniforms represents the most systematic analysis of modern Turkish foreign policy. Written before the most recent Iraq war, the emergence of the new justice and Development Party government and the dilemmas encountered by the new leadership with the gathering war clouds, the book is refreshing in its attempt to understand the interplay of domestic factors, actors, ideology and endowments, with the world outside Turkey's boundaries.

Robins wants to move away from the facile explanations often advanced for Turkish foreign policy behavior. In fact he elevates the study of Turkish foreign policy to another level, to that of the product of a complex and multifaceted society. In effect, he makes the case that understanding Turkey - an emerging power on its right in many different arenas - and its foreign policy behavior one needs to delve not just into the country's Ataturkist and ideological roots but also carefully analyze the interplay between numerous contradictory interest groups and institutional concerns.

The strength of the book is not just limited to its methodical approach. This is a book that is very rich in details. Robins has clearly done his research. he has a story to tell that he very successfully weaves in with the analysis.

The books starts by situating Turkey after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His first insight that Turkey was not party to the celebrations unleashed by the end of communism is illustrative of all the contradictions of Turkish foreign policy -making. After all, a NATO member of long standing should have been far less apprehensive at the sight of the Soviet collapse. This event brought about both new opportunities and dangers to Turkey hitherto accustomed to playing a traditional and well -defined role in the Western alliance system. As it faced challenges in the form of the Kurdish rebellion led by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and the collapse of the Iraqi state following the Gulf War, and even unprecedented opportunities in Central Asia, Turkey vacillated in what policies it wanted to pursue.

By and large, the vacillation was a direct result of the confusing decision -making process in Ankara. It is not just that the super -sensitive security establishment interfered too often because of its perceived constitutional role, but it is also the proliferation of actors, from domestic ethnic groups to different political leaders, that undermined policy -making. …

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