15 October 2010

turkish hospitality

i've been stateside long enough to start to feel human again (still can't believe how hard it's been to recover from the jetlag), reflect all things turkey, and of all the things that stand out in my mind about that wonderful center of the world, it's the genuine hospitable nature of its people.

thanks to the truman national security project and the rumi forum, i was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit real turkey (and unreal turkey). my small group of fellow truman fellows and i met with farmers and mayors, business leaders and parliamentary members, women leaders, think tankers, educators, journalists, and folks who run NGOs. we visited not just istanbul and ankara, but corners of turkey reaching as far as syria's border. we saw turkey from the inside out and the outside in. we talked about turkish culture, politics, national security, economics, EU membership, the kurds, the armenian problem, israel and iran, and the challenges it faces re: all of the above. and we did most of it whilst chowing down on turkish food, the deliciousness of which defies words.

to the turks, they are turks. turkey isn't in europe, it's not asia, it's not the middle east, but the bridge between all. and the turks we met, the ones from all walks of life, had one striking thing in common: a sincere desire to bring peace to its region and a legitimate belief that it is their responsiblity to do so. and in furtherance of their goal (see foreign minister ahmet davutoglu's "zero-problems" policy on international relations), they are building bridges.

if you listen to the american media, the story is 'turkey's newfound confidence,' 'turkey turning islamist east,' 'turkey and american relations strained as it votes no on u.n. sanctions against iran'.

but the real story is turkey as the bridge. the turks have as its immediate neighbors iran, iraq, syria, greece. instability in those countries impacts turkey's security, its economy, and its prosperity (its bustling economy expanded by more than 10% in the second quarter of this year, and has generally found itself exempted from the doldrums of the global recession). turkey has a rational self-interest in talking to iran - in extending a hand to iran ahmedinejad would be a fool to slap away, because sanctions over iran's nuclear program (a nuclear program no country fears more than turkey) spill over turkey's borders in the form of hungry refugees, crime, and greater regional instability.

turkey greatly values its relationship with america and wants to nurture its strong ties to the west (fighting for membership to the european union), but it also wants to do its part to stimulate greater stability in the middle east, to bridge religious and cultural divides, to increase tourism, and to be friends with all its neighbors.

with its infectious idealism, it's sincere hope for a peaceful future for the region and the world, its dedication to making that happen, not to mention its delectable food, wonderful people, and incredible history, turkey is a place for all the world's eyes to turn. because for anyone watching and listening, turkey is building bridges that can and should lead to greater dialogue, better foreign policy interaction, and ultimately a more peaceful, stable world.



  1. Not sure what you mean by the Armenian "problem," but I think it is more a "turkish problem" than an Armenian one -- they are the one in denial. Sorry, it may be an unintentional choice of words, but that gets me worked up a bit.


  2. oooooh, eric, i'd love for you to do a post on the "turkish problem"... seriously.

  3. I might take you up on that once this freakish month of filings ends!