8. Fifteen percent of senior Turkish military officers are now standing trial.
The Turkish armed forces take a broad view of their mission to defend the country, and have at times appeared to be less concerned with external threats than with an enemy within -- identified variously as political radicalism, reactionary religious forces, Kurdish separatism, and, on more than one occasion, the country's own elected government. Turkey has lived through three military interregnums (1960-1961, 1971-1973, and 1980-1983) as well as what the pundits called a "post-modern" coup in 1997 in which the military put pressure on a coalition government, causing it to collapse. The current government has largely tamed its officer class by means of a large conspiracy trial known popularly as the Ergenekon affair, after the reputed codeword for the underground network. Some 15 percent of senior officers are now standing trial for plotting to overthrow the AKP, and the leaders of a 1980 coup -- including the 94-year-old former president Kenan Evren -- are standing trial as well.
9. Not all Islam in Turkey is the same.
Religious education is compulsory in Turkey and instructors teach the principles of Sunni Islam. But this is not to everyone's liking. Turkey has an Alevi community that makes up at least 15 percent of the population and practices a variety of Shiite Islam. Many resent seeing their taxes go to support the establishment or a school system that teaches a variant of Islam that is very different from the one they practice at home. Unlike in Iran, where Shiism has reinforced a theocratic orthodoxy, Alevis have been part of a culture of dissent in Turkey. Their faith incorporates elements of mysticism and folk religion, and, in some cases, exhibits an indifference to many of the practices associated with mainstream Islam -- including obligatory fasting during the month of Ramadan and even the pilgrimage to Mecca. Alevis are sometimes regarded as the front line in the defense of Turkish secularism inasmuch as they are treated with condescension or at best overlooked by the conservative mainstream. By the same token, many Alevis support the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Turkish Alevis may be very different from Syrian Alawites, but their presence still complicates regional loyalties. Turkey is often depicted as belonging to a Sunni alliance that courts Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria.
10. Turkey's quest to be European dates back to the 1950s.
Although commentators sometimes speak of EU "enlargement fatigue," in the Turkish case "narcolepsy" might be more appropriate. Ankara applied for associate membership in what was popularly called the Common Market in 1959 and signed the Ankara Agreement, which envisaged eventual Turkish membership, in 1963. In 1996, Turkey entered into a Customs Union on manufactured goods that essentially gave European manufactures the same unfettered access in Turkey that Turkey already enjoyed in Europe. In 2005, Turkey finally sat down at the negotiating table with EU officials. But those talks have dragged on, with no end in sight.
As long as Turkey is not a full EU member, it remains outside decision-making councils -- even those affecting the Customs Union. Ankara, for example, must implement an EU tariff regime over which it has no say, which means that its trade with countries ranging from Brazil to China is regulated in Brussels.
Turkey is already Europe's fifth-largest export destination. Those in favor of Turkish entry into the EU are eager to stress the win-win of incorporating a fertile market for goods and financial services that is also contiguous with Europe's boundaries. Istanbul alone has a GDP greater than that of Hungary or the Czech Republic, or indeed any of the post-2004 members of the EU save Poland.
As the Arab Spring settles into a long season of attrition, the Turkish example of a Muslim-majority nation engaged in a process of self-generating reform has acquired new potency. The Turkish economy continues to thrive on growing consumer demand, and the government is pledging to rid the country of its illiberal past by lifting the hand of the military and providing the country with a new constitution.
Yet, having conquered the bastions of the old establishment, the AKP now faces temptations of its own. Like Frodo Baggins, it knows it has to throw the ring of power back into the fire. But, for the moment, it feels comfortable keeping the ring on its own finger. Whether Turkey develops institutions that are worthy of its new status will decide the country's future.