paper hut

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." George Bernard Shaw

June 5, 2011




About a week ago in the morning, a bomb, which was placed in a trash, was exploded near a bus stop in Etiler, İstanbul (Sabah, 2011). The bomb squad, police and the ambulances came to the area and I was very close to the scene as I was on my way to the office I work. When the traffic was shut down I could not help myself looking at all that mess in the area where people were curiously looking at the bomb scene and asking each other for what happened. Then I realized soon that everybody would be talking about this bomb on the internet whether they know the exact truths or not. With a sense of public responsibility, I took off my mobile phone, connected to Twitter and tweeted a couple of information about the event I was watching. I had more than 350 Twitter followers at that time but when my tweets about the event were retweeted by tens of people, I realized that the action I took for to enlighten people against false information reached more people than I had guessed. It was the power of social media. But was it all about social media? What about my self-courage to tweet about the event?

With the rise of Web 2.0 and the social networks like Facebook and Twitter, every internet user now has a chance to be an active participant for the events or demonstrations that are happening around them. Web 1.0 evolved into 2.0 and the result was the evolution of the internet consumers to become producers and participants in the digital sphere. All in all producing and participating were parts of communication which has now turned into an enormous shape. The uprising in Egypt early this year can be shown as a great example of using social media but the question is can all that demonstrations and marches be shown as a “social media revolution”? My argument is that social networks like Facebook and Twitter were not the real reasons for the Egypt revolution, but they were the accelerators and the tools for the needed communication to bring protestors together. In this paper, first you will find a brief summary about the rise of Web 2.0 with a support from Jurgen Habermas and its understanding of public sphere in the sense of social media. Then I will summarize a couple of academic essays from Bernard Berelson, Brian McNair and Evgeny Morozov to form a ground for the reader to better understand the social media's role in Egyptian revolutions. And lastly you will find an analysis of a text from an Egyptian blogger in Global Voices which focuses on the role of social media and digital activism.

Evolution of Web 2.0 and The Digital Public Sphere

Before understanding the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the social media's positioning as a tool for the uprisings, the evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and its consequences and the digital sphere it is created, which can be a model for the public sphere understanding of Habermas, should be briefly explained. Simply the outcomes of this change to Web 2.0 resulted in a more user participated digital nature which is much more different than the previous digital interactions in the past. The phrase “Web 2.0” was first mentioned in a conference in San Francisco, California in 1994, where the leading figures of online innovation community met each other (Graham, 2005). They had already observed the upcoming changes and challenges in the online world and so they divided the internet history into two: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

It should be underlined that the virtual social media community of what we understand today is basically a result of the evolution happened between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. The fundamental difference between the two is the increased participation of the internet users through several different digital platforms and networks. It is the reciprocity which makes the difference now where the users can produce and share the data with the help of social media. This exchange of information, in addition to the ability of easily communicate, created a digital sphere of force for not only fun, but also for journalism, political participation, creating public opinion, establishing awareness and also gathering together for particular motivations. Blogging services like Blogger and Wordpress, micro-blogging services like Twitter and Tumblr and networking sites like Facebook and Foursquare are some examples of today's digital evolution which made significant changes in our lives. In my opinion, all these user-based content production and ability to spread it with the increasing communication ability of individuals, there happened a digital sphere to be carefully observed and understood.

To better understand digital public sphere that is created by the social networks, we should quote the concept of public sphere drawn by Habermas: “a body of private persons assembled to discuss matters of public concern or common interest” (Fraser, p. 58). What Habermas claims all the time can be summarized as the deliberative democracy model in simple terms as he is a democratic theorist who is looking for the members of the society to come together and discuss in deliberation. He aims for the parts of the society to be in communication with each other to reach a consensus where they construct the public sphere. What he importantly claims is the difference of these parts of the society and the necessity for these parts to accept each other in deliberation. The need for the “dialogue” is the key for all these different parts along with the understanding of equality between each member.

In my opinion, the rise of the internet in 21st century can be shown as a concept model for the deliberative public sphere of Habermas. What internet brings to our lives is the chance to broadcast ourselves in blogs and videos and an interactivity between users in return. Forums, urban dictionaries like Ekşi and İnci Sözlük, blogs and social media networks like Facebook or Twitter... There goes a massive number of interactivity among users of the internet with the help of the improving technology which can be shown as a model for public sphere of Habermas. What is catchy here is that the evolution of digital public sphere brings not only deliberative communication, it brings an habit of understanding and knowing each other with the addition of ability to get together for the common purposes with the use of social media as a tool. So we can look at the uprisings in Egypt from this viewpoint but I firmly believe we should not forget that the sphere that is created by social networks is only an accelerator for the uprisings which were already waiting to happen as in the examples of French or Bolshevik revolutions. Although, digital sphere looks like to embrace citizens' lives, it can never replace the deliberative public sphere model of Habermas in reality. Still both spheres have strong links of interaction as the internet users are also real people living in a real society.

Role of Communications and Journalism in Digital Delusion

In this part, I will try to give brief summaries of articles written by Bernard Berelson about the role of communications in the society, by Brian McNair about the history of journalism and by Evgeny Morozov about the digital delusions internet users experience. To start with, Berelson asks the question if communications influence public opinion. He sets five sets of variables which are communications, issues, people, conditions and effects (Berelson, p. 531). The most important two frames to be discussed here, in my opinion, are personal contact of communications and the way the content is diverted. First, he highlights the difference between radio and the newspapers as the former one has an advantage of being more personal and more effective. “The more personal the media, the more effective it is in converting opinions” he writes (Berelson, p. 531). Second, he draws a distinction between reportorial and interpretive content where the latter one has less significant effect on the public opinion (Berelson, p. 534).

What makes Berelson's writings some kind of “nostalgic” is the fast nature of the digital century of ours. Although he has very striking points about the role of communications, in which I will be redefining the two points mentioned above, the digital journalism of Web 2.0 make his opinions to be revisited. The feeling of personal communication with radio compared to the newspapers used to influence the public opinion in the past but now, I am quite sure Berelson would agree with me, it is now much more personal with the social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. It is the digital public itself that is creating and influencing public opinion which is much more personal than radio, TV or newspapers. Second point of Berelson that I find important to mention is the rate of interpretation of the news. He finds direct telling of events more influential and interpretative telling less effective. But in the digital world, they are mixed unlike in any time before in history. In Facebook or Twitter, you can post a news article to your wall with a short comment or you can even write a long blog post or just a tweet of 140 characters. Those are cannot be labeled simply as reportorial or interpretive which is the result of the chaotic flow of Web 2.0 content production. All in all, the role of communications in the aspects of personalization and the type of telling the news are still important in our digital world but from a different perspective.

Brian McNair, whose article is written in 2009, looks at the history of journalism in his article named “Journalism and Democracy”. Apart from his association of journalism and democracy, I will only look at his five types of journalism in historical context which are journalism before democracy, journalism as a source for deliberative democracy, journalism as a watchdog, journalism as a mediator and journalism as a participant. What catches me first is the very obvious similarity of digital Twitter and Facebook journalists of today with these five types of journalism in the history. First, journalism before democracy was seen as useful but potentially dangerous (McNair, p. 237) just like nowadays' situation where governments are finding the internet useful but are needing to control it in case of any future danger. Second, journalism is a source of information in a deliberate democracy (McNair, p. 238) which is quite similar today where every Web 2.0 participant deliberately joins the conversation in the digital sphere, the one that can be a model of Habermas' public sphere mentioned above.

Third, journalism is like a watchdog to prevent the abuses of authorities (McNair, p. 239) which reminds me the role of Wikileaks (Fildes, 2010) and the spread of news by the social media users that threatened the governments' policies that are hidden behind the curtains. Fourth, the journalism as a representative who ensures that the voice of public is heard (McNair, p. 239), which we can be seen as a model in social media where the politicians and citizens, which are the new digital journalists, meet for public debate on the internet to create public opinion. The last one, journalism as advocates that defend the rights of the people (McNair, p. 240), can be seen in today's Twitter and Facebook users who are producing content for and against the news items in a continuous digital process. To sum up, it seems that the types of journalism in McNair's article quite resembles the positioning of social media users of our time, which means that internet users are not only people that are having fun unconsciously but rather use it in an effective and influential way through participating and producing content. Actually more than that, they get together with social media while being voluntary journalists which I will mention in a couple of paragraphs later.

Similarities of significant thoughts from Berelson and McNair about communications, personalization and types of journalism with new digital sphere and players of our century are the ones that should be kept in mind to better understand the spirit of digital time. To conclude this section, the last review will be from the article named “Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism” from the book “The Net Delusion” written by Evgeny Morozov which, in brief, is about the delusional positioning of the social media users for being proactive in the virtual world and its consequences of passiveness in the real world due to the virtual satisfaction. Morozov tells more about the psychological sides of the virtual pro-activity where social networkers are looking to promote themselves by joining groups and events virtually and not taking action in reality (Morozov, p. 186). It is useful to create awareness by creating groups and events on Facebook or tweeting about issues that are worth discussing about but he criticizes that this awareness is only valuable when it is converted into action “and this is where tools like Twitter and Facebook prove much less successful” (Morozov, p. 191).

