Eight years after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) ascended to power in Ankara, U.S.-Turkish relations stand at a critical juncture: bilateral tensions surrounding regional flashpoints like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process have heightened, and even the six-decade-old NATO-Turkish relationship can no longer be taken for granted, as evidenced by Turkey's current reluctance to endorse the NATO missile project. As the ruling AKP leadership continues to actively oppose central pillars of U.S. Middle East policy, Washington should reach out directly to the Turkish public through serious public diplomacy initiatives, while encouraging the Turkish government to consider both the benefits of having America in its corner -- and the costs of rejecting U.S. support.
J. Scott Carpenter is the Keston Family fellow and director of Project Fikra: Defeating Extremism through the Power of Ideas at The Washington Institute. Previously, he served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and as coordinator of the State Department's Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative. He was also director of the governance group for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, where he helped guide Iraq's postwar political transition and established a wide array of democracy initiatives.
Soner Cagaptay is director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. An internationally recognized commentator on U.S.-Turkish relations, Turkish domestic politics, and Turkish nationalism, he publishes frequently in scholarly journals and appears regularly in major print and television news media. The recipient of numerous academic honors including Princeton University's Ertegun chair, Dr. Cagaptay currently serves as chair of the Turkey Advanced Area Studies Program at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute.