In the heat of the United Nations debate in 1948 surrounding the decision to create a Jewish state, Warren Austin, the American ambassador, vented his frustration by calling on Arabs and Jews to "settle this problem in a true Christian spirit." Fifty years later, his appeal is still laughingly remembered. Barkey and Fuller, two specialists on Turkey, write nothing so silly in their attempt to find ways for Turks and Kurds to make peace, but their recommendations do have a comparably provincial quality: basically, they want those two peoples to solve their problem in what might be called "a true American spirit." That is, after a spirited survey of the Kurdish issue, they offer a host of recommendations, every one of which is reasonable, desirable, sensible—and ineffably American. Recognize the Kurdish language, they say, end government propagandizing, give up attempts to establish a unitary ethnic polity, redress economic ills, reduce the security presence, legalize the Kurdish political parties, withdraw the military from politics, permit greater freedom of expression, decentralize the government, and experiment with federalism.
Even so, the authors do not guarantee these demanding steps will do the trick, conceding only that they offer a possibility for the present Turkish state to remain intact. But Barkey and Fuller probably overestimate the chances of Americanizing Turkish politics, just as they underestimate the staying power of the Turkish Republic. The region's states (like Lebanon and Iraq) may be held together with string and sealing wax, but they do seem to survive, at no matter what the cost. Even without fulfilling our authors' recommendations, today's Turkey seems likely to remain whole.