So the digital activism become an habit for social media users which is also supported by the moderators of related digital groups who are looking for more visitors, not for more functionality. Morozov defines them as “dissidents without dissent” (Morozov, p. 198) who create a lot of digital buzz around the subject and not being able to channel the conversations into an effective consequence. This situation also closes the way for the social media tools to become tools for communication that creates public opinion and political activism. Rami Khouri, editor of the Lebanon's the Daily Star is generally concerned about the long-term effects of the digital influence: “Such activities essentially shift the individual from the realm of participant to the realm of spectator, and transform what would otherwise be an act of political activism, mobilizing, demonstrating or voting into an act of passive, harmless personal entertainment” (Morozov, p. 202). All in all, it is quite simple to label the digital users as only virtually active where they feel virtually satisfied and not really participate. But the question is that is it the fault of the social media or the people that are using it? When we think of the social media as a tool for the revolution in Egypt, we define it as the success of people as activists and success of the social media for being a very effective communication tool. And to be against Morozov, it seems that there is this good example of how people in Egypt can become active in both real and virtual worlds.

The Role of Social Media in 2011 Egyptian Revolution

“In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.” says USA President Barack Obama about the role of internet after the revolution in Egypt. (Banks, 2011). What he means by “active” is the masses' participation in both real and virtual worlds and what he means by “informed” is the power of social media as a tool to spread the word of information as quick as possible. In, Gilad Lotan collects several pieces of blog posts written by Egyptian blogger Hani Morsi which are about the technology driven activism and the role of social media in societal changes. In order to prove that digital participants in social media are more than spectators, Morsi shows examples of April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt and Green Revolution in Iran as political movements that are grown out of social media (Lotan, 2011).

Morsi also replies to Malcolm Gladwell's article named “Does Egypt need Twitter?” that is published in New Yorker in which Gladwell claims that Egyptian people did not need any social media tool to revolt against the government and showed examples from revolutions in history, that had no social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, like the French Revolution and the fall of Berlin Wall (Gladwell, 2011). It is in fact true that the past revolts had not social media networks, rather they had the necessary communication tools like telephones, telegraphs etc. What they needed was not a better communication tool, it was the courage they needed and so, for today, the social media was the accelerator and the tool for the events. Morsi agrees with the point of Gladwell and says that the uprisings and demonstrations would eventually bring down the aging, coercive and non-democratic governments. But he adds that the social media tools helped to accelerate the process in the case of communication and also helped the awareness and ability to revolt of other Middle Eastern and North African countries (Lotan, 2011). According to Morsi coercive regimes have the fear of open and fair dialogue which takes us back to virtual sphere that is modeled by Habermas' understanding of public sphere where people exchange ideas and opinions in a deliberative way. So the fear of governments become real with the awareness that is established by the social networks.

“What I refer to here as the virtualization of dissent is what happened when the popular desire for change was shifted from real space, where it was in long somnolence, and cultivated it in a space that the Patriarchs do not understand: virtual space” says Morsi to prove that the unhappiness of Egyptian people goes back to Presidential elections in 2005 and the boiling point was January 25, 2011 (Lotan, 2011). To show as an example of shift to virtual space we can mention the Facebook group named “We are all Khaled Said” which gathered more than a million people at the time of the events (Villareal, 2011). Khaled Said, a symbol during the uprisings, was a young Egytian who died under disputed circumstances after being arrested by the police. His corpse's photos was spread through the social networks and it incited an outrage through the 2011 Egypt revolution. What accelerated the process was the Facebook group that brought people together with his photos but the reality is that people, with another photo or event, would still had the courage to come together to be against the government's unfair actions.

According to a 2010 report entitled “Middle East and Africa Facebook Demographics”, there are 15 million Facebook subscribers in the area which is more than the newspapers circulated in the region (Feuilherade, 2011). Despite the fact that newspapers are read by more than one person, still this really shows an huge digital potential for communication. On the other hand, although both Twitter and Facebook was very helpful to mobilize the dissidents, these social media tools did not invent the courage the Egyptians had. Both Twitter and Facebook was blocked on January 2011 (Bold Mayers, 2011) but the dissidents still found a way to keep the communication through digital channels via DNS and proxy changes or chat rooms in online gaming and dating web sites (Villareal, 2011). It is certain that without the richness internet brings to the sphere of communication, none of these would happen that fast. But it is certain that people would find another way to communicate with each other. This is because the people in Egypt, for a long period of time, had been suffering from poverty, rising prices, unemployment, social exclusion, corruption and personal enrichment among the political elite (Nguyen, 2011) which already made them ready to protest, with or without the social media.


Throughout the paper I tried to convince the reader that the revolution in Egypt was not all about the use of social media. My argument was that social media tools like Twitter and Facebook were not the reasons, but the accelerators for the uprisings that established awareness among people with the high-tech communications and the ability to mobilize after that. The evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 made internet users to create content and share it through various channels which made it possible for people to easily communicate and share knowledge. I firmly believe that this evolution of web created a digital sphere of people, which is a model for Habermas' public sphere, where people deliberately and equally share opinions and exchange ideas. Berelson's article was to define the role of communication which pointed out that personalization and interpretation of news that is very well adopted by the new digital nation. Also the types of journalism McNair underlined is shared by today's social media members in several ways. Although, as Morozov explained, the feel for being virtually satisfied can be an obstacle for the real world political activism, the uprisings in Egypt proved it wrong that if the courage is enough, it does not matter if they had social media tools or not. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are very strong accelerators but the 2011 Egypt Revolution would not happen if the masses would not be unhappy about the ongoing political, social and economic negativity.


Banks, Emily. President Obama on Tech's Role in Mideast Uprisings. Mashable. May 20, 2011. (accessed May 30, 2011)

Berelson. B. 1960. Communications and Public Opinion. In W. Schramm (Ed.), Mass Communications. (pp. 527-543), Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Boyd Mayers, Courtney. Facebook and Twitter are now re-blocked in Egypt. The Next Web. January 27, 2011. (accessed May 30, 2011)

Feuilherade, Peter. Social Networking Surges in Middle East. Suite101. May 26, 2010. (accessed May 30, 2011)

Filden, Jonathan. What is Wikileaks? BBC. December 7, 2010. (accessed May 30, 2011)

Fraser, Nancy. 1997. Rethinking the Public Sphere (…),” in: Calhoun, C (ed)., Habermas and the Public Sphere, Cambridge: MIT Press.

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McNair, B. 2009. Journalism and Democracy. In K. Wahl-Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (Eds.), The Handbook of Journalism. (pp. 237 – 249). New York, NY: Routledge.
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June 3, 2011



Understanding the civil society for and against the state and the political society is very well demonstrated by Jurgen Habermas and Antonio Gramsci through their articles. Habermas puts civil society in the public sphere outfit in which members of the society come together for deliberation about common concerns for the public. Gramsci, on the other hand, claims that civil society is a part of the political society of hegemony that is constructed through the “manufactured consent” and the civil society should create a counter-hegemony against the state. Although they think of civil society in different aspects, in this paper I will integrate their concepts in the virtual sphere of new digital society. In this paper, I will first look at their perspectives of civil society and then re-model their works, in brief, from a digital way of thinking in the lights of endless interaction of Web 2.0 and the Turkish internet users' protest against censorship on 15th May 2011.

To start with, it is better to define the concept of public sphere that is drawn by Habermas: “a body of private persons assembled to discuss matters of public concern or common interest.”1 What Habermas claims all the time can be summarized as the deliberative democracy model in simple terms as he is a democratic theorist who is looking for the members of the society to come together and discuss in deliberation. He aims for the parts of society to be in communication with each other to reach a consensus where they construct the public sphere. What he importantly claims is the difference of these parts of the society and the necessity for these parts to accept each other in deliberation. The need for the “dialogue” is the key for all these different parts along with the understanding of equality between each member.

He underlines two prominent points, as I think, which are the tolerance and translation. First one is needed as the society includes different ethnic or religious groups, that are living together, to listen to each other and deliberate for a common ground for a better public sphere.2 Second is about the necessity of communication between different groups in the society for a better deliberation and consensus.3 What they will achieve will be not only the habit for deliberation or the realization of the public sphere, it will also be the continuation of equal freedom for all members. For the public sphere to be achieved, the equality and the richness of freedom of expression are very much needed, but in addition, the achievement of public sphere will make this equality continue in a positive and constructive way.

Habermas draws a sharp distinction between political and public spheres, unlike Gramsci. In Gramsci's understanding civil society is a serious part of the state which is used as an instrument for to continue the hegemony. On the other hand, Habermas thinks of civil society as the source for criticism against the state where different individuals of the society come together for a civil alliance of deliberation. In addition, Habermas aims for an one and only public sphere where the multiplicity of spheres would create a lack of cohesion. On the one hand, he may be right to theoretically think that the singularity may be a requirement for a more effective public sphere of deliberation in an equally free and but also different in essence. At one point, he is right to afraid that the touch of capitalism in the members' feel for looking for individual benefits in a multiplicity that can result in a break of deliberation. On the other hand, I will join Fraser here who thinks that the multiplicity of public spheres has greater importance to achieve greater democracy.4 In my opinion, a variety of successful public spheres which are destined for deliberation sincerely would result in a better way of society due to the possibility for members for not being able to efficiently join a single sphere and get used to it.

