The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

31 October 2002

Turkey in the squeeze

The Turkish Republic these days is caught between Iraq and two hard places: the Caucasus and the Balkans. This isn't exactly news, but Sunday the Turks go to the polls, and the pundits are expecting the big winners to be the AKP, the Justice and Development Party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been positioning himself as moderately conservative and not at all the militant Islamist that the AKP usually produces. Some observers have their doubts.

And Turkey, at some point, would like to become part of the European Union, and the United States would like to help, but not everyone in the EU is anxious to extend membership to a Muslim nation, even though Turkey has been somewhat secularized for decades. But Ataturk is long gone, and there are real fears that an AKP victory will push Turkey a couple of notches closer to the sort of Islamic fundamentalism that prevails in other powder kegs.

I have a certain fondness for Turkey. I was stationed at a NATO base for about a year in the Seventies, and one of the things I found most interesting about the place was its seeming ability to straddle West and East, to make the rigid framework of Islam flourish in a relatively free-wheeling Western-oriented society. Obviously I wasn't in a position to dig deep enough to see the tensions running through the Republic — I was just one of the troops and was expected to shut up about such things — but I always wondered just how long this tenuous equilibrium could last. And I still wonder today.

(Muchas gracias: Jesus Gil.)

Posted at 7:57 AM to Political Science Fiction