At its height of power in the 16th through 19th century, the Ottoman Empire encompassed south-eastern Europe, present day Turkey, Mesopotamia, and the African Mediterranean coast. The Ottoman served as gate keeper to the far east for europe, and as the Caliph of Islam, gate keeper for the Muslims. At its height, the Ottoman empire threatened the Christiandom of Europe militarily as well as culturally, a flowering of diversity, tolerance, and exploration. Like all blossoms, the Ottoman's wilting started long before the last petal fell in World War I, when it was widely referred to as the "Sick Man of Europe."
It is interesting to note that for most of the 19th century, its European presence and essence was acknowledged. Interesting that this is no longer the case as its direct descendent, modern Turkey, is no longer considered European enough to join the European Union. Never the less, after 50 years of trying, "negotiation" for Turkey's accession into the EU have finally been agreed to start in 2005. Naturally, strings and limitations will be attached.
What is remarkeable is not that the EU has finally agreed to the negotiation but is what the EU Turkey seek to join has become. At the end of the 19th century, the powers of the world still resided in Europe, of which the Ottoman was an important player still. At the beginning of the 21st century, the powers of the world is no longer in residence in Europe but instead reside in the United States of America, Japan, and the rising power of China. Like the Ottomans of the 19th century, the modern day Europeans continue to seek to influence to course of world events through the politics of prestige and diplomacy but lack the will and capacity militarily to defend their frontiers. It seems to me the old Sick Man of Europe is applying to join the Sick Man of the World.
Is the EU the equivalence of retirement community for old and faded powers?