February 24, 2015
Few countries have changed so much for the worse over the past decade as Turkey. Once considered a key ally and labelled a model for democracy in the Muslim world, Turkey has increasingly become more of a liability than a partner. While President Barack Obama once called Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of his most trusted foreign friends, even the White House now appears to recognize that Erdoğan’s agenda is fundamentally anti-American and anti-Western. Given Turkey’s descent, the decisions made by the next Oval Office occupant will likely determine the course of US-Turkish ties well beyond his or her tenure.
How any White House aspirant answers the five questions below will indicate just how they see not only the future course of US-Turkey ties, but also his or her general approach to terrorism, radicalism, democracy, and defense.
1. Is Turkey a model? If so, for what?
Successive US presidents have praised Turkey as a model for democracy in the Muslim world. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk sought to reorient Turkey away from what he saw as the backwardness of the East, and place it firmly in the West. He was no democrat but for decades Turkey did seem to provide an alternative model to much of the ‘isms’ otherwise dominant in the Middle East: Nasserism, Baathism, Khomeinism, and Islamism. But now that Erdoğan has reversed Atatürk’s vision—and, make no mistake, Atatürk’s legacy is dead—should Turkey still be described as a model for other majority Muslim states to emulate, or has that mantle passed to Egypt? Alternately, is the real Turkish model today the example of how Islamist movements might use the democratic process as a Trojan horse in order to eviscerate any real sort of democratic check-and-balance? A corollary question is whether it is time to revise the US belief that Turkey belongs in the European Union. That may have made more sense a decade ago, but given the changes in Turkey, is it time to change that staple of American diplomatic rhetoric?
Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Turkey edition