In “War of Ideas, Part 2,” Thomas Friedman combines, as usual, some tiresome personal anecdotes with some solid analysis. He’s the print version of Geraldo Rivera–except for the part about the analysis. After wading through nonsense like,

While visiting Istanbul the other day, I took a long walk along the Bosporus near Topkapi Palace. There is nothing like standing at this stunning intersection of Europe and Asia to think about the clash of civilizations–and how we might avoid it.

we finally get to the good stuff:

Turkish politicians are not intimidated by religious fundamentalists, because–unlike too many Arab politicians–they have their own legitimacy that comes from being democratically elected. At the same time, the Turkish parents of suicide bombers don’t all celebrate their children’s suicide. They are not afraid to denounce this barbarism, because they live in a free society where such things are considered shameful and alien to the moderate Turkish brand of Islam–which has always embraced religious pluralism and which most Turks feel is the “real” Islam.

For all these reasons, if we want to help moderates win the war of ideas within the Muslim world, we must help strengthen Turkey as a model of democracy, modernism, moderation and Islam all working together. Nothing would do that more than having Turkey be made a member of the European Union–which the E.U. will basically decide this year. Turkey has undertaken a huge number of reforms to get itself ready for E.U. membership. If, after all it has done, the E.U. shuts the door on Turkey, extremists all over the Muslim world will say to the moderates: “See, we told you so–it’s a Christian club and we’re never going to be let in. So why bother adapting to their rules?”

I think Turkey’s membership in the E.U. is so important that the U.S. should consider subsidizing the E.U. to make it easier for Turkey to be admitted. If that fails, we should offer to bring Turkey into Nafta, even though it would be very complicated.

“If the E.U. creates some pretext and says ‘no’ to Turkey, after we have done all this, I am sure the E.U. will lose and the world will lose,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, told me in Ankara. “If Turkey is admitted, the E.U. is going to win and world peace is going to win. This would be a gift to the Muslim world. . . . When I travel to other Muslim countries–Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia–they are proud of what we are doing. They are proud of our process [of political and economic reform to join the E.U.]. They mention this to me. They ask, ‘How is this going?'”

Update (2145): Don Sensing has some interesting comments on this piece as well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. richard says:

    like the new skin tone

    Yesterday on C-SPAN an author gave a lecture on this very subject. He felt that Turkey would be admitted if they took responsiblity for their history much like Germany did.

    He also pointed out that even into the 90’s women and children were being imprisoned and tortured to obscure freedom and civil security within it’s society.

    While it may be true that the majority of the people want to join the international community and leave it’s history behind (much like the people of Iran). I can’t conceive letting that gov’t which as I said tortured innocent people (in undiscribable ways)just recently, into the UN.

    But of coarse I won’t be suprised if they get in with no requiremnt to change.

  2. John Lemon says:

    I really take exception to the line that Turkish politicians are not intimidated by religious fundamentalists. Having just visited the Bosporus — and thinking, “damnit, this place is alot colder than I expected” — I know for a direct fact (for reasons James probably knows) that pols are intimidated by religious fundamentalists. That is why they heavily regulate the mosques. And even though the mosques are regulated, there are “black market” religious groups that tend more towards fundamentalism. The pols don’t do much about them, as they tend to be intimidated by them, thus it really becomes a “grey market.”

  3. John Lemon says:

    Oh, yeah, and there is this one puny little country in the EU (the same EU that Turkey wants to get into) that is also intimidated by religion — France!

    I agree with Friedman’s assertion that Turkey is a key link to Middle Eastern democracy and we need to support their moderate path, but he makes a lot of weird statements in this piece.

    Personally, I think Turkey should screw the EU for now (as the EU tends to be screwing itself pretty well thanks to intransigence on budgetary deficits by France & Germany) and strike an economic zone with Eastern Europe. Many in Eastern Europe are getting cheesed that they are being viewed as “third class” Europeans, and the same is true of Europe’s view of Turkey. (For all the egaligtarian rhetoric coming out of social democratic Europe, the traditional big states still have very hierarchical views of the world.) An EEU (Eastern Europe Union) with Turkey included would really freak the frogs (and might just well attract Spain, Portugal and Greece — depending if you put Greece in Eastern Europe or not). The real economic and political dynamism of Europe will be coming from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey in the coming decade or so.

  4. I love the idea of an EEU.