Gramsci, on the other hand, thinks of civil society not from a constructive way of perspective at first, but rather a part of the hegemony that is created by the state in a multiple ways of interaction. He equates state to the sum of political society and civil society5 where both parts are in touch with hegemony. According to him, political society includes the legal coercion where the institutions, constitutions, police and government are helping the political hegemony to continue. It does not only politically control the society, it also have a control mechanism in the ideological part which is exercised by the civil society actually. Members of the society, while giving consent to the state to carry the responsibilities, are both the reasons and consequences of the civil hegemony with the help of mass media, churches, clubs, associations etc. This is called as “the manufactured consent” by Gramsci where the civil society is the, unintentionally or not, manufacturer and contributor to the political hegemony.

What the state and political society are looking for is legitimacy that is gained by the consent and became sustainable with coercive and ideological constraints which is resulted in a hegemony in the society. It is fed by the popular demand of the societies as the legitimation continue with the popular support of the groups. Although both the civil and political society, the state, seems distinct in definitions, they are in fact in very much integrated formation6. The cultural and ideological codification is used with interaction by the political and civil spheres with the help of consent of the people, some kind of coercion again in a legitimate framework and a juridical support from the system to legalize.

On the other hand, a counter-hegemony is always found possible by Gramsci. According to him, civil society is also the sphere of opposing to hegemony which can be hidden with cultural and ideological discourses and disciplinary methods. He calls it the “war of position” in which the society fight not only against the coercive methods of the state, but also the cultural and ideological codification that is created by hegemony.7 I find this concept very interesting as it is evident that the capitalist society is the source of the disciplinary hegemony in our century which not only creates new methods to pose way of control the society but also to maintain it. All in all, he points out the war of position as the source of revolution against the state which is controlling the civil society in discursive ways not to be placed against itself.

In my opinion, the rise of the internet in 21st century can be shown as a concept model for the deliberative public sphere of Habermas. As I mentioned above, the public sphere of Habermas requires tolerance and translation that are needed for a constructive and deliberative communication. These necessities, in fact, also is a sign for the need of interactive communication as most of the communications among large groups of the society does not have a real chance to listen particularly all the members of it. What internet brings to our lives is the chance to broadcast ourselves in blogs and videos and an interactivity between users in return. Forums, urban dictionaries like Ekşi and İnci Sözlük, blogs and social media networks like Facebook or Twitter... There goes a massive number of interactivity among users of internet with the help of the improving technology which can be shown as a model for public sphere of Habermas.

Virtual sphere is not very different with its similarities of unequal treatment or lack of tolerance to differences that are in real life. But in addition to that members of the internet society has the chance to make their voices heard by others and get in touch with the society. Furthermore, internet users have the chance to make people listen or read their content or comments without interruption that can be an obstacle in front of the deliberative model in real life. On the other hand, there is a chaotic way of interaction and information flow on the virtual sphere which can be a real illusion for the members that they can feel to be in deliberation but the reality can be no interaction. Also the users generally use anonymous identities which can be an obstacle for a better deliberation as people can act unlike their real characters. Although these do not change the fact that internet can be an area of deliberation practices which can evolve into an habit of constructing public sphere. Though, it can never replace the public sphere model of Habermas in reality, still both spheres have strong links of interaction as the internet users are also real people living in a real society.

From the Gramsci's standing, his “war of position” can be modeled with the example of the march that is done by more than 30.000 protestors on last Sunday, 15th of May. What Gramsci claims is that the civil society is surrounded by the coercive and legitimate ways of domination with the disciplinary methods of sustaining consents. Though, he also underlines that a counter-hegemony is possible again from the civil society against the hegemony of the state and civil society as manufactured consent. Last Sunday, thousands of people gathered together to protest the latest decisions of BTK, as association that is charged by the state for internet affairs, which legitimates censorship of hundreds of websites with filter packages that limit the access of users in some way. It was all about the decision-making process of the institution which is not asked to the users in deliberative way like Habermas suggested. It was more like a Gramsci model that an institution uses a disciplinary method to dominate the internet access.

Though, thousands of people joined conversations on the internet through various channels like Ekşi Sözlük, Twitter and Facebook. What they did was a some kind of a deliberation as they exchanged their ideas, beliefs and the things and possible plans to do against the decisions that are taken by BTK. Accordingly a virtual model of public sphere was created, maybe not for a long time but one that can be shown as an example. Then this virtual deliberation and protest turned into an real life march last Sunday which can, this time, be shown as a model for Gramsci's counter-hegemony. Against all the political and ideological way of surroundings in the political and civil spheres, protestors showed their reactions by walking down the İstiklal Street for more than two hours with bills and flags. I think that this was clearly a model for counter-hegemony that is strengthened by the deliberation in public sphere with the help of multiple interactions and content flow of the internet.

To sum up, throughout the paper I tried to show the perspectives of two different civil society thinkers that are Jurgen Habermas and Antonio Gramsci. While the former is feeling the need for a public sphere that is embraced with communication, translation and tolerance; the latter one is explaining how the civil society became a part of the political hegemony and what if the counter-hegemony happens again with the efforts from inside the civil society. In my opinion, although it has limitations for now, internet communication and broadcasting with the case of the last Sunday's protest can be shown as great models for deliberation and a road-map for counter-hegemony that are theoretically explained by those two prominent thinkers.



Concepts of power and domination is very much related that they cannot be separately analyzed without referencing to each other. Not only in modern forms of societies that we live in today, but also in former systems the importance of concepts of power and domination were unquestionable whether they were in visible forms or not. The relations of power and domination can be traced between individuals themselves and also between individuals and the authorities. Although both relations seem to have similar grounds in respect to their association with power and domination concepts, the main difference is in the tools and understandings that create a significance, especially in the relationship between the society and the state.

Max Weber and Michel Foucault are two prominent thinkers who looks at concepts of power and domination in different but complementary perspectives. On the one hand, Weber claims that power comes into existence with the existence of bureaucratic instruments and bureaucracy itself. On the other hand, Foucault suggests that the power relations are everywhere in the society with discursive elements that we have no chance but to internalize. In this paper, I present these two thinkers' approaches on mentioned topics and how they differ and complete each other in various aspects.

To start with, the definition of “power” by Weber in simple words should be remembered. Power, in simple terms, is the capacity to make someone do something that in otherwise he would not. What is different than Foucault's understanding is that Weber makes a concrete understanding of power that is shaped almost in a physical way. In addition Weber sees power relations as a phenomena among the actors. Other than the individuals that compose the community, the most important actor is the state.

Weber defines state as the “entity which claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in a given territory” 1. State seeks to embrace power and how she practices power can be called domination. In Weber's words domination is "the probability that certain specific commands (or all commands) will be obeyed by a given group of persons" 2. When dominance continues for a considerable period of time, it becomes a structured phenomenon, and the forms of dominance become the social structures of society.

The most significant instrument that is used by the modern states, that we live in, to establish authority is called bureaucracy. It is everywhere in the society and once the bureaucratization is established, it is very hard to be destroyed. What is misleading about bureaucracy is that while it is meant to maintain law and order for the citizens, it is also a political element that keeps the authority and domination of the state. Though, one should know about the three frameworks, which are drawn by Weber, to establish authority in the societies 3.

First one of these three types of authority is called the traditional authority, which is mostly seen in tribes and colonies, in which customs and traditions are used for domination. In this type, the most efficient help comes from history as the traditions and habits grant an acceptance from the society and the arriving generations. Second is called charismatic authority in which the personality of leaders establish the necessary standards for domination. Examples like Napoleon, Hitler and Fidel Castro signifies the evidence of this type of authority as they dominated with the help of their individual influences on the societies.

In today's modern societies, the legal-rational authority is being used that helps to maintain bureaucracy and domination. There are clearly defined set of rules like constitutions that are executed by institutions to maintain the domination. The important point here is the legality of rules in the bureaucratic continuum that are imposed by the state and its components like institutions. In addition, bureaucracy is not only the purpose to maintain power, but also the instrument to legitimize the power and domination of the state with rules and legality to be accepted by the society.

On the other hand, Foucault draws a picture of “power” in a broader sense than Weber's projection in just bureaucracy and legitimation. He underlines the relationship between rationalization and the excesses of power in the society. According to him, power relations are rooted in the system of social networks and it would be an abstraction if we think of society without power relations. In addition, he looks at the power concept from a functional approach as he identifies it with the functional practices processed by the authority. Foucault emphasizes that discursive power is largely used by the authority and the practices of discourses help to maintain the dominance.

What is significant about Foucault's understanding of power relations is mostly the discursive executions. Though, he first winds up the concept of power relations which, he insists, are not necessarily derived from state practices, but are all under state control. He underlines that state and hegemony is in the every area of life 4. According to him, control is exercised as power through disciplines that are ways to organize action to be built into social systems. Members of the society experience these discourses and practices in deep and in a long period of time, which, in the end, result in a formation of reality that cannot be realized as an execution of dominance.

To show concrete and functional examples, he looks at everyday lives of individuals that are spent in schools, prisons, hospitals and factories. All these places, for instance, have ring bells to signify an end or start, which is aimed for control and exercise of power. Advancements in technology and rise of rationalization in the modern societies made it possible for efficient means of control and dominance. For instance, prisons like Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon is a significant work of art that can be practiced for surveillance and domination.

