I'm in Turkey, where I'd never been until yesterday. So far I have nothing to report in the traditional journalistic sense of having either (1) talked to politicos who said something newsworthy; (2) talked to academics or other local experts who made trenchant analytical points; or (3) talked to cabdrivers who obligingly said something telling.
But just being here somehow reinforces the truism that Turkey is now one of the most important countries in the world.
The argument behind the truism is simple: By virtue of being Islamic yet in so many ways Western, Turkey has a distinctive and potentially productive role to play along various fault lines between Western countries and Islamic countries or Islamic non-state actors. And the character of the current Turkish government--more Islamic than previous governments yet determined to stay enmeshed in the Western world--only underscores that prospect.
So does walking around Istanbul. You see a non-trivial number of head scarves, but you see a lot more women's heads that are uncovered. You hear the five calls to prayer each day, just as I did when I visited Saudi Arabia a few years ago--but whereas in Riyadh all commerce ceases during calls to prayer (even the Starbucks closed its doors!), here the calls to prayer have no visible impact on street life.