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Will The West Avert Its Gaze From Turkey's Madness?

Turkey. Three days. Not time enough to write an article. But maybe long enough to do a book.

The last--and first--time I was here, last year, ended in a tragedy off a sailing boat in the sea. So I was somewhat spooked coming back.

This time, we were in Istanbul, a dense city of 15 million at the crossroads of history, geography and contemporary ideologies. This last is the confrontation between modernism and Islamicism, not an especially democratic modernism but the essence of liberalism when compared to the Muslim revival as it is revealed in demography (birth rates going up), in civil and public discourse (suppressed by fear if not by actual force), in ways of living (the covered heads of more and more women, elliptical speech, the economy in reverse).

A masseur in my hotel told me that the sudden sharp decline in business was due to the Jews. Well, not really. He looks furtively around my room which certainly doesn't have wiretaps, and says, "No, it's because of what Erdogan said about the Jews."

The Turks with whom I did speak are in the tourist business, rugs, restaurants, antiques. So they are accustomed to conversations with Americans. Maybe they were fitting their talk to me. But they seem to be genuinely concerned that the Turkish government is taking them down the wrong street of primitivism. Many Turks speak English quite well, a residue of the Cold War and Turkey's long presence in NATO.

The hopes to enter Europe formally are finished...for many decades at least. "Will the Congress criticize for the Armenian killings?" asks a waiter nervously of the genocide of almost a century ago. "Will the Jews decide against us?"