In addition to control and surveillance in schools or prisons, Foucault also underlines the role of punishment in modern societies that are to effect individuals' behaviors and make them become subjects to their own bodies 5. All in all, what he is trying to claim is that power relations and exercises of domination are materialized in all areas of line in discursive ways such as languages, institutions and through social systems of control. According to him, reality is constructed artificially that is substantiated in discourses and establishing disciplinary methods.

I firmly believe that although the approaches presented by Weber and Foucault seems to be in different directions, they complete each other in various aspects. Both thinkers emphasize upon the prominence of power relations and exercise of dominance in rationalized and technically developed formations of Western cultures of modern societies. On the one hand, Weber underlines the importance of bureaucracy to better explain the power concept. According to him the sources of authority strengthens itself in bureaucratic practices. Also it is used to legitimize the dominance of the state. Bureaucracy is not just in the state apparatuses, but in every aspect of modern society. It is an “ideal” based on a system of rational rules, opposed to tradition or charisma.

Foucault, on the other hand, insists that power relations are rooted in the system of social relations. He takes an approach of functionality in which he shows the tools of power that are used by the state in a discursive way. What makes individuals believe in the constructed realities is the persuasiveness of discursive practices in every day lives, such as languages, institutions, schools, factories or prisons. While Weber asks for how power and domination is legitimized through bureaucracy, Foucault shows how we legitimize the power that is reflected upon us with everyday practices.

To conclude, in this paper I tried to draw the approaches of two prominent thinkers on concepts like power and domination. Although they seem to differ in some aspects, I tried to show how they can complete each other. On the one hand, Weber shows how power is legitimized and strengthened by bureaucracy and how it effects the relations between individuals and the state. On the other hand, Foucault underlines the importance of the power relations in the society and the discursive power of the authorities in various aspects. I firmly believe that, Weber, with his formal and rational perspective and Foucault, with his functional approach, completes each other for readers interested in power and domination concepts.


Foucault, Michel. The Subject and Power, in K. Nash (ed), Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell.

Weber, Max, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, New York, Bedminster Press, 1968.

Weber, Max. Politics as a Vocation, in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, London, Routledge, 1991.

April 3, 2011



What is difficult about the concept of democracy is how to define and put it in both qualitative and quantitative measures. On the one hand, every society has a different historical background and continued process of adopting democratic grounds which makes democracy inevitably difficult to measure in an objective manner. On the other hand, in a quantitative manner, it is not very easy to measure democracy in numbers as there are several instruments of it. However, Davit Beetham, in some perspective, presents his readers a pattern of assessing a country’s democracy. In this paper, I will present his four step prototype in the issue of a recent digital censorship in Turkey which involves Digiturk and Blogger as main actors.

Two weeks ago, Digiturk, the leading TV operator which holds the Turkish Football League’s broadcasting rights, went to the courts to block the access to the Blogger (the leading blog provider in the world) users that illegally broadcast the football matches online . However, because of the technical difficulties and legal gaps related to digital spheres, the courts banned not only the illegal blogs, but all the blogs that use Blogger as a blog provider. So what really happened was censoring all the Blogger blogs, not only illegal or Turkish ones, in the digital world which also can be evaluated as a lack of democratic and civil rights.

To start with, Beetham draws four steps to assess a country’s democracy . First is to define the contents of the goods of that democracy which brings us to the digital sphere of freedom in the internet. I firmly believe that internet is a sphere of freedom and it can also be seen as a prototype of deliberative democracy. “Public justification is justification to each citizen as a result of free and reasoned debate among equals” writes Thomas Christiano . It is still a premature thought to accept digital world as a reasonable sphere but it gives me a great hope in some respect that it allows everyone to spit out their comments to others which is like nothing else compared to past. Digital sphere and social media have an enormous power to get people together and provide a common ground to them to express their thoughts. This is some kind of a civil right which allows anyone, that has an internet connection, to be a part of it.

“Second, we need to identify the relevant international standards of best practice for realizing each of these rights” says Beetham . In this part, I used the reports of an institution named Freedom House and its United Kingdom’s reports on the subject of internet freedom. As most of the people can accept, the UK is a reasonable example due to her long history of democracy and civil rights. In the report of Freedom House, internet freedom is very much guaranteed by the government in the UK which took a point of 20/100 (less is better) . Just to compare and contrast, Turkey took a point of 40 and defined as “partly free” due to her legal gaps in digital laws and habits and history of restrictive policies both in the constitution and the general public opinion . Blogger is not first world-wide popular website that was banned in Turkey as YouTube, Vimeo, Wordpress and Dailymotion also had a bite of the legal inconveniences. So, it is clear that, the UK, an example of mature democracy, sees internet as mostly a sphere of freedom where users have the rights to use the content without severe restrictions, unlike the situation in Turkey.

According to Beetham, third step is the possible subversions that can prevent democratic standards which brings us to the Digiturk-Blogger case. Digiturk’s attempt to ban the illegal broadcasting blogs can be seen reasonable due to the copyrights of purchased content but what they caused unintentionally was blocking access to all the blogosphere. This meant a serious harm to digital rights of bloggers and blog readers which created an obstacle against their digital freedom. In some way, the case of Digiturk’s attempt was resulted in that way mostly because of legal gaps and technical difficulties as the courts were not able to only ban the illegal web sites. So, the absolute result was a subversion in democratic standards.

The last step defined by Beetham was to show typical agencies that can be effective against possible subversions . In this case, our agency was an individual, an Assist. Prof. Dr. Yaman Akdeniz from Bilgi University who is very engaged in activities against digital censorship in Turkey. To lift the Blogger ban, he went to the court with relevant documents that prove the removal of illegal blogs. The courts also got help from an expert after Akdeniz’ proof, and lift the ban against Blogger . Although, it was a temporary treatment, Akdeniz’ individual attempt still played a great role to suppress the subversion of democratic rights of Turkish blogosphere. Now, a real agency that should take steps is the government and the courts alongside with digital experts to replace the old digital laws with new ones in order to prevent any possible future subversions in the digital freedom of internet users.

To conclude, in this paper, although it is more than difficult, I tried to put democracy in a qualitative and quantitative frameworks with a simple example from digital world. I used Beetham’s four step framework to assess a country’s democracy and a recent case of digital censorship that happened between Digiturk and Blogger. I firmly believe that internet and social media provides a new understanding of civil rights and although they are embedded in the virtual world, I hope for a transition of freedom habit and deliberative reason from virtual world of internet to the real world that we live in.


Milliyet, read online, 2011:
Beetham, David. “Freedom as the Foundation,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 15, No: 4, October 2004, pp. 65.
Christiano, Thomas, “Democracy,” in Issues in Political Theory, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 84.
Freedom House, read online, 2009:
Freedom House, read online, 2009:
Miliyet, read online, 2011:

January 25, 2011




The negotiations between Turkey and European Union (EU) on the Turkish membership goes back to the 1959 when Turkey first applied for the associate membership. Since then, in more than 50 years, 21 new members joined the Union but Turkey only managed to be a official candidate in 1999 and start the negotiations in 2005. As the EU evolved through time with the joining of new members from different regions and traditions of the continent, it had to adopt new policies, institutions and arrangements to better absorb the new structure of the community. Alongside, there had been many theories that observed and analyzed the structures of the Union such as neo-realist, liberal intergovernmentalist and constructivist understandings.

My thesis is that Turkey deserves to be a member of the European Union which can be justified in rationalist (neo-realist and liberal intergovernmentalist) and constructivist approaches. Throughout the paper, first you will find a brief historical analyses of European Enlargement processes to better understand the progress it had experienced. In the second part, there will be a summary of Turkey – EU relations alongside with a brief summary of recent Turkish Foreign Policy direction. Next, there will be an analysis of theories, which are neo-realist, liberal intergovernmentalist and constructivist approaches, about European Union’s enlargement and integration processes with a perspective on Turkey’s membership on related topics. Finally, after having established the base for the thesis, you will read how I defend my thesis that Turkey deserves to be a member of the European Union in rationalist and constructivist perspectives.

I. History of European Union Enlargement

Before understanding the conceptions of integration and enlargement theories in EU and its relations with Turkey’s membership status, a brief summary of previous enlargement rounds that Europeans experienced should be drawn. It is certain that EU is not the same union as it was in 1950s, due to its ongoing change which includes both deepening in institutional means and widening in the means of new members. There were only 6 members when the union was first founded and there are now 27 EU members which means a geographically stretched and fundamentally evolved community. The enlargement rounds from 1973 to 2007 can be summed up in four headings: The United Kingdom (UK), Denmark and Ireland enlargement in 1973, Mediterranean enlargement in 1980s, EFTA enlargement in 1995 and finally the Central and Eastern European enlargement in 2004 and 2007.

To start with, there were, reasonable or not, economical and political reasons for UK not to join the group of founding countries that are France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands and sign Treaty of Paris in 1952. Until 1961, British thoughts were to ignore the European countries due to economical reasons as the European Economic Community (EEC) can be a burden for British and political reasons as UK was still an imperial power (Nugent 2004, 22). However, political developments that are the rise of United States and Soviet Union as the new world powers and its reflections in Suez Crises and developments in economical relations among the EC members led the British officials rethink to join the community. After two de Gaulle rejections in 1961 and 1967, UK became a member in 1971. What motivated the existing members to accept UK were its possible contribution to the EC budget and the new market opportunities. Denmark and Ireland were other new members in the 1971 enlargement which was only the beginning of the ongoing enlargement rounds.

