Tonight’s last-minute emergency talks among the EUnuchs, deciding whether the negotiations to admit Turkey can commence tomorrow, are apparently deadlocked. Austria wants to block Turkish membership, and has offered a “privileged partnership” in its place. Turkish PM Erdogan has pursued membershp as relentlessly as several predecessors, and has already rejected the Austrian proposal. Erdogan said that if Turkey weren’t allowed to begin talks on full membership — even though that means acceptance of about 85,000 pages of EU law — Turkey would walk away. He said that the EU would then merely be a “Christian club.”
It’s not at all clear that Turkey would benefit from membership, except to export its unemployed to France and other EU members. (France’s “Polish plumber” problem times ten.) But if Turkey is rejected, or even delayed again, the most moderate, Westernized and democratic nation in the Muslim world will be further alienated not only from the EU but from us, and given a big incentive to drift closer to Russia or Middle Eastern allies. The Turks are not Arabs; they have no cultural inclination to divorce themselves from NATO and join with the Arabs.
For decades, Turkey was the cornerstone of NATO, blocking Soviet expansion though the Caucasus and into Iran. The Erdogan government, far more closely linked to Islamists, but not itself Islamist, will find it harder to maintain its moderation. And when we consider that fact, we must remember that Turkey’s northeastern border is “Kurdistan,” and its determination to prevent an independent Kurdistan is one of the things that can hold Iraq together, or not.
The EU will act, as it always does, on the basis of its own economic interests and without regard to how it will affect the war on terror. If it rejects or delays full membership for Turkey, we should step in quickly and decisively. Will Turkey slide away from democracy and into a theocratic state radical Islamic state? As unlikely as it seems now, if Turkey is continuously pushed away from the West, its professional military (still the most powerful political force) will not be able to resist Islamization forever. Some are calling for an Islamic economic alliance, with an obvious eye on Turkey’s problem with the EU. Instead of standing by while this might happen, why can’t we offer a Turkish version of NAFTA to help Turkish moderates keep their nation democratic? We can compete with the EU, and succeed where they fail. It’s Palmerston time again. We have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. Turkey has been a valuable ally. It is our interest to keep it so.
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