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On the Newly Revised and Expanded book,

kinzer_crescent_star kinzer_aynali_pasaji_portrait
An exclusive interview with: STEPHEN KINZER

On-Line Interview & Photos by

"Ataturk wanted Turkey to practice 'peace at home, peace in the world.' It has failed to achieve peace at home, but is succeeding in helping to bring peace to other countries. In this sense, Turkey is the opposite of the US, which has achieved peace at home but is constantly involved in wars abroad."

We are proud to present an exclusive On-Line interview with Stephen Kinzer on the 2008 edition of the Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.
Stephen Kinzer was the Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times from 1996 to 2000. He is the author of many books, including All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror and Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. He lives in Chicago.

- This interview originally e-published on IşıkBinyılı on September 5, 2009. 

This newly revised and expanded edition of Crescent and Star, by Stephen Kinzer, published in paperback by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on September 23 2008.

Light Millennium (LM): How was the first edition of "Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds? received in the U.S. in 2001"

Stephen Kinzer (SK):
The book had a very positive reception and was favorably reviewed. Many readers especially enjoyed the "meze" sections, in which I talk about offbeat aspects of what makes Turkey so interesting. Turkish-American were also pleased, since the book helped introduce their homeland to Americans. This had the advantage of attracting dinner invitations for me from many of these Turks in the US, and dinner in a Turkish household is always wonderful.

LM: Since then, beside English, in which other languages/countries published?

The book has appeared in French, Greek, Hebrew and several other languages. 

Unfortunately German is not one of them, which I find a shame because Germans, who live with so many Turks, should be interested in learning more about Turkey.

LM: Will the new edition of the "Crescent & Star" also publish in other countries and languages?

I'd like to see new translations, especially in Turkish!

LM: Based on my own personal experience and observation, your first edition has greatly contributed to public interest in Turkey's potential and importance. What will your new edition of "Crescent & Star" contribute to understanding of how Turkey has developed since 2001?

Turkey is a very different country from the way it was in 2001. The AKP movement and the rise of Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul came after my book was published. So did Turkey's drift away from embracing the Western security agenda, toward forging its own agenda. My new edition concentrates on these and other major changes in Turkey.

LM: You are a professor at Northwestern University and have been using another one of your books, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq," as been part of your courses there. Could "Crescent & Star" become part of Middle Eastern Studies program in colleges and universities?

It has already been used in some universities, and I hope the new edition will also be useful. But it is not an academic book and is aimed mainly at general readers. It only fits in courses in which the professor wants to give students some enjoyment as they learn.

LM: "Crescent & Star"s first edition was published right after you had returned to the U.S. after living in Turkey for four years. You still visit to Turkey from time to time. Based on this, what are the main changes in your perceptions on Turkey?

Turkey is today more democratic than it has ever been, and that is hugely positive. The government's understanding of democracy, however, seems to me incomplete. This government has given the majority of Turks a voice and a measure of power that is unprecedented. 

But democracy is about rights for minorities as well as the majority. So Turkey has made great leaps toward democracy, but still has challenges ahead.

"The Turkish state must find a way to resolve its conflict with Kurdish nationalism."

Is there any change in your view that "Turkey could be a shining star of the Middle East?" Or has Turkey has missed that opportunity?

Absolutely not. Turkey has the potential to become the pearl of the region, and to contribute decisively to peace in the Caucasus, the Middle East and elsewhere. In order to do so, though, the Turkish state must find a way to resolve its conflict with Kurdish nationalism. That can only happen in the context of a more generalized democratization. So democratization is Turkey's biggest challenge.

LM: What are the main changes in your opinions on Turkey in terms of its potential, capacity, and role in the Middle East?

kinzer_cicek_pasaji kinzer_kaktus_istanbul

SK: When it was revealed that Israel and Syria are conducting secret peace talks, I was not at all surprised to learn that these talks had been brokered by Turkey. As part of its policy of "zero problems with neighbors," Turkey has also improved its relations with Iran, which could make it a valuable intermediary. Ataturk wanted Turkey to practice "peace at home, peace in the world." It has failed to achieve peace at home, but is succeeding in helping to bring peace to other countries. In this sense, Turkey is the opposite of the US, which has achieved peace at home but is constantly involved in wars abroad.

