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Turkey: A Rising Power

By: Kate Cyr The generation coming of age in the United States has good reason to think their country’s global standing will change within their lifetime. “Threats” to its global dominance seem to target Americans from every angle: China’s economy is becoming more powerful by the day, Jihadists attack American cities, developing nations no longer want the U.S. to help - or intevene. The government seems to be focusing its energies mostly on China, an uneasy ally with an economy far outstripping America’s abilities.

But the government is focusing on the wrong country. Its attention should be centered on Turkey.  Turkey seems like a far cry from a commanding country able to topple the unilaterally powerful U.S. Problems with Kurdish uprisings, repeatedly denied E.U. membership, and diplomatic run-ins with Israel have blemished Turkey’s reputation internationally. But the blazingly obvious fact is Turkey is pulling itself together.

History and political qualms aside, Turkey’s GDP is rising at about 10% per year and doesn’t show any indication of falling.[1] The country has risen out of the ashes of a once rich and sprawling empire which died with the epithet “The Sick Man of Europe.” Now, Turkey shows signs of rekindling Anatolia’s old spark.

Turkey’s geographical location allows it access to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Its vast supply of unskilled labor makes it an obvious choice for developing industries. From modern universities, Turkish graduates are going on to become distinguished academics, political leaders, scientists, and engineers. Its intellectual base will rival that of any “Western” country by the end of the next generation.

Politically, Turkey enjoys leverage and power envied by the rest of the Middle East. Though Europe may be wary of admitting Turkey into the E.U., its large economy and fairly European-minded worldview give it more consideration and weight in decision-making than most other Middle Eastern countries can claim.

In the Middle East, it plays the role of mediator. Turkey is seen as trustworthy to many countries that prefer to keep powerful, Western countries out. Turkey’s relaxation of its strict secularization nature has also won it admiration from the Islamic-based countries in the Middle East.

Despite a current dispute with Israel, Turkey has traditionally been Israel’s biggest ally in the region. If diplomatic relations are resumed in the next few years, the warm sentiments shared by these two countries will probably continue. These friendly feelings have often been attributed to the close Turko-American relations.

But in terms of the U.S., it seems Turkey is no longer the lapdog of America in the Middle East. With the rise of the more domestically minded AKP, relations between the two powers have cooled. The days of American missiles in Turkey are long gone. While the relations are not hostile by any means, Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu have made it clear Turkey will be acting on its own policies.

With the Middle East in turmoil and the U.S. being pushed out of its normal perch in the region, Turkey is the obvious choice to fill this power vacuum. While much of North Africa and the Middle East have recently suffered revolutions, uprisings, or general domestic instability, Turkey has no such issues. Many governments bar the U.S. from intervening in internal affairs in fear it will only pursue its own interests. Again, Turkey is trusted where the U.S. is not.

Turkey is on the verge of rising to a position of power unprecedented in the modern Middle East. Its economy is growing at an astounding rate, industrialization is almost on par with the West, and its universities are turning out top-notch scholars. Politically, Turkey is becoming more and more independent and gathering support not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe and Asia.

Clearly, the spirit of Anatolia that once made the great Ottoman Empire is not dead. Among the cinders left after the First World War, an ember of hope remained burning for the future. Today, the phoenix is poised to rise again, in the form of a unified, competitive Turkey.  So, to those who fear China overtaking the U.S. as a superpower, I say to look at the bigger picture. When China’s moment is over, Turkey will emerge in the forefront of international affairs.


[1] Country Brief, 2010. Turkey, The World Bank, 5 October 2010, Web, 16 April 2012, http://go.worldbank.org/VQSCYP1Y50.

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