Responding to the New York Times

I’m still reflecting on the role Turkey will play in Abbas’s application for Palestinian UN membership. In a more general context, here is the New York Times today trying to have it both ways on Turkey:

Some Turkish officials worry that the crisis with Israel will end up hurting the relationship with Washington; others believe that Turkey is bent on supplanting Israel as the junior partner of the United States in the Middle East.

The bigger challenges seem to be within Turkey. Although Turkey has opened new embassies across Africa and Latin America, its diplomatic staff remains small, and the Foreign Ministry is trying to hire 100 new employees per year. Mr. Kiniklioglu, the party official, estimated that no more than 20 people were devising foreign policy.

The implication seems to be either that the Turkish foreign policy establishment is small (true) and thus ineffective (hardly) or that elites are steering the ship with little regard for the will of the Turkish people. This has been a common refrain in the “who lost Turkey?” crowd.

As Ryan Kennedy and I argue in a forthcoming paper, Turkey has not run away from the US and the EU since the AKP took power. Rather, the AKP’s increasingly autonomous foreign policy moves are a natural outgrowth of the country’s unique geopolitical role and are in accord with Turkish public opinion.

Here are three graphics to that effect, based on surveys from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which we presented to SETA-DC during an earlier stage of our research:

Is Turkey's Axis Shifting?

Turkish public's opinion of various int'l actors over time

Is AKP anti-Western?

Turkish public's opinion of int'l actors, by political party

Is AKP pro-Islamist?

Turkish public's opinion of int'l actors, by political party

Obviously our paper (which I will link to when it is published) carries out a more rigorous and in-depth analysis, but a simple visual inspection of these graphs (credit for which goes to Ryan) will show that there is broad consensus among the Turkish public about foreign policy direction. If this is really the result of just 20 elites, they’re awfully good.