International Affairs turkey-hagiasophia

Published on March 11th, 2013


Turkey: From Inspiration to Aspiration

To understand Turkey and where it is going is to realize where it has been. Turkey was born out of struggle, pride and an unwillingness to look back. For decades, the fervent patriotism that united Turks following Turkey’s emergence from the injustices of the Treaty of Lausanne, has guided a people towards a Western mentality that was desirable; however in some ways undermined who they were. What the world is witnessing now is the emergence of a Middle Eastern power that has learned much from its Euro-aspirations, but is now embracing its role as a Mid-East inspiration.

For nearly 80 years following the formation of the republic, Turkey had pursued a Western philosophy in nearly all things. This was largely due to the teachings of Turkey’s founder and revered hero, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk was a proud man who happened to be witness to a declining Ottoman Empire which he viewed as backward and oppressive. Thus, when through sheer will he led the emergence of Turkey as an independent nation, he forbade all things traditional that he perceived as Ottoman: Islam as a national religion, Islamic dress, etc. and promoted the forming of a new tradition. The castigating of all things Islam largely guided Turkey up until the early 2000s when its Islamic roots resurfaced.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrives for the fifth United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) forum in Vienna, Feb. 27, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader )

Erdogan has led Turkey to the point where it “is [now] seen as an exemplary country that effectively enacted economic and political reforms…and offers the Middle East the Turkish Model, a combination of Islam and democracy” (Alani, 2012) that has proven to work. Due to the effective evolution of Turkish economic and political thought, Turkey finds itself comfortable in its own skin for the first time.By not aspiring to be something else, Erdogan has led a confident nation that now sees itself as a bigger player.

Over the past 10 years, Turkey has improved its own economy, which has allowed it to reach out and improve relations with many of the former contentious Ottoman provinces. Given their heir of success and offering a model of the way things can be, Turkey has launched a “Middle East offensive that has taken on something of the scale and momentum of an invasion, albeit a peaceful one” (Economist, 2012).

The Turkish emergence as a Mid-East power has not been without reservation from its allies, especially in the West. Turkey’s biggest breakthrough with their Arab brethren came in 2003 to the detriment of the United States. This is when its parliament rejected an American request to open Turkish territory as a second front for the invasion of Iraq. This, plus the fact that Turkey is “seen as a moderate counterweight to Iran and is a window to the West” (Economist, 2012), puts them in a favorable position moving forward in the region.

Turkey’s new responsibility will take some getting used to for all involved. The love affair between the U.S. and Turkey has cooled a bit; however this should not be the cause for alarm bells to go off. Turkey is finally looking out for its own prosperous future and development and is sticking to its policy of “zero problems with neighbors.” This is a sign that Turkey has finally found its independent personality and is embracing the role that they feel they are ready for. The faster the West and the Mid-East embrace Turkey’s new role, the better for all. In the end, you cannot stop a Turk from being a Turk.

ReferenceOzcan, M. (2012, June 29). Perceptions and Realities of Turkey’s Role in a Changing Arab World. Carnegie Endowment. Retrieved from

Economist (2009, Oct 29). Looking east and south: Frustrated by European equivocation, Turkey is reversing years of antagonism with its Arab neighbors. The Economist. Retrieved from


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erol Senel has been plying his trade in the world of finance and personal investing. Through this real world experience, he has found his true professional passion in economics and financial history.


Twitter: @senelslant
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