This post was written for and recently appeared on Phylax Blog:
One of the pillars of American foreign policy has been the notion that Turkey, an island of secular Kemalism in a Muslim world, would help deter Muslim extremism. Its influence on other Muslim countries would supposedly help them steer clear of the Islamic fundamentalism that has been terrorizing the West. This notion was fed by what was seen as Turkey's staunch support during the Cold War against a mutual enemy, the Soviet Union. The axis of Turkey, Israel and the Muslim Republics along the periphery of the old Soviet Union was to usher in an era of stability in an otherwise volatile area. The United States and European role in the Balkans, which was becoming a powder keg in light of the implosion of Yugoslavia in the nineties, instead of stabilizing the area, inadvertently supported Muslim fundamentalists aided by Iranians, Chechens, and Saudis. Bosnia and Kosovo drove a Muslim wedge between Orthodox Serbia and traditional ally, Greece. Despite protestations to the contrary, misguided US policies are guilty of re-Islamizing the gateway to the soft underbelly of Europe. If this was not enough, the US is also pushing for the entry of Turkey into the EU as a full member. This event would bring another 60 million Muslims, many who do not consider themselves Western and are fundamentalist in outlook, into Europe. This would bring Europe's Muslim population to over 20%. Within a few decades, given present birthrates, the "Christian" character of Europe would be irrevocably altered.
What is going on in Turkey today is a conflict between secularists in the mold of Ataturk supported by the military and a new wave of Islamists who run the civilian part of the government with a clear electoral majority. The Islamists are in the ascendancy and the Kemalist experiment is in big trouble. The initial pro-Western orientation of Tayip Erdogan has now given way to increasingly strident anti-Israeli rhetoric, fashioned a rapprochement with Syria, taken a confrontational position vis a vis the Kurds in Iraq, is cozying up to Iran and failed to support the US in the Iraq War and subsequent insurgency. In fact, Turkish intransigence delayed the establishment of a second front and cost precious American lives. More importantly, the weak attack from the North was partly responsible for the ability of the Iraqi Army to disappear into the populace and allow elements to morph into a Sunni insurgency. Despite the Turkish military's role as guardians of Kemalism, it is only a matter of time before the popular government currently in power will be able to appoint their people into the the higher echelons of the military. Coupled by the new recruits and officers coming into the military with an Islamic mindset, secularism will fall like a house of cards without the military propping it up. Erdogan's strong anti-terrorism measures are, like those instituted by the Saudi government, merely an attempt by a essentially Islamic regime to shore itself up against Al Qaeda. It's not a matter of if Turkey becomes an Islamic State, it is a matter of when.
The anti-Americanism currently rampant in Turkey, despite years of American support and largess, is being fed by the Turkish media. It has created an extreme combination of American and Jew hatred. Perhaps the most bizarre anti-American "conspiracy theory" making the rounds these days, is one that contends that the US knows an asteroid will hit North America and that is why it is attempting to colonize the Middle East. The leaders of the loyal opposition, the People's Republican Party, established by Ataturk himself, are too busy accusing each other of being CIA spies to give Erdogan much of a reason to act differently. All of this does not bode well for the future of the region and for Turkey. American policy makers in the throes of much soul searching about who lost Turkey, are still putting their hopes on the Turkish military. Seems to me that was a strategy that didn't work very well in Greece either. American foreign policy now fighting radical Islam on multiple fronts, is in urgent need of rethinking failed policies vis a vis Turkey and the Balkans. Continuing on the same course in light of existing realities on the ground is merely reinforcing failure.