LM: Have your ideas regarding a solution to the Kurdish problem changed?

: What makes this problem so frustrating to me is that everyone who studies it agrees what the final solution must be. PKK militants must abandon their weapons and agree to pursue their goals peacefully; the government must allow them to do so, and to live with their Kurdish identity; and an amnesty must be proclaimed covering all crimes committed by both sides during the war. Today, the political climate in Turkey makes such a solution all but impossible. But I think powerful people in Turkey, including in the military, understand that the policy the state has followed for the last 20 years has not worked. They also understand how vital it is to resolve this conflict. So I hope we will see some major changes within the next few years. 

LM: The MEZE sections of the book make it unique among books that have been written about Turkey. Are there any changes or addition on the MEZE sections in the new edition of the book?

: No. This was one part of the book that doesn't need to be updated. Why the Bosphorus is so magnetic and romantic, why Turks drink raki, why some still like to watch oil wrestling or camel fighting, why they love Nazim Hikmet's poetry--none of this changes.

LM: Will Turkey dissolve into combat between "secular" and "islamic" factions, or will it be able to create a bridge between these two cultural and social groups?

: This is a serious question that preoccupies many Turks. The answer, like the answer to Turkey's other major problems, is more democracy. People's habits should always be tolerable as long as they don't upset others. How to strike this balance is one of Turkey's challenges. But Turks realize how successful their country has been as a secular republic, and don't want to make changes that entail great risks.

LM: In the general context of humanitarian issues, do you think Turkey has taken major steps towards to democracy in areas like freedom of expression, rights for women and children, education and health care?

: There has been progress in all these areas, but most Turks want more. I would like to see all restrictions on freedom of speech lifted; Turkey is mature enough to survive intense public debates as long as they are conducted peacefully. The education system is one of Turkey's greatest problems. Today it is not producing the kind of citizens Turkey will need in the new century. It needs sweeping reform.

LM: What are the main changes since 2001 regarding Turkey's application to join the EU?

This has been a roller-coaster ride for Turkey. The EU finally named Turkey as a candidate for membership, but then the process stalled. Turkey became preoccupied with domestic issues and lost focus on the EU accession process. That led Europeans to conclude that Turkey was an unenthusiastic candidate. Europeans have become more resistant to the idea of accepting Turkey. Perhaps a realistic goal for Turkey would be to join the EU in 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic.

LM: Is there anything that you would like to add and share with your readers prior your upcoming book is available in the U.S. market (as of September 23, 2008)?

SK: Turkey may be the world's most interesting country. It has huge potential. Watching to see whether it can reach that potential is fascinating.

* * * * *

Praise for the 2001 edition of the Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds: 

" [A] lively account of Turkey in the late 1990's . . . If Turkey is its own worst enemy, luckily it has friends like Kinzer . . . For painstakingly honest advice as to what needs fixing in order for Turkey yet to become "a light unto the nations," Crescent and Star cannot be beat." 
-Fernanda Eberstadt, The New York Times Book Review

" [Kinzer's] adventures gave him in-depth knowledge and real appreciation for [Turkey] and its potential . . . He makes a powerful case that it is a country that we must watch." 
-John Maxwell Hamilton, Chicago Tribune

"This critical but affectionate portrait of Turkey's recent history throws considerable light on the complex ways of this strategically important ally of the West."

-The Economist

"A powerful, directed, and important book . . . Crescent and Star amounts to an impressive achievement with a high potential to make a difference." 
-Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly

For additional information regarding this book, please contact with Stephen Weil via e-mail:

Other related links: 

- Profile of STEPHEN KINZER on the Lightmillennium:

- Bin Tepe: Ruanda'nın Yeniden Doğusu ve Bunu Düşleyen Adamı (in Turkish)

Stephen Kinzer

- Just Foreign Policy:

(c)B.Ü., LIGHTMILLENNIUM.ORG, September 5, 2008, Istanbul, Turkey

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