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The Rise of Turkish Gaullism: Getting Turkish-American Relations Right

Turkey is becoming more independent and self-confident. Yet, the current analysis on Turkey in most American circles tirelessly refers to the tension between secularism and Islam or Eastern versus Western proclivities. Such focus often comes at the expense of the most powerful force driving Turkish foreign policy: nationalism and self-interest. Turkish-American relations are witnessing a paradigm shift that can be best defined as the rise of Turkish Gaullism. A Gaullist Turkey may in the long run decide to no longer pursue an elusive EU membership. It may even question its military alliance with the United States. Burdened by a sense that it never gets the respect it deserves, Turkey may increasingly act on its own in search of full independence, full sovereignty, strategic leverage and, most importantly, Turkish glory and grandeur.

 

2010 proved to be a difficult year in Turkish-American relations. The Gaza flotilla incident and Turkey’s “no” vote to a new round of sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council, once again, triggered a heated debate about the “Islamization” of Ankara’s Middle East policy. The cliché question of “who lost Turkey?” maintained its relevance for most of the year. In the meantime, the looming threat of an Armenian genocide resolution continued to sporadically dominate the bilateral agenda. 

Overall, American official circles that follow Turkey closely tend to display a sense of doom and gloom. The perception of an Islamist “axis shift” is real. Popular columnists, such as Tom Friedman from the New York Times, have now joined the cohort of those who share such pessimism. Yet, interestingly such pessimism tends to dissipate in the higher echelons of American foreign policy. There seems to be a less alarmist approach to Turkey at the level of the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and certainly the President of

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