Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who Lost Turkey?

Newsweek Europe asks how things got this bad in Asia Minor:
Not so long ago, it seemed that Europe would overcome prejudice and define itself as an ideology rather than a geography, a way of being in the world rather than a mere agglomeration of nation-states. But that chance is now lost. "Turkey will never be a full member of the EU," predicts British M.E.P. Daniel Hannan. "There's a dawning realization of that reality on all sides."

This is a tragedy—a catastrophe, potentially—of epochal proportions. Europe's engagement with Turkey was a chance to show the world that the West is not incompatible with the East, that a democratic Muslim nation can be just as modern and European as a Christian one. As Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said recently, what's at stake is nothing less than "world peace, fighting global terror and the clash of civilizations." A European Turkey could have been a model for the rest of the Muslim world, too, playing "constructively the role the Ottoman Empire once played destructively—a bridge between the East and West," argues Egyptian political thinker Abdel Monem Said Aly.
Integrating Turkey in to Europe would probably have been a shock to the European economy, but any serious vision of "Europe" as a major player in the world (as opposed to Europe's members) I think, would require Europe to do just that. Just as Japan was given preferential access to American markets in the years after China fell to the Communists (to keep it in the anti-Communist world) Turkey needs to brought in to the western fold as completely as possible.

So what's for Turkey now? Well, despite Turkey's recent re-embrace of it's Islamic character, I don't expect to see a Riyadh-Tehran-Ankara axis or anything. Rather, this is the opportunity for America to step up to the plate. If the Europeans won't let Turkey in to their club, let Washington open the coffers - preferential access to US markets, low-interest loans, whatever Turkey wants. If we can't keep Turkey inside Europe, at the very least we should be able to keep them in NATO. It could also, incidentally, go some way to showing the US is willing to work with a democratic Islamic country.

As for Europe, I think any truly broad vision of Europe as a world power in the 21st century would, by definition, have to include Turkey. If nothing else, any kind of European common security policy will have to deal with the proximity of the Middle East and Arab states. Turkey is literally a front-line state in that sense, begging to be brought in to Europe's frontiers. That the Europeans seem to have cut off this possibility for now means that the "multipolar world" favoured by the Chiracs of the world is farther off. Fundamentally, this is a failure of any kind of truly "European" strategy.