On a recent Thursday afternoon, the Distinguished Lecture Series in Middle Eastern Studies at Boston College, sponsored by the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program, presented Dr. Joshua Walker to speak on Turkey's rise to power and influence as a world model and leader.
Dr. Walker is an assistant professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Crown Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. He is a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a non-resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund based in Washington, D.C. He completed his PhD in politics and public policy from Princeton University with a focus on international relations and security studies.
He holds a master's degree in international relations from Yale University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Richmond. He was a Fulbright Fellow in Ankara, and worked for the US Embassy and State Department in Turkey in 2004. Dr. Walker grew up in Japan is if fluent in both Japanese and Turkish. His numerous qualifications and experiences made him the perfect speaker for this lecture on Turkey.
After being introduced by the Political Science Department, Dr. Walker engaged the audience by first exploring the history of Turkey. The borders of this strong state have been the same since 1923. Turkey was a part of the Ottoman Empire before WWI and was considered belligerently neutral during WWII. Turkey's identity issues were finally resolved in 1947 with the Truman Doctrine, and also in 1952 with their entrance in to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Despite being the only Muslim-majority country in NATO, Turkey could officially consider itself a part of Europe and the West against the Soviets during this time period. Turkey has held democratic elections from the beginning, but the power of the elected and non-elected leaders has changed over the years. For a while, Turkey only associated with the West, but since it is situated right in the middle of the world, it was finally able to look also to its Middle Eastern and Asian roots.
Next, the lecture shifted to focus more on the change in Turkish power and influence in recent years. Dr. Walker explained that from 2002 to present, there have been more changes in Turkey than in their entire history. Turkey has experienced a large rise in soft power. This type of power does not stem from political or military power, but from economics, entertainment, services, etc. Turkey's economy is now the sixth largest in Europe and the first largest in the Middle East.
Dr. Walker expressed his concern that Turkey has been growing for the past ten years and is still on the rise, and that we have not even noticed. Despite Turkey's numerous internal and external problems, it continues to strengthen as a Middle Eastern and a world power. The United States currently has a good relationship with Turkey, and that it only because of economic factors. As long as Turkey maintains its world relationships, it will soon be a very influential world power and maybe even one of the world's leading powers.
Dr. Walker ended the lecture by fielding and answering questions thoroughly before thanking the audience of students and professors for hosting him at Boston College.