Every time I visit Turkey I ask myself what is it that makes me marvel at the many political and economic developments that make it stand out as the most impressive country in the greater Middle East. Watching Turkey’s significant foreign policy initiatives these days to cement good relations with its neighbors, I think I understand why: This is the only country in the Middle East region that acts like a normal, mature country.
Turkey’s mix of lively domestic politics, dynamic social and cultural life, and strong and internationally expanding economy all come together through the agency of a government that actually leads by taking initiatives, but is also held accountable to the citizens through regular elections. Turkey is the only country in the Middle East region that has both a democratic domestic system and an activist foreign policy. It is refreshing to witness this phenomenon in contrast with the largely passive and often dysfunctional countries across the Middle East.
The critical elements in Turkey’s success that others might learn from strike me as three in particular: freedom of speech and association that allow domestic politics to proceed in the direction defined by a majority of the citizenry; civilian authority over the armed forces and security agencies; and, pragmatic, humble realism in coming to terms with the realities of a pluralistic society where minorities demand rights that the majority should acknowledge. [continued…]