In a fast-paced, knowledgeable, and readable account, Henze, one of America's best Turkey-hands, reviews the Turkish republic's 75-year history with a special emphasis on the U.S. connection. If his book has a theme, it is that "leaders determine history." He's especially correct about the Turks, a people who seem uniquely malleable at the hands of strong leaders. To begin with, Atatürk (the founder of the republic) virtually single-handedly turned a very insular Muslim population toward the West; Henze also rightly devotes considerable space to Turgut Özal, the country's leader for most of the period 1981-93, who somehow turned the same population into entrepreneurs. Or, as another Turkish leader, former prime minister Tansu Çiller, put it, "There is no nation as open to change as we."1 Henze finds a number of similarities between Atatürk and Özal (they both "had the drive and the will to take advantage of what to lesser men would have been calamitous circumstances") and rightly deems Özal the post-Atatürk leader who left the most indelible mark on Turkey.
Looking at the record of republican Turkey as a whole, Henze finds it to be "in most respects a unique modern state." This is because its "constructive political evolution combined with its success in reforming and modernizing society and its economy have no parallel in the twentieth century." He argues that the dictatorship Atatürk imposed was a necessary evil and that it contained within itself the germ of the freer society that Turkey has become.
His review of early U.S. relations with Turkey has great interest, and not just because, as Henze shows, "almost every major theme in Turkish-American relations in the twentieth century has a precedent in a minor key, in the nineteenth century." Besides this, the history contains much that is colorful, including the American missionaries who helped train Ottoman military officers, the export of Pennsylvania oil to what is now Turkey, and the amity that prevailed among Greek and Turkish leaders as late as the 1950s.
3 TRT Television (Ankara), Mar. 6, 1995.