Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado


During the Cold War, the strategic significance of Turkey to the United States was clear: limit the expansion of the Soviet Union and maintain control of the Dardanelles. For the past decade and a half Western policymakers (US and European) have sent mixed signals to the Turks as to the importance of Turkey in the region, as a bridge between East and West, and in the World. Through eight decades of secular rule Turkey has shown that a democratic and secular state can exist within an almost entirely Muslim population. This thesis is made up of five main parts that answer the question — does Turkey still matter? The first two parts establish a foundation for the discussion and consist of a theoretical overview of secularism and a history of the Turkish state. The remaining three parts constitute an applied research section consisting of indirect quantitative analysis, polling data analysis, and direct and indirect interviews. Through this thorough research of the modern day issues the thesis question will be answered with a resounding affirmative. The evidence shows that Turks, while firmly grounded in Islam, place great emphasis on other issues: personal freedom, economic opportunity, a moderate and accepting form of Islam (18-24 yr grp), and their own family unit (Mutlu 1996). Although Turkey has issues that must be resolved— the Kurds and Cyprus to name the two primary ones— the West (primarily the US and Europe) must realize that the contributions Turkey can make on the world political stage are enormous. As Turkey continues to modernize and westernize the US and Europe should focus less on what changes they want Turkey to make and more on the efforts and changes Turkey has already made. If there is to be peaceful coexistence between Islam and the West, in any form or to any degree, the secular but unapologetically Muslim state of Turkey serves as both a critical partner for the West and as a model for the future o f other Islamic states.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree MS in Political Science University of Nebraska of Omaha. Copyright 2006 Peter R. Catalano