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Turkey and the freedom agenda.


There's been some interesting reactions to Turkey's recent constitutional referendum.

The first is Commentary's J.E. Dyer who laments the constitutional reforms, suggesting that any moves to weaken Turkey's secular military removes a useful "check" against Islamism, despite the fact that this "check" is often exercised via anti-democratic coups.

The second reaction is Thomas Barnett, whose piece in World Politics Review ran on the front page yesterday afternoon, arguing that Turkey is an ideal strategic partner for the U.S. in the Muslim world:

If America could be magically granted its ideal Muslim strategic partner, what would we ask for? Would we want a country that fell in line with every U.S. foreign policy stance? Not if the regime was to have any credibility with the Islamic world. No, ideally, the government would be just Islamist enough to be seen as preserving the nation's religious and cultural identity, even as it aggressively modernized its society and connected its economy to the larger world. It would have an activist foreign policy that emphasized diplomacy, multilateralism and regional stability, while also maintaining sufficient independence from America to demonstrate that it was not Washington's proxy, but rather a confident great power navigating the currents of history. In sum, it would serve as an example to its co-religionists of how a Muslim state can progressively improve itself amid globalization's deepening embrace -- while remaining a Muslim state.

I seem to recall during the Bush-era that "spreading freedom" in the Greater Middle East was supposed to be the great calling of our times. Yet many of the same proponents of the freedom agenda are now raising alarm bells about creeping Islamism in Turkey. So what was going to happen if the Bush administration's freedom agenda actually succeeded in places like Saudi Arabia, or Egypt? Would the Middle East have become secular, more hospitable to Israel and more reliably supportive of Washington's foreign policy goals?

(AP Photo)