Friday, March 23, 2012
IS TURKEY IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
This is the Notes from this class, Week 1: HOW DID THE ‘MIDDLE EAST’ GET NAMED? It's a relatively modern term, popularized by Alfred Mahan in early 1900s, an American imperialist. It is a political term, and does not denote a geographical region. “Writing for London's National Review [in 1902], Mahan used the new term in calling for the British to strengthen their naval power in the Persian Gulf. 'As scholar Roderic Davison explains, Mahan’s Middle East "was an indeterminate area guarding a part of the sea route from Suez to Singapore.’ The new coinage played off the terms Near East and Far East,"already in use. “ Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, http://www.unc.edu/mideast/where/mahan-1902.shtml Additional thoughts: Today, the “Middle East” is still an indeterminate political region. There is no consensus internationally, as to what countries should be included. One could equally include Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. In the 19th Century, Turkey was the 'Near East,' and India, China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia were the 'Far East.’ TURKEY It is believed that 40% of the Turkish population have European origins. Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, considered itself a part of Greater Europe and joined various European institutions. The question becomes, does the government and state of Turkey, today consider itself to be part of the Middle East? This question has economic ramifications, and that is why it’s so sensitive. The Turkish state believes it has fulfilled the criteria to join the European Union. It is therefore not making official claims to be part of the Middle East. See this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/06/turkey-eu-membership The Turks themselves consider this question of whether Turkey is part of the Middle East, to be highly controversial. There are various thoughts. Some want Turkey to be seen as straddled between Europe and the Middle East, but not always facing the West or identified as a “Middle Eastern” country. Some want more of a cultural identification with the Middle East. The question also revolves around Turkish attitudes towards Israel. Recent events (the killing of a Turkish humanitarian activist by Israeli forces) have precipitated a shift against the UK/US/Israeli alliance, and towards Arab and Iranian anti-Zionist sentiments. What is clear is that Turkey is a pivotal 'swing vote' in the region. Given the controversy, I was faced with a hard choice, and decided to simply leave Turkey out of the list of assigned "Middle Eastern" countries in this class! However, it can be part of a topic for your final paper, for example, on Turkish-Syrian relations.