by John Browne
As territory in the Middle East falls under control of the brutal fanatics of ISIL, many Americans may be wondering how this could happen in the backyard of major U.S. allies. In particular, frustration with Turkey’s reluctance to move against ISIL, even as it massacres civilians and creates instability on the Turkish border, is growing rapidly. Turkey’s political calculation with respect to the crisis reveals just how complex and intractable the crisis may become.
Located between Europe and Asia, Turkey was once the epicenter of the vast Ottoman Empire that controlled much of the Middle East and even portions of the Balkans. After the First World War, with Turkey stripped of her empire, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk attempted to realign the non-Arab nation away from the rest of the Muslim world in favor of the West. This was a gigantic task, probably never attempted previously by any nation in history.