Violent confrontations between police and demonstrators in Turkey's cities signal troubles that are not to the country's advantage, nor to America's as its longtime ally and friend.
What started as a relatively minor dust-up over the development of a park, part of Istanbul's Taksim Square, has developed into a growing conflict in at least five cities between mostly young people and government security forces using tear gas and water cannons. At least two have died.
The idea that Taksim Square is coming to play the role in Turkey, in a sort of "Turkish Spring," that Cairo's Tahrir Square played in the evolution of political and societal change in Egypt in 2011 appears so far to be romantic exaggeration. At the same time, it is clear that the moderate government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party is in some trouble.
Mr. Erdogan and Turkey have played an important role in the Middle East, in the Mediterranean and in the rest of the world that cares about that region, including the United States. As a large, economically growing, moderate, democratic, predominantly Muslim state led by an activist prime minister, Turkey must be taken seriously. It is something of a model, particularly to emerging Muslim-majority states in the region looking at forms into which they might evolve.
In the past Turkey has showed its ability to get along with Israel, although an Israeli attack on a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian relief to Gaza in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one American became an incident that illustrated Turkey's strength and willingness to confront Israel, improving its Muslim credentials. The role that Turkey is playing in the conflict in Syria illustrates both its vulnerability and its capacity to act responsibly in the face of provocation. It harbors an estimated half-million Syrian refugees and has borders on Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran and Iraq, as well as Syria.
During the current turmoil, Mr. Erdogan is acting at times more like an aspiring Ottoman emperor than a Turkish leader elected with less than 50 percent of the votes in the 2011 elections. He may have let his and his country's preeminence and success go to his head. He needs to calm down in dealing with his opposition, for the sake of modern Turkey and to be able to continue to play the stabilizing role that the United States needs his country to play.