Second enlargement rounds is also called the Mediterranean enlargement as the new members were Greece in 1981 and Portugal and Spain in 1986. All three countries experienced dictatorships in 1970s and were trying to improve their standards following the democratization progress. What was significant about the acceptance of Greece were her very low rates of economical and political progress compared to the other members’ at that time (Nugent 2004, 27). The underlying motivation of member countries’ acceptance was to help Greece improve politically and economically with the support of the community norms to be reached. There are many thoughts that put nowadays’ Turkey parallel to Greece at that 1980s and claim that same tolerance can be shown to Turkey in order to help them improve their political and economical standards. However, today’s EU has more members than before which means a more difficult transaction on behalf of deepening in institutional and bureaucratic norms. In addition, it is very much argued shared history of Greece and European culture and the motivation to foster development in Greece drove their membership progress in a positive manner (Greece MFA 2011).

Third enlargement also has another name which is the EFTA enlargement as former EFTA members that are Austria, Finland and Sweden had joined the community in 1995. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and following the end of the Cold War, those three countries did not have a tendency to be neutral as before. The significance of this round was its quick and smooth progress due to the candidates’ already adjusted standards to the Union. The result was very positive as neither of the three countries were that huge to cause a major policy change and they all brought a Scandinavian culture of political transparency and democracy to the existing grounds of the Union (Nugent 2004, 30). Also to note that other EFTA members, which are Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, did not became a member because of the negative results in their referendum concerning the membership.

The last enlargement round that happened in 2004 and 2007, when 12 countries from Central and Eastern Europe (CEEC) joined the Union, was also an extension of the collapse of the Soviet union similar to the previous round. The major motivation of CEEC was to reintegrate to the Western Europe through the EU membership. On behalf of the Union, the major reasons were to establish a soft security sphere around the continent and incorporate the new markets to the existing economical relations (Nugent 2004, 35). Although these 12 countries had low GDP rates and the entrance bar to the Union became higher due to the increased numbers of acquis they nevertheless achieved to be accepted as members. However, this round made many thinkers question the future of the Union as it became more difficult to get deeper in the policy changes and institutional formations (Aggestam 2008, 360). Nevertheless, it was a giant step for both sides and the future formations will tell us if the decision was right.

In a rationalist approach, many think that the calculations of the cons and pros led existing members to accept the candidate countries as new members. New market opportunities, security issues or the desire to be a stronger political power in the world seem to suppress the doubts about the enlargements due to the low GDPs of the recent members (in the second and fourth rounds) or the possibility of fragmentation in policy areas and institutional organizations. The initiatives like Copenhagen Criteria, standards for candidate countries to reach, seem like a justifiable and acceptable approach to establish a more systematic understanding in enlargement but the reality is the evolution of the community’s former primitive role to the recent sophisticated situation.

II. Turkey – EU Relations and Turkey’s Recent Foreign Policy

Turkey’s EU membership journey starts in 1959 when the first application was done to be an associate member. Since the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923, the founders had a western-oriented approach but the related progress of Turkey in 20th century should be observed with its relevance to the Cold War period and subsequent Turkish foreign policy direction. Turkey’s memberships of Council of Europe in 1949 and of NATO in 1952 can be shown as evidences alongside her alliance with the United States and Western Europe during the Cold War. As Turkey was very close to the aggressive attitudes of the Soviet Union and complexity of the developing countries of the Middle East, she found herself close to the Western world of development as a path to increase her stability and improve her standards. Although, her geographical closeness to Asia along with the Ottoman past and religious background Turkey usually came face to face with obstacles other than economical and political standards.

The application in 1959 resulted as the Ankara agreement in 1964 which recognized Turkey’s desire to be a part of the European Community which can be achieved in the future, not at that time. What Turkey aimed also was her desire to weaken her dependency on the US but due to the low levels of development in competitive economy and high import substitution at that time, Turkey could not get a positive return from the EC. The 1970s was a period called “the self-exclusion” (Öniş 2000, 12) of Turkey from the membership when the domestic issues kept the country busy and she found her NATO membership enough against a possible Soviet threat. Also Turkish officials are said to have adopted a defensive attitude for their premature market conditions against the European competitiveness. Furthermore, the membership application of Greece in 1975 was underestimated and the possibility of their negative role against a Turkish candidacy as a member in the future was not foreseen (Öniş 2000, 11).

The military coup in 1980 led to a frozen relationship between the two sides and it continued until the application for full membership in 1987. What Turkey accomplished was a liberal economy, privatizations and increasing democracy level compared to past made the atmosphere more optimistic than before (Arıkan 2006, 86). But the Europeans did not share the same optimism and although they wished for Turkey’s good run for the future talks, they returned with negative comments due to the poor relations with Greece and the existing conflict in Cyprus. What actually disturbed the EC was the possibility of disharmony that Turkey’s membership would create as the community was becoming a political power after the Single European Act was signed in 1987. Other negative factors such as the large population, low development, high unemployment rates and poor indicators in human rights, rule of law and minority rights in Turkey made inappropriate ground for membership (ESI 2006).

The change in relations began in 1995 with the membership of Turkey in Customs Union and the acceptance of candidacy in Helsinki Summit in 1999 (EUSG 2007). The prominent reasons of this change during that time were the reforms made by the Turks (i.e. removal of death penalty), improving relations with Greece and the lobbying of US for Turkey to become a EU member. Although there was talks of possible partnership models instead of full membership status, Turkey officially started accession negotiations in 2005 to reach the standards of the Union that are drawn by the Copenhagen Criteria. However the negotiations did not go well until now as only 1 of the 35 chapters, that determine the capability of candidate’s membership, has been successfully closed by Turkey (EUSG 2007). On the other hand, Turkey seems to have adopted a new foreign policy which makes her to increase the alternatives of alliances in the East with Middle Eastern and Caucasian countries, alongside with the US, the continual ally.

It is remarkable that Turkey’s decreasing interest in EU membership and her increasing regional role in the Middle East seems to occur at the same time. The increasing political and economical influence of Turkey in the Middle East does not necessarily mean a shift from West to the East but her low level of performance in closing the chapters for EU membership makes people question if Turkey is aiming to be a leader in the East instead of being a part of the European Union and West. Since Ahmet Davutoglu became the new Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2009, Turkey adopted a “zero problem with neighbors” policy that aims to establish stability and peace in the region to foster the economic relations (Uslu 2009). As a result of the increasing economical relations with Middle Eastern countries, Turkey started to seem like an East-oriented country although the ties with the West are never split completely. Thus, increasing economical relations with neighbors and increasing the alternatives brought a chance for Turkish officials to become more active in political relations. This approach of Turkish Foreign Policy, which is increasing alternatives and maximizing benefits, is very close to be understood with a rationalist and neo-realist perspective.

III. Theories on European Enlargement and Integration and Turkey’s Membership

Before analyzing theories on the enlargement and integration issues, the question “What is Europe?” should be asked in order to be able to understand the concept of Europe and European Union. Should Europe be defined according to its geographical space which does not have a clear-cut border like Americas have? After the collapse of the Soviet Union, several former Soviet and/or Eastern/Central countries are accepted as European Union members. So does it mean that they each became a European country after the collapse of the Soviet Union? No, the answer is that even Russia, whose former geographical location is very much called the East, can be a “European” in the future. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are all in the east side of Turkey and considered as European according to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Program (EEAS 2011). So, a geographical definition is a very difficult one to explain the borders of Europe and the boundaries of the EU does not exactly answer our question.

As Delanty writes, Europe is a cultural contestation and manifestation of a European modernity and civilization which means that every country, organization or unit that contributes to that culture is also a part of it (Delanty and Rumford 2005, 52). There is a diversity of civilizations in the European geography which is, at the same time, an area of civilizations that foster each other in time. Thus, Delanty summarizes as there is more than one Europe (Delanty and Rumford 2005, 37). What is interesting about the image of European Union is that people are inclined to think EU as the pure reflection of Europe which, in my opinion, is a mistake. This phenomenon’s fallacy has already been proven after the end of the Cold War and the joining of Central and Eastern European countries to the Union that is to represent Europe. Thus, Europe is not necessarily defined with its borders but it would be proper to think about the perspectives and related patterns that are brought by thinkers. There are many theories for European enlargement and integration which focus on political or economical factors with different perspectives such as neo-realist, liberal intergovernmentalist and constructivist.

• Neo-realist Approaches and Related Explanations for Turkey - EU Relations

To better understand the neo-realist approach and analyze the foundation of EU and its relations with Turkey accordingly, we should have a look at the writing of Kenneth Waltz. As Waltz explains that the international system is a composition of structures and interacting units (states) where every unit looks to care of his own (Waltz 1979, 79). The main aim of the units is to survive in the anarchical structure where you have to maximize your capabilities and overcome the power struggles. According to this theory, every country looks to behave in a rational way which is to survive and secure herself in the anarchical environment of world. Thus, the idea of cooperation is very possible for states to come together and form an alliance in order to decrease their vulnerability against other, to increase their capability and to achieve a balance of power. As a result, from a neo-realist perspective, states come together to cooperate to maintain their survival in the anarchical international arena (Pollack 2000, 3).

