The American Interest

Turkish Delights

Four weeks before the latest war against Iraq, President George W. Bush declared that it would be motivated by a “vision” of democracy and liberation for the entire Middle East.  A U.S.-sponsored regime change in Baghdad, he proclaimed, would “serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.”

Only days later, however, the vote by the national assembly in Ankara to ban the deployment of U.S. troops on Turkish territory highlighted the imbroglio the United States will face if she succeeds in the unlikely task of bringing democracy to the Middle East.

Throughout the region—except in Israel—opposition to the war runs between 94 and 98 percent.  There was nothing more natural, therefore, than for the legislators in Turkey—the only functioning, albeit imperfect, democracy in the Muslim world—to vote in accordance with the wishes of the people, and, in so doing, to resist the bribe of up to $30 billion in cash and loans that Washington had offered to cushion the losses the Turks would incur from the war.  As the Neue Ruhr/ Neue Rhein-Zeitung of Essen pointed out in an editorial two days after the vote, “The Turks are voters, while the people in the Arab countries are inferiors.”  One Turkish MP, Ahmet Faruk Unsall, stated the obvious: “We did some-thing that not even the British parliament,...

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