From Model to Bystander and How to Bounce Back: Turkey, the Middle East, and the Transatlantic Alliance
The perception of Turkey as a model for the Middle East appears to have been fleeting. For the time being, the story has petered out because Turkey, like its allies and rivals, has proven unable to shape outcomes after the Arab revolutions, especially in Syria. The model narrative has been called further into question by a perceived slide toward authoritarianism within the country, exemplified in the eyes of many domestic and international observers by the government’s heavy-handed response to recent nation-wide protests. Yet, Turkey’s economic and political trajectory continues to have much resonance for its region and added-value for the transatlantic alliance. To bridge the gap between long-term salience and immediate purchase, Turkey must predicate policies on the two principles that drove the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) success in earlier years: pragmatism and inclusivity for “democratic depth” at home and abroad. After all, what the region needs most is a success story — an example of how to live together in diversity under an open rather than closed regime. If Turkey fails to rise to this challenge, domestic and regional upheaval could derail Turkey’s hitherto impressive rise.