When we look at the founding principles of the European Union, it is obvious that the main aim was to create a sphere of cooperation to increase capabilities and decrease vulnerabilities. The result of the World War II was devastating for the continent and every country, including France and Germany, needed time and money to reconstruct both physically and mentally. As a result, the European Coal and Steel Community was founded by 6 European countries to increase the economical relations among them and accelerate the reconstruction. The political status and identity of today’s European Union was not an immediate aim for the founders which was fostered parallel to the economic developments of the community. A neo-realist approach would claim that what pushed these countries was, other than economical reasons, to stay together against the two leading countries of the anarchical system, the United States and the Soviet Union.

The significant thing is that the European Community maintained its presence after the end of the Cold War which was an important reason to bring them together. Yet, their integration and enlargement continued in instances like adopting the single currency in Maastricht Treaty in 1992 or adopting a qualified majority voting in Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 which both strengthened the union’s institutional role (Pollack 2000, 2). The end of the Cold War does not necessarily mean the end of the anarchical system that is described in the neo-realist approach. Nevertheless, the member states, which are to be the units seeking their own benefit, gradually developed an understanding of a European community that is not only to survive but to be collectively another polar in the multi-polarity of the post-cold war period.

To implement a rationalist approach of neo-realist theory into the Turkey’s EU membership, we should look at the cons and pros of the cooperation and decide on whether it is enough to explain the progress between the two sides in a neo-realist view. There are many advantages for EU to accept Turkey as a member and one of them is the Turkey’s capability to maintain the security. Turkish army is NATO’s second largest (The Economist 2006) and it is no doubt that her possible membership is a great asset for the European Security and Defense Policy. Furthermore, Turkey’s geographical position makes her an important spot as she is both linked with Caucasus, Middle East and the Mediterranean area. What makes Turkey an important regional actor is her shared history of bureaucracy and religion with the Middle Eastern countries. According to the neo-realist approach, states seek for their survival and security and adopt policies accordingly. Turkey is still in the same geographical area as she was in 1959 when she did her first application and she had approximately the same strong military approach at that time.

Thus, the rational approach of neo-realists in enlargement seems to be wrong on behalf of the Turkey’s membership issue. It seems proper when we think of the Eastern European countries’ acceptance as they provide a soft security with their membership. The former Soviet states accepted to be the safe-zone with their presence between the existing members and the East in exchange for their acceptance to the Union. On the other hand, Turkey has the similar, maybe more, offers for security and stability concerning the Caucasus and the Middle East in exchange for being an EU member. However, 50 years have passed since the first application of Turkey and it seems that it is not possible to accept the neo-realist approach alone to understand the enlargement of the European Union.

• Liberal Intergovernmentalist Approaches and Related Explanations for Turkey – EU Relations

Similar to neo-realist theorists’ rationalist approaches, liberal intergovernmentalists also share the rationalist understanding but other than a security level. They see the relationships of member countries in an economical perspective and assume that the economical interdependence among the countries makes war an unbeneficial choice (Pollack 2000, 4). Neo-realists claimed that the European countries unified due to the anarchical structures of the Cold War period and according to their approach their unity had to be ended after the end of it. However, European Union continues its journey in the post-cold war period. What liberals argue is that the shared values of democracy and existing commercial linkages between the member countries are the reasons that hold members together (Pollack 2000, 4).

As Pollack refers to Andrew Moravcsik that liberal intergovernmentalism has three steps: “a liberal theory of national preference formation, intergovernmental theory of bargaining and a new theory of institutional choice stressing the importance of credible commitments.” (Pollack 2000, 11). Against the security underlining of the realist approaches, liberals underline the economical relations of states which are related to domestic spheres are the basis for the relations. Thus states’ domestic preferences leads to a bargaining process among them which make international institutions as some kind of tools to arrange the relations of preferences between the states.

When we look at the liberal-intergovernmentalist approach on European Union concept, we see that states’ aim is to maximize their economical interest that is correlated with the domestic preferences. When we count on the states’ economical aim that much, it is inevitable to underestimate the role of the EU institutions and the role of the supranational structure of the Union. The commercial interdependence and the domestic preferences related to financial factors seem to be the major points of the liberal approach that define the unification of the European countries on these criterions. The rationalist approach to maximize the interests in economical means is fair enough to justify the memberships of Greece in 1981 or Eastern European countries in 2004 and 2007. On the other hand, trying to understand Turkey’s rejections in a liberal level is not very possible.

One of Turkey’s main strengths is her large population and developing industry which means a new market for European Union countries. It has the potential of a new consumer group of 75 million to be reached where the demand for the European products would never be low. Also Turkey’s links with the Caucasus and the Middle East makes her very valuable to reach other markets. It has good relations with her neighbors which can be again a valuable asset for the EU. On the other hand low levels of GDP rates can be a negative factor for EU’s decisions on the economical means (ESI 2006). However, as I mentioned above, countries with low GDPs like Greece, Bulgaria and Romania are also accepted as members. What liberal-intergovernmentalist approach cannot explain alone is the rejection of Turkey’s membership by EU despite the potential of Turkey’s large population of consumers and her geographical positions as advantages.

• Constructivist Approaches and Related Explanations for Turkey – EU Relations

In his study of constructivism David Houghton simplifies the definition of constructivism very neatly: “Put simply, human beings matter because it is they who fashion and have capacity to change social reality” (Houghton 2007, 28). So the society and structures we live in comes from a social reality that is constructed by its elements. However, human beings do not live isolated to this sphere of constructed reality. Both the human beings and the realities effect each other and construct a different reality than before. The tools for shaping the reality of the society is the sum of shared ideas, beliefs, identities and actions and these are also the part of the society that is constructed (Wendt 1999, 1). It is sure that the material relations in international politics are very much focused on but the important thing is how we identify the materials related to practical actions with norms, values, beliefs and ideas.

Compared to rationalist ideas, which generally frames the role of institutions at how they help agents or organizations to pursue their interests, constructivist approach underline that the institutions that are created by human beings are some sort of sources that shape the preferences and identities of the members. (Pollack 2000, 15). At that point, constructivists argue that rationalists such as neo-realists and liberal intergovernmentalists are not capable of observing institutions in the meaning of its effects on identities and behaviors. Though, as Pollack mentions about Moravcsik’s observations, constructivists, despite their emphasis on the facts of social science, are not very encouraged to empirically test their studies which is a fundamental weakness (Pollack 2000, 16).

From a constructivist approach, the European Union project seems like very well constructed one with the help of institutions such as European Court of Justice, European Parliament or European Council alongside. Furthermore, the shared values, norms and beliefs from a democratically nurtured history and philosophy establish an environment for the EU members to be able to stay together. However, the question of the continuing national governments as parts of the Union is an important one considering their ability to create diversity inside the unity. According to Delanty, national identities and European identity are not elements that confront but elements that complement each other (Delanty and Rumford 2005, 30). He underlines that a post-national self-understanding in European identity is what matters beyond the national identities that has ability to tackle the unity. Shared values in the concepts like religion, history and democracy are some of the examples that create a unification of European identities. Though, Delanty also points out that there are mentally and physically several Europes in the geopolitical space of Europe which can be considered in civilizational, political and continental factors (Delanty and Rumford 2005, 37).

The formation of the European identity and the integration of the multiple identities in geographical and geopolitical spheres is quite understandable in the above mentioned constructivist approach. The question is can we understand the rejection of Turkish membership in that framework? When we look at the history of Turkey and European countries, there can be seen a geographical distinction between them until the Ottomans’ reach to the Vienna in 1600s and it can be shown as an evidence to the reality of the history that is not common. However, according to Delanty, there are three major geopolitical components that create the Europeanization: Judeo-Christian, Russian-Slavic and Islamic-Turkish (Delanty and Rumford 2005, 37). It is for sure that contributing to the history of Europe in some degree is not a valid card that guarantee the membership of Turkey to EU. Nevertheless, the reality that Turkey’s geographical distance to the core of the continent is not the only reality. On the other hand, it is popularly argued that the low level of performances of Turkey in norms like human rights, minority rights and rule of law prevent a more optimistic approach on Turkish membership (ESI 2006). To conclude, we can say that a constructivist approach can both defend and criticize the acceptance of Turkey at the same time. It can be criticized as Turkey do not have the exact shared values in aspects like religion or democratic values and it can be defended that Europeanization is a continuing process of integrating multiple identities which can also be seen at the acceptance of former Soviet countries as members.

IV. Justifications of Turkish Membership in Rationalist and Constructivist Approaches

Throughout the paper, I analyzed the historical process of European enlargement and Turkey – EU relations and after that I framed three theoretical approaches, which are neo-realist, liberal intergovernmentalist and constructivist approaches, to better understand the underlying factors on the European foundations and related experience of Turkey’s non-acceptance to the Union. In this part, I will argue about the facts that justify Turkey’s EU membership in rationalist (neo-realist and liberal intergovernmentalist) and constructivist approaches. I firmly believe that the addition of Turkey into the European Union would be a great asset for the continent in a rationalist view. In addition I will discuss that how Turkey can be embedded in the European society in a constructivist view.

