Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of July 5, 2010

Readers write in about Turkey and plastic pollution.

Turkey's complex policy

Robert Marquand's balanced piece captures the subtlety of Turkey's current policy toward its neighbors, "Europe wary of a new Ottoman Empire" (June 21).

Indeed, Turkey is one of the world's major enigmas: a Muslim (and secular) country located culturally and geographically in and between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, with longstanding membership in NATO, a well-established Jewish community, and a strong positive relationship with Israel (albeit damaged by the Gaza war and blockade and recent flotilla incident).

Turkey is also negotiating entry into the European Union, for which it has implemented significant democratic and human rights reforms.

It is ironic, therefore, that many observers in the West are characterizing Turkey's current foreign-policy behavior, which is designed to fulfill more of the promise inherent in its complex identity, as evidence that Turkey is abandoning "us" for "them" in a bid to return to a less hegemonic version of its Ottoman-era presence in the region.

As former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine (cited in Mr. Marquand's article) argues, however, nothing could be further from the truth: "Turkey has no interest in turning its back to Europe.... Turkey's strategic interest is to maintain relations with everyone: the US, Europe,... Central Asia, the Arab world."

By implication, and despite its bellicose rhetoric toward Israel, Turkey also has no interest in turning its back on the Jewish state. Hence, in contrast to the simplistic argument that Turkey is abandoning the West, including Israel, for its Muslim neighbors, the actual situation seems to be more subtle as Turkey capitalizes on its unique cultural and geopolitical position to contribute regionally to transforming the otherwise self-fulfilling "clash" into a "dialogue of civilizations."

Dennis J.D. Sandole

Professor of conflict resolution and international relations, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University

Fairfax, Va.

Burn, don't reduce, plastic

Regarding the opinion essay: "The other, bigger 'oil spill': Your use of disposable plastic" (June 21), there was no mention of incineration or the route the plastic takes to pollute the ocean.

There is considerable objection to large industrial incinerators for disposing of waste compared with landfills. However, incinerators completely break down plastics.

Reducing the use of disposable plastic will produce minimal results. Plastics have become such an integral part of our lives, that significantly reducing their use would be like "putting the genie back in the bottle." Better to encourage more incineration or restrict the paths used by plastic to get to the ocean.

Robert A. Brown

Reading, Mass.

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