May 10, 2016
Supporting Democracy in Erdoǧan’s Turkey: The Role of Think Tanks
This paper examines the Turkish think tank sector as part of a strategy to invest in Turkish democratization in a manner that does not
prejudice security cooperation or the broader bilateral relationship. The United States for over 60 years has promoted a Turkey that is politically stable, economically prosperous, militarily capable, and democratically mature. As we head into 2016, the good news is that Turkey has had a party capable of ruling and winning elections for 14 years, is a G20 economy, retains one of the strongest military and security establishments in the world, and has established civilian authority over the military in a durable manner. The bad news is that this substantial progress has not resulted in a more transparent government fully committed to Western democratic norms. Instead the result has been a frequently unpredictable ally led by an increasingly authoritarian, albeit popular President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who flouts Western norms with relish and deviates from Western strategic consensus with ease. The sustained dialogue, mutual understanding, consultation, and compromise that mark good partnerships are noticeably absent—and the formerly substantial American influence over Turkish policymaking is greatly diminished. At the same time, the United States has an image problem to accompany its influence deficit, having experienced a sustained loss of trust among the Turkish public.