Courtesy Reuters

Turkey does not fit neatly into anyone's conception of the world order. For centuries, people have debated or fought over whether it is part of Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, or Eurasia. Some see its current government as careening toward "Islamist fascism"; others believe it is integrating into a basically pluralistic, secular, globalized international order. Does its fast-growing economy, the 17th largest in the world, make it a rising international power on a par with Brazil, China, India, and Russia? Or is it a minor player that is overextending itself? Although Turkey has an important secondary role to play in many major areas of U.S. concern, such as stabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq, it is essential to none. In short, Turkey is unusually vulnerable to being misunderstood, particularly since the Turks themselves often seem unsure about what exactly they want their country to be.

This past summer, Turkey trod on two hot-button U.S. policy interests, Iran and Israel, thus putting its new "zero-problem" foreign policy in an uncomfortable spotlight. As soon as the Turkish government was seen as having stepped outside the U.S.-led agenda, commentaries about its new orientation spread in major U.S., European, and

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  • HUGH POPE is Turkey/Cyprus Project Director for the International Crisis Group and the author of Dining With al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East.
  • More By Hugh Pope