improvements. Increasing numbers of Turkish students have been studying in the U.S. over the past two decades - currently, an estimated 15,00022.
Many Turks know the U.S. through American pop culture, but few have even a rudimentary grasp of its complicated political machinery. For example, decisions taken by a sub- committee of one house of Congress are often misconstrued as decisions of the Congress itself. Not all policy makers in Turkey understand how Washington works. After so many years of close alliance and friendship, politicians in Ankara still have a hard time grasping that the executive and legislative branches in the U.S. is not a monolith. The Administration and the Congress may differ, and sometimes even the Pentagon and the State Department may differ in their approaches to Turkey. It takes a long process of discussion, lobbying, and more often than not tough negotiations to finalize policies in Washington. Clearly both sides need to improve mutual understanding and dialogue in order to better appreciate each other’s interests and sensitivities.
Looking to the Future True, there is a huge potential for co-operation between the two countries, but realism should prevail because high expectations breed deep frustration and might not be so healthy for a lasting relationship. The vision of a Turkish-U.S. strategic partnership is, in our opinion, a realistic one if crafted in a mutually serving fashion. While Washington has a clear vision of Turkey in its 21st century strategies as articulated by President Clinton in Ankara, it is difficult to say the same for Turkey. Ankara will do well if it redefines its long-term economic and geopolitical interests (of course, without putting all its eggs in the same basket). Also, Turkey should not let Washington perceive it as a country to be taken for granted or lightly when it comes to articulating and jealously defending well-defined national interests.
It is certainly not the U.S. think-tanks or government organisations, which should provide Turkey with a roadmap regarding its future strategic directions. The momentum must come from within - the Parliament, the relevant government departments, the private industry, the independent think-tanks, the media, and academics, which are all major stake-holders in the future of the Turkish-U.S. strategic partnership. What will the relationship look like in the first quarter of the new century? That will in large measure be determined by Turkey's own course in the years ahead. Turkey today faces a genuine window of opportunity. Its location, demographics, natural resources and national character have long given it strong advantages -
both in its region and globally. The new factors enhance and highlight the strong helping
hand Turkey has been given for the 21st century. If Turkey plays its cards right in the years ahead, there is every reason to believe it could take off. Clarity of purpose and decisiveness are necessary to play it to a successful conclusion.
What is Good for the U.S.: Stronger or Weaker Turkey? Perhaps the biggest issue in the relations for the years ahead is one to which American policy-makers have so far probably given little consideration: How will Washington view a Turkey that is stronger, more prosperous, more regionally assertive, and more foreign - policy
independent - in short, the Turkey that is already emerging?
22 In the end, they can prevail because, unlike the anti-Turkey circles, they do not have a negative agenda driven by destructive impulses like hatred and prejudice. They are pursuing positive objectives that are clearly in the interest of both countries, such as building new cultural bridges of friendship, enhancing mutually beneficial economic ties and protecting our defense and security cooperation. In short, they are trying to preserve and cherish what is good for both Turkey and the U.S.