Courtesy Reuters

Turkey's Travails

No nation that has maintained close relations with the United States for the last generation is so little understood by well-informed Americans as is Turkey. Even West Europeans, from their closer vantage point, are rarely better informed. In part, this lack of understanding may be due simply to limited contact. There is in the United States no sizable Turkish-American community, hence no ready Turkish constituency in American public opinion. In Western Europe, Turks are present in large numbers-but as guest workers living with their families, apart and unassimilated in the more crowded parts of the cities, and eager to save enough of their wages for the ultimate return home to Turkey.

Perhaps, too, it requires a larger effort of the imagination than most of us are accustomed to making to grasp the seeming contradictions of a country that is part in Europe, part in Asia, bordering on the Soviet Union in the north and the Arab countries in the south; a developing nation that is a dedicated and vociferous democracy; a Muslim population in a secular state; not to mention a country with a Central Asian language written in the Roman alphabet.

Moreover, the Turks themselves are proud, sometimes too proud to explain themselves to others, or to undertake the frank and detailed exposition of their case that committees of the U.S. Congress or visiting missions of the International Monetary Fund may seek as a basis for their actions. And Turkish pride has deep roots.


Unlike most countries in the early phases of industrialization, Turkey has no history of having been a foreign colony. Its governmental tradition dates back to the infancy of the Ottoman state in the thirteenth century, and includes three or four centuries during which Ottoman Turks dominated most of southeastern Europe as well as most of the Muslim Middle East. In the contemporary era, Turkey's political independence was reasserted after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, as Kemal Atatürk founded the modern Turkish

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