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Outsourcing democracy promotion

Turkey, after seeing atrocities in Syria, joins a club of other regional, democratic powers like Brazil and Indonesia helping their neighbors.

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Turkey joined a unique club of leaders this week, one that a weary America has long nurtured.

It decided to become the kind of regional power – one with a strong economy and an advancing democracy – that seeks to be a force for freedom and human rights among its neighbors.

The turnaround came after the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won its third election in a row. In his victory speech, Mr. Erdogan reversed a longstanding policy of simply seeking “zero problems” on Turkey’s borders. He announced: “We will become much more active in regional and global affairs.”

More specifically, he added that he will call “for rights in our region, for justice, for the rule of law, for freedom and democracy.”

Turkey – if it follows its words with consistent action – now joins Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, and to some degree, India as large democracies that have slowly realized that they can be responsible stakeholders in the global order, especially in influencing their neighbors by promoting democracy.

For Turkey, the turning point may have been the latest events of the Arab Spring, especially the way that Syria has crushed protests there. Last week, Erdogan turned on his budding ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He described the regime’s military offensive against civilians in a northwest province as “savagery.” Thousands of Syrian refugees have been welcomed into Turkey. And Erdogan could possibly support a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Syria.

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