WAR OF IDEAS, PART 2
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.