In a rationalist approach, we should write down the cons and pros of the possible membership of Turkey. But before that, we should analyze the structure of the state relations to properly put the Turkish membership in that framework. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union the unipolar structure of the world stage is changed. At first it seemed like an emerging bipolar world which the US would lead but the process showed that it became a multipolar world where regional powers gained importance both politically and economically. Today there are several powers which are trying to be regionally, and globally as well, influent such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Turkey in the last couple of years. But European Union, due to its long history of alliances and experiences of integration and enlargement, seems to be in a different position. Although EU experienced issues of deepening problems and economical obstacles in the last couple of years, it is still the most reputable organization concerning Europe.

Turkey, on the other hand, is a country that is trying to be more influent in her region of Middle East. Since Turkish Foreign Policy officials adopted a “zero problem with neighbors” policy, they started to have increasing relationships with her neighbors in economical and diplomatic channels. This time of period is parallel to the time of events when Turkey seemed to slow down the EU membership process and public opinion started to discuss about Turkey’s Eastern inclination which is surprising compared to her Western-oriented approach in the past (Friedman 2010). Nonetheless, this new approach of Turkey may be a chance to prove her resources’ worth to the West which are basically her economical and diplomatic relations with the Middle East and Caucasus also.

This is obviously a rationalist view to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the Turkish membership for the possibilities of strengthening EU’s regional power status. The most prominent advantages of Turkey is her large army which is a definite contribution the EU’s defense. Also the policy that is pursued to enhance the security of the East while accepting memberships of Eastern countries can be repeated in a different way if Turkey can be seen as an important factor to secure the South Eastern part of the continent with its geographical position. In a rationalist approach again, from a liberal perspective this time, inclusion of Turkey means a new market of approximately 75 million new customers also with the emerging areas, that are not developed very well such as industry of several materials, to be invested. In addition, Turkey’s recent good economic relations with the Middle Eastern countries increases her importance for EU as a channel to reach the further new markets.

Again from a rationalist perspective, there are also disadvantages and possible anxieties of Europeans for Turkish membership. What seems like a threat to the European Union is Turkey’s high rates of unemployment (ESI 2006). Although the young population of Turkey may sound like a possible force to increase the productiveness of European industry (Timmerman and Mels 2008, 19) many Europeans fear of the inevitable immigration of Turkish people who are to take their place in lower wages and poorer conditions (ESI 2006). This fear of the public opinion, which is in mostly practical and contemporary understanding, cannot be ignored by the national and institutional organs of the Union. Furthermore, the low rates of literacy and GDP and other similar economical factors can be an economical burden for the EU budget which has a mission to compensate each member’s status in order to decrease large level of differences among the member countries (ESI 2006).

As Helena Sjursen underlines that European expanding consists of two basic assumptions that are pragmatic thinking which we can relate to the rationalist understanding and ethical/political thinking which we can relate to the constructivist understanding (Sjursen 2002, 508). Conception of collective understanding of Europeans and the EU as a reflection of it seems to be the source of obstacle that slows down the Turkish membership. Turkey is counted as not sharing the democratic values of European countries such as human rights, rule of law or respect to minorities. Although Turkey and her Ottoman past is very much related to the European history, Turkey is seen as an Asian due to her identity related to geographical and societal factors. This approach can be proven from another perspective of constructivist thinking as Delanty underlines that Europe is not essentially a geographical border that is being changed over time constantly (Delanty and Rumford 2005, 68). As an evidence, recent members from Eastern Europe have a Soviet past of an authoritative regime but they were accepted as members. Turkey, both from a rationalist and constructivist perspective, should be accepted by European Union as a member to contribute to the practical purposes and evolving identity of the European region.


Throughout the paper, I argued about the justifications of Turkey’s membership in rationalist and constructivist approaches. Before thinking about Turkey’s membership, I thought that the enlargement rounds, and acceptance of 21 new members as a result, had to be analyzed to understand the enlargement processes happened in the past. What is significant is that the membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU does not seem like any negotiation happened before concerning its time and content. What I argued is that Turkey deserves to be a European Union member due to its possible contributions in economical and political areas which fits in the rationalist approach of study. Furthermore, from a constructivist approach I tried to prove the fallacy in the belief that Turkey would not be able to share the values and history of European culture. On the contrary, I underlined that Turkey has a part in the history of Europe and also the constantly evolving culture of Europeanization has the power to absorb Turkey and her different but connected history and values.


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Delanty, G. and C. Rumford. 2005. “Rethinking Europe. Social Theory and the Implications of Europeanization”. Routledge.

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EUSG (Turkey Secreteriat General for EU Affairs). 2007. “History of Turkey-EU Relations”. Accessed January 13.

Friedman, Thomas. 2010. “Letter from Istanbul”. The New York Times. Accessed January 13, 2011.

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Wendt, Alexander. 1999. “Social Theory of International Politics”. Cambridge University Press, Chapter 1.




Turkey and the United States (US) have been a long time ally and they had been in cooperation since 1940s. Although it does not seem like a long time relationship, both countries went through a lot of events and it seems like they will probably have to continue their relationship in the future. Since the end of the Cold War and its bipolar structure that was led by the US and the Soviet Union (USSR), the world structure is being changed by the reshaping of the structures that seems more like a multipolar one in which regional alliances and regional powers would not leave the US alone. Turkey is one of the units in this system that is emerging as a power that influences her neighborhood in diplomatic and economical channels.

In this paper, I will argue the reasons for why the US needs to stay in cooperation with Turkey and how important Turkey is for the US from a neo-realist perspective. To better explain my argument, I will first mention the historical relations between Turkey and the US from 1940s to 2000s which is to form a base for further explanations. Then you will find a part that undergoes the structural and state-level analysis that is related to the relations between Turkey and the US, again from a neo-realist approach. In this last part, I briefly explain why the US significantly needs Turkey to stay as an ally and bring two practical cases to prove the importance of this relationship.

I. Relations Between Turkey and the United States From 1940s to 2000s

Relations between Turkey and the United States seem to get actually started in 1940s after the end of the World War II. To start with, Turkey had adopted a neutral position during the war which was resulted in a smooth process on behalf of Turkey during the conflicts but in an abyss afterwards. As Turkey did not select a side and join the battle, his hand was not very strong in the negotiations of polarization between the East and the West. After the end of the war, Soviet Union showed an aggressive attitude towards Turkey on the territorial concessions regarding the 1925 Treaty of Friendship which made Turkey lean towards the United States to be protected (Turkey MFA 2011). Actually, the US and the USSR was having a micro level Cold War in the Turkey case which was resulted as a Turkey-US alliance with the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan in the first step. The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were to help Turkey and Greece in economical and military aspects against the possible Soviet aggressiveness.

Another important step was Turkey’s NATO membership in 1952 which happened in exchange for Turkey’s military contribution to the war in Korea. This was requested by the West as an opportunity for Turkey to show which side they were on. A similar incident, as an evidence of polarization and the tense relations of the US and the USSR, occurred in the Cuban Missile Crises when the Soviets placed nuclear missiles in Cuba and the Americans placed some in the Turkish land. It was a thrilling peak of the tense relations of Cold War when two world powers were threatening each other with their nuclear war heads (Global Security 2011). During the Cold War, Turkey adopted a mission as being a safety zone in the south eastern flank of NATO and as a neighbor against the East, the Warsaw Pact countries.

Until 1974, the two sides increased their relationship rapidly in economical, diplomatic and military aspects. However, Turkey’s Cyprus intervention in 1974 became a turning point in the alliance as the United States never wanted a Turkish intervention in the island and had warned them accordingly. Thus, the intervention resulted as an arms embargo by the United States starting from 1975 and ending in 1978. Although this incident caused considerably damage in the relations, as a reflection that their alliance focused on defense and security throughout the years, they signed a Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement in 1980 which still forms the contractual basis between the two countries (Turkey MFA 2011). During the 1990s, the economical assistance given by the US to Turkey was decreased and turned into loans. In 1997, the mutual cooperation between the two sides was formulated in five topics: energy, economy and trade, regional cooperation, Cyprus and the defense and security cooperation (Turkey MFA 2011). In 1999, they officially called each other as “strategic partners”, which meant a multi-dimensional cooperation in a wide range of topics and regions.

The relations between the two countries went tense again in 2003 when the Turkish Grand National Assembly voted against the Americans’ desire to use the Turkish lands in their military operations during the Iraq war. However they were allowed to use the İncirlik Base during their operations along with the airspace of Turkey. To improve the relations, in 2006, both sides signed an agreement called “Shared Vision and Structured Dialogue to Advance the Strategic Partnership” which was the first time the two sides attempted to build their relations in a guided way that will define and direct the scope of the cooperation (Turkey MFA 2011). The agreement and the arrangements between Turkey and the United States show that the relationship between the two sides would be multi-level and multi-faceted in several topics and regions.

II. A Structural and State Level Analysis in a Neo-Realist Perspective

To better understand the relations between the two sides and the reasons that I will present for how significantly US needs Turkey as an ally, we should first have a look at the structural and state level of analysis of today’s world. It is obvious that the world is very different compared to the 20th century’s Cold War period of bipolar structure. The change of structures also reflected in the formation and relations of states with each other. In my opinion a neo-realist approach would be proper to explain the ongoing process in a rationalist perspective. Although some other approaches, like neo-liberal or constructivist, can also be adopted to explain the contemporary integration of foreign policies of two countries, a neo-realist approach seems enough to take a picture of the stances.

