Why Turkey Is Not a Friendly Tyrant

  • Paul B. Henze


Two major developments have shaped the Turkish-American relationship in this century. First was the birth of the Turkish Republic in 1923 and its evolution as a democracy after 1946. Second was the forging of a Turkish-American security alliance after World War II to block Soviet expansion in southern Europe and the Middle East. As a democratic ally, it is surprising to find Turkey in a study of Friendly Tyrants, but three facts explain its presence: the Turkish-American alliance has been primarily military and did not originally presuppose democracy in Turkey; from 1923 to the present Turkey has passed through several nondemocratic phases; and, contemporary facts notwithstanding, popular images of Turkey in the United States confuse an autocratic political style in which the military stands behind democracy for an authoritarian system in which the military dictates politics. This confusion shows clearly when we realize that friction in official Turkish-American relations has had little if anything to do with disagreements over Turkey’s management of its internal affairs, and everything to do with a series of concrete issues, especially the Cyprus conflict.


Executive Branch Military Intervention National Security Council Democratic Ally Parliamentary Majority 
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  1. 1.
    Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 250.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    George S. Harris, Turkey: Coping with Crisis (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1985), p. 160.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The way had been prepared for this crisis of confidence by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when, in the bargain between Kennedy and Khrushchev that resolved the crisis, Jupiter missiles in Turkey were unilaterally removed by the United States. See George S. Harris, Troubled Alliance: Turkish-American Problems in Historical Perspective (Washington, D.C. and Stanford, California: Hoover Institution, 1972), pp. 92–95. It now seems that even deeper U.S. concessions at Turkish expense may have been considered, and rejected.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    For more detail, see Paul B. Henze, The Plot to Kill the Pope (New York: Charles Scribners, 1985), p. 48–64.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Most important was a comprehensive compilation of nearly four hundred pages of information on the period preceding military takeover which was issued in Turkish and English: National Security Council, 12 September in Turkey, Before and After (Ankara, 1972). Several compilations of statistics and basic data on terrorists were issued during the same period, for example, National Security Council, Türkiye’ deki Anarsi ve Terörün Gelismesi, Sonuclari ve Güvenlik Kuvvetleri ile Önlenmesi (Ankara, 1982); and a shortened English version of this same publication, National Security Council, Anarchy and Terrorism in Turkey (Ankara, 1982).Google Scholar
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    For example, Mehmet Ali Birand, Oniki Eylül (Istanbul, 1985).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Foreign Policy Research Institute 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul B. Henze

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