We quickly gave up an online search yesterday to track down just who was the first to put the geo-strategic ball known as the “Turkish model” into play. What else could we do in the face of a Google query that returned more than 77 million results? Even filtering out the Turkish modeling agencies and a few pitches for model boats, the cyber-world still teems with the term. So we offer a relieved “thanks” to the leader of Tunisia’s opposition, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi. As his country is beginning to flex its democratic muscles, and as we reported yesterday, he has politely declined the many offers for his country to follow the “Turkish model.”
Which is not to say that the many arguments and commentaries that have been constructed atop this thin wafer of a concept lack entertainment value.
A headline from the Jerusalem Post: “A Turkish model for Egypt?” Or the essay in America’s National Journal: “What is the Turkish model?” The Daily Star in Cairo phrased the question differently in its headline: “Is there a Turkish model?” The Wilson Center in Washington D.C. apparently thinks there is. On that think tank’s website you can find the tome: “Egypt and the Middle East: The Turkish Model.” At the Brookings Institution, a think tank a few blocks away, there appeared less certainty: “An Uneven Fit? The Turkish Model and the Arab World” is that outfit’s contribution. With typical German conciseness, a think tank there offered us simply, “The Turkish Model.”
And then there is the essay by a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey on Politico.com: “Turkey: Democracy yes, but no model.” It’s not just in relation to the Arab world of course. The online journal Slate asked in its entry for this sweepstakes, “Can Turkey be a role model for Afghanistan?”
We could go on and on. We won’t. From the outset, we’ve been more than uncomfortable with the world’s sudden embrace of our referential value. So our hat is off to Chebbi.
“Tunisia doesn’t want to follow a model,” he told our reporter. “We want to construct our own democracy.”
Absolutely right. Every society, every nation, every political culture is unique. The hunt for “models” is an exercise in futility. Sure, there are sources of inspiration. There are ideas that can be borrowed. There are experiences to emulate and those to avoid by democrats seeking to shape and better their countries. But a script to be followed? No, everyone has to compose and perform their own political music.
We doubt, of course, that Chebbi’s polite articulation of this reality will stop the world’s commentariat. It might slow them down, however. We’ll take whatever grace we can get. If a respite from the model mania leaves the planet with a bit more unused ink and brainpower, we’d welcome its focus on Turkey’s real democratic deficits, problems and challenges.
The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.
This article was originally published in Hürriyet Daily News. For more information, please visit:http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=from-the-bosphorus-straight---the-wisdom-of-tunisia8217s-chebbi-2011-03-15