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Crisis in a Fulcrum Nation

What happens when a fulcrum for a balance itself becomes unbalanced?

Turkey, in many ways, has acted as a fulcrum between the West and Islamic nations for decades, balancing the interests of both camps even as it struggles within itself to reconcile its Muslim roots with more recent efforts to Westernize its 65 million people.

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It's also a NATO ally, a friend to Israel, and yet the leader of peacekeeping forces in largely Muslim Afghanistan. Turkey also may become a key launching pad for a US war on Iraq.

All that is reason enough to watch the current political crisis caused by last week's collapse of the coalition government.

The main reason for the collapse was a deep dispute over whether to end the death penalty to meet a key requirement to join the European Union. An inability to reach a consensus reflects the long-endured weakness of Turkey's democracy caused by an Army still holding too much influence over national policy.

Bad governance has also weakened the economy. Turkey is now the largest recipient of loans from the International Monetary Fund.

The US and other nations can do little to patch up Turkey politics, even though the nation plays a pivotal global role. But the Turkish people, knowing they carry such a responsibility, can insist on better leadership.