Monday, June 28, 2004

Everyone knows why Bush is backing Turkey, and I hope it doesn't backfire. At the same time, I have to say, Chirac is an asshole.

Steven Kinzer this week in the NYRB
It's a very good article.

In little more than a year as prime minister, Erdogan has proven himself more committed to democracy than any of the self-proclaimed "secular" leaders who misruled Turkey during th 1990s. He has secured passage of laws and constitutional amendments abolishing the deat penalty and army-dominated security courts; he repealed curbs on free speech, and brought th military budget under civilian control for the first time in Turkish history. He authorize Kurdish-language broadcasting, swept aside thirty years of Turkish intransigence on the Cypru issue, and eased Greek–Turkish tension so effectively that when he visited Athens in May Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis proclaimed that the two countries now enjoyed "a relation o cooperation based on mutual trust.
This reform program is especially important because Prime Minister Erdogan, who is leading it with passion and vigor, has had a long career in Islamic politics. He prays every day, and his wife wears a head scarf. By clinging so firmly to Islam while pulling his country toward democracy, he undermines the view that the two are incompatible.

December's vote will be as much about Europe as about Turkey. It is a chance for Europeans to confront their fear of outsiders, and to emerge from centuries of hostility and suspicion directed against the Muslim world. The prospect of EU membership is a principal reason why Turkey is now moving so resolutely toward full democracy, which means that Europe has already had a very positive effect on Turkish life. This is a welcome example of how democratic countries can use their influence to promote the cause of freedom abroad. "While the hard power of the United States is destroying Iraq," Sahin Alpay, a professor of politics at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, told me, "the soft power of Europe is transforming Turkey."

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