The last part of the BBC’s look at the Ottoman Empire was aired last night. It held the Turkish Republic that was carved up from the remnants of the empire by a little known general called Mustafa Kemal as the ideal for the nations of the Middle East that are still going through change.
Today’s Turkey is secular, democratic and successful. However, unlike the Ottoman Empire it is not independent, it has ceded control of it’s foreign policy to an outside power, which at present means the United States of America. It is doing this in part to avoid the conflicts that embroiled the rule of the sultans in their later years, but more than this to achieve the dream of its founder, namely to join the other nations of Europe as an accepted member of the European Union.
That of course may never happen – one only has to look at the reluctance of the EU to accept Bosnia, Kosovo and even Albania into their ‘Christian’ club to realise this.
Eventually, Turkey will realise this itself – whether her military will allow any future democratically elected government to alter the nation’s course in world affairs is also another matter.
And that brings us to whether Turkey is a model for Middle Eastern nations.
The answer is no – Turkey may be democratic and secular, but in the eyes of those seek change in their lands, all that is lost when one looks at the present and compares it with the past – when Istanbul was ruled by the Sultans they were the Caliphs who were the leaders of the Islamic world, a world that today encompasses a fifth of the earth’s population, a world for whom there is an urgent need for a strong and independent leader.