The United States can also help to keep Turkey’s aspiration to join the European Union on track, by advocating more openly for resolution of the division of Cyprus between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The United States must not ever take Turkey for granted. ~The New York Times

As it happens, the Times is right to point out and deplore the frayed and sorry state of relations with Turkey, the hostile attitude of most Turks towards the United States (Metal Storm is just the tip of the iceberg of resentment) and the increasing popularity of turning away from close ties with the West.  Their proposed solutions, however, are mistaken.  One thing that has stalled Turkish negotiations with the EU has been American interference in the process; particularly in the aftermath of the bitter Iraq war debates in 2004 the European reaction to Mr. Bush’s intervention on behalf of Turkey’s application to the EU was furious and severe.  European voices, particularly that of French President Chirac (always good for a quote!), made unfriendly remarks to the effect of, “How would you like it if we told you how you should deal with the Mexicans?”  (The comparison was not simply a geographical one, but was meant to tap into the parallel with how most Americans actually view our neighbour to the south, and thus express how Europeans view Turkey–a poor non-Western country of quite foreign people simply teeming with foreign labour, and a country that they would just as soon not have to deal with.)  This is an issue best left to the Turks and Europeans to work out one way or another.  Our influence with either side is significantly diminished right now, and this is one of the most explosive issues for the future of the EU, and one that will do America no good to be tangled up in.  Showing serious concern for Turkey’s security interests will do a lot more to shore up relations with Turkey’s military and political leadership than any amount of kibbitzing about EU procedures or meddling in a Cypriot settlement that Washington does not even begin to understand. 

Turkey would probably not have succeeded in making any progress in entering the EU (which I believe to be a very poor idea for many reasons), but American activism on Turkey’s behalf will only harden European attitudes against it.  The thought in Paris and Brussels these days seems to be, “If the Americans want Turkey in, something must be horribly wrong with Turkish entry.”  This has added a new layer of opposition to hegemonism to the already bubbling brew of cultural and political resistance to admitting a poor, populous Muslim nation to a Union that has just taken in ten relatively poor eastern European countries.

Cyprus is an even more vexed question and one that Mr. Bush and his successors would do well to steer clear of, since the current Turkish government is implacable and insistent on conditions for a final settlement that the Greek Cypriot population will never accept, including the continued presence of Turkish forces on the island (a presence which some may remember was the result of an essentially unprovoked invasion).  Indeed, forcing the issue in Cyprus could conceivably damage Turkish chances with the EU even more–if it were actually desirable to improve those chances–since the Greek side of Cyprus has been accepted into the EU as the recognised government of Cyprus. 

However, these are only superficial fixes.  If Turkish public opinion has been lost, it has been lost because of Iraq and then because of American support for the war in Lebanon, which Turkish Islamists–and the supporters of the current government–viewed with horror and outrage.  It is little wonder that both NATO and the Israeli alliance seem less and less important to such people.  Which brings us back again, as often happens, to why empowering the Muslim masses to elect their own governments will not work in the interests of the United States or our allies, and may eventually detach long-time allies, such as Turkey, from their connections to America. 

You can play at hegemony or you can play at being the demoliberator, but you cannot really be both without having it blow up in your face.  I recommend being neither one, and minding our own business, but that would be all together too strange when the other approaches are working so well.