One of the prominent neo-realist thinkers, Kenneth Waltz, defines the international system as a composition of structures and interacting units (states) where every unit looks to take care of his own (Waltz 1979, 79). Waltz underlines that international politics is the realm of power and struggle and continues that the relations of units and the changes in the structure are two factors that are affected by each other to finally form a new system (Waltz 1979, 79). There are two significant examples that can be shown as evidences to that explanation. First one is the end of the World War II which is resulted as the emerging new world powers that are the US and the USSR and decreasing influences of once an imperial power the United Kingdom and the European countries such as France and Germany. Another example as an evidence of changed structures and its effect on the units is the end of the Cold War when the bipolar structure of the world that is influenced by the US and the USSR ended and led to a US-led unipolarity perception at first and a multipolar reality afterwards. In today’s world, regional powers and regional alliances and their influences in the world stage creates a multipolar environment. However, not only the structures, also the actions of the units that are taking care of their own benefits are also should be analyzed.

Waltz emphasizes that “the structure of a system changes with changes in the distribution of capabilities across the system’s units” (Waltz 1979, 97) which brings us to the movements of states that are trying to maximize their benefits in a rational understanding. To better comprehend the US’ noteworthy need for Turkey’s companionship in the reshaped world structure, the new foreign policy direction of Turkey should be carefully examined. After Ahmet Davutoglu came into power as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of the state in 2009, Turkey adopted a “zero problem with neighborhood” policy which aims for a more stabile and peaceful environment in the complex settings of her region, especially the Middle East (Uslu 2009). Thus, Turkey is aiming to build a new position for herself by acting in a proactive approach which is different than the reactive policy in the bipolar structure of the Cold War.

What Turkey accomplished can be summarized in two dimensions. First is to increase the diplomatic relations with her neighbors and even attempt to be a mediator between the countries that are in tense relations. Being a mediator between Iraq and Syria, between Israel and Syria and finally between Iran and the Western hemisphere in the nuclear proliferation issue show the intentions of Turkey’s emerging desire to be proactive in diplomatic/political sphere. This attempt, a multi-level and proactive approach, is a restructuring of Turkish Foreign Policy, which is result of the end of the Cold War and its bipolar structure of nature, and very different from the policies of the past which was generally one dimensional that was very much influenced by the Western approaches.

Another dimension is the increasing economical relations with the Middle Eastern countries and its effects. The increasing economical trade numbers with the Middle Eastern countries, emerged with her diplomatic relations, created a public opinion that Turkey is abandoning her Western-oriented stance and turning back to the East. Thomas Friedman, in his article called “Letter From Istanbul” in June 2010, questions Turkey’s new stance as she is trying to join the Arab League instead of the European Union (Friedman 2010). The reason Friedman and similar thinkers ask such a question is the increasing relations with the East that is very active compared to the past. The search for stability and peace is not only rhetoric in Turkish Foreign Policy, but it is for to create an environment in the region where the economical relations could increase due to the increased stability and prosperity. It is important to remember that increasing trade numbers with the East does not necessarily mean a decrease with Western relationship. Also the energy related relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and especially Russia is an attempt to increase her alternatives in that topic. I firmly believe that what Turkey is trying to do is increasing her alternatives and maximizing her benefit which is quite understandable from the neo-realist perspective of Waltz. In addition, James Jeffrey, the former US ambassador in Turkey, shares this observation in his report to the government that is published by the Wikileaks: “Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely. Does it mean that it is "abandoning" or wants to abandon its traditional Western orientation and willingness to cooperate with us? Absolutely not” (Wikileaks 2010).

III. The Reasons for the Need of Turkey’s Alliance

In this part, I will try to analyze the reasons for why US needs Turkey to stay as an ally and how important Turkey’s alliance is for the US. As I have mentioned above, the world is different than the 20th century’s bipolar structure. Today’s world presents us the importance of emerging powers from different parts of the world that acts their foreign policies both alone and in regional alliances. Rise of the countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia alongside with Turkey and Iran and also the increasing enlargement and deepening of the European Union are reshaping the structures in a multipolar way instead of the unipolarity of US leadership. The rise of the alliances is a result of the power gap against the US due to the collapse of the USSR which urged several countries to establish multi-level cooperations with other countries.

The United States, who have long term plans for the Middle East region due to its energy resources, need Turkey as an ally in the region. I firmly believe that the reasons for the US to stick to her alliance with Turkey lie in Turkey’s Western and Eastern identities. Since her foundation, Turkey has a Western inclination with her institutions and shared values with the West. As a result, Turkey is the only country in the East that had adopted a Western approach other than Israel. On the other hand Turkey shares a common historical and religious background with the Eastern countries which makes her closer to the East at the same time. Thus, this double identity, which Turkish Foreign Policy officials seems to had realized and had been acting accordingly in their increasing proactivity, makes Turkey an invaluable asset for the US. First, the US can sit on the table with Turkey due to their shared values of West and second, Turkey can be a very good ally in relations with the Middle East due to her shared history and religion with the East. Actually, James Jeffrey summarizes Turkey’s situation very well: “Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world class "Western" institutions, competencies, and orientation, and Middle Eastern culture and religion” (Wikileaks 2010).

To draw the importance of Turkey on behalf of the US, apart from underlining the shared values of Western tradition and closeness to the East, I believe that an addition of practical incidents also should be observed. For this purpose, I selected two cases that US need the alliance and assistance from Turkey which are a) the implementation of NATO’s nuclear missile shield and radar system in Europe and Turkey and b) filling the power gap in the Iraq for the good of the US after they accomplish their withdrawal from the area. In both cases, due to the emerging multi-level structure of the world, the US does not have the power to accomplish alone.

It is not like the one in the Cold War but nuclear proliferation of Iran is still counted as a threat by the Western world and especially by the US. Nobody officially declare the possible threat from Russia but she also possesses the nuclear power that can be a threat in the future. In 2010, NATO, which seems to regenerate its influence by aiming international terror instead of the Soviet threat in the Cold War, agreed on a nuclear missile shield in Europe and a radar system in Turkey. The final details are not accomplished but the summary of the meeting was that a Western desire to unite against any serious nuclear threat from the East was occurred. Turkey accepted his part for the defense and underlined her possible importance for the Western world and the US against any threat from the East. The significance Turkey pointed out that she has the geographical importance which is being the link between the West and the East. As a result, Turkey’s geopolitical importance makes her such an ally that cannot be abandoned.

Second case is about the withdrawal of US troops and political influence from Northern Iraq and the probable power gap that can occur as a result. There are three prominent groups in Iraq which are Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. All these three groups need to compromise among themselves in order achieve in important issues like reconstruction of the country, sharing the resources, forming the government and also reshaping and stabilizing the bureaucracy. The United States’ military withdrawal does not mean they will be abandoning their purposes in the region and they will be in need of an influent ally which, the most probable, is Turkey. Many reports claim that Shias can be close with Iran and Sunnis can be close with the Arab world, whereas Kurds might be willing to cooperate with Turkey to further their stability and interconnection with the West (Rudaw 2010). David L. Phillips, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, supports the relations between Turkey-Kurdish Regional Government (KRG): "The KRG has been prudent by developing close diplomatic and commercial ties with Turkey. Ankara is an important strategic partner and acts as a counter-weight to Baghdad. The KRG should continue to strengthen those ties while maintaining constructive relations with others" (Rudaw 2010).

As it can be seen from these two cases, from a rationalist/neo-realist perspective Turkey can play a significant role to help the US achieve her goals which are to continue her influence in the complexity of the Middle East region and to have a defense mechanism that is like an alliance against any possible threats of violence. Furthermore, Turkey’ increasing activism in the Middle East region with the combination of Western linkages make her an invaluable ally for not only above mentioned two cases, but also for the future incidents. It was not the purpose of this paper to draw a frame for possible advantages of the US’ alliance for Turkey but needless to say that US support means a lot for Turkey in relations with Cyprus, Caucasus, Russia, European Union and Israel. Again, from the neo-realist perspective, there are many things that US can offer to Turkey in exchange for her benefits.


Throughout the paper, I argued about the importance of Turkey as an ally for the US and the reasons for the US to stick to his alliance with Turkey. From a neo-realist perspective, the change in the structures after the end of the Cold War resulted in multipolarity in the world where several soft/middle powers and regional alliances emerged. Turkey, as a country that share the Western traditions and institutions alongside the common history and religious background with the Middle Eastern countries, is a very important ally for the US as she is increasing her alternatives and maximizing her benefit through her “zero problem” policy. Turkey’s increasing diplomatic and economical relations with her neighbors make her a prominent actor in the region where the US needs a powerful ally in several issues.


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Global Security. 2011. Cuban Missile Crisis. Accessed January 16.

Turkey MFA (Ministry of Affairs). 2011. Turkish-US Political Relations. Accessed January 16.

Rudaw. 2010. US Withdrawal Will Leave Iraqi Kurds More Dependent on Neighbors. Accessed January 16.

Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Wikileaks. 2010. What Lies Beneath Ankara’s New Foreign Policy. 10ANKARA87. Accessed January 16.

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