Monday, April 11, 2011

Turkey's soft power

Joseph Nye says that a country's soft power is embedded in its values, culture, and legitimate foreign policy.However, while researching for a paper on "Turkey's Public Diplomacy" I came across other tools of soft power that gives a certain country an edge over others. In the case of the U.S., its soft power flows from its hard power--a combination which makes it a smart power.

Since Turkey has no comparable hard power, it uses other tools to make its power 'smart' -- at least in its sphere of influence. The first tool in its arsenal of Public Diplomacy is its geographic location. Strategically located at the confluence of the East and West, Turkey is in a unique position to work as a bridge between the East and the West. It is in Anatolia where East meets West.

Secondly, its modern outlook with a secular democratic political system--especially after Kemal Atatürkmade Turkey look Westward--makes it, if not a Western state, at least a look-alike of the West. Thus it made it possible for Turkey to identify itself with the modern world and be a candidate for EU membership. It also became a model for other Muslim countries in many respects.

Third, Turkey shares a long history with the Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia and as far away as Afghanistan. It made things easier for Turkey to reconnect to and prop up its historical and cultural roots in these countries. Turkey has also racial, ethnic and linguistic affinities with many countries in the region, especially Caucasus and Central Asia.

These soft power tools or assets have put Turkey in a unique position by raising its stature as a spokesman of the Muslim world, who can talk to the West on their behalf. For the West, this spokesman is not unfamiliar, and also not so different. For the East, Turkey is one of them.

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