22 June 2010

Article: Turkey, from Ally to Enemy

Michael Rubin's article "Turkey, from Ally to Enemy" will be published in the July/August 2010 issue of the neoconservative American-Jewish monthly magazine "Commentary". The article has already been put up online.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Turkey has changed. Gone, and gone permanently, is secular Turkey, a unique Muslim country that straddled East and West and that even maintained a cooperative relationship with Israel. Today Turkey is an Islamic republic whose government saw fit to facilitate the May 31 flotilla raid on Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey is now more aligned to Iran than to the democracies of Europe. [...] The story of Turkey's Islamic revolution is illuminating. It is the story of a charismatic leader with a methodical plan to unravel a system, a politician cynically using democracy to pursue autocracy [...]. For Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is a dream come true. For the next generation of American presidents, diplomats, and generals, it is a disaster. [...]

"Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey and [...] charged the army with defending the state from those who would use Islam to subvert democracy. [...] Erdogan's strategy was multi-tiered. He endorsed the dream of Turkey's secular elite to enter the European Union but only to rally European diplomats to dilute the role of the Turkish military as guardians of the constitution. [...] His ideological constituents had no interest in Europe, and Erdogan himself is intolerant of European liberalism and secularism. [...] He sought to revolutionize education, dominate the judiciary, take over the police, and control the media. Erdogan worked to achieve not short-term gains on hot-button issues like the headscarf but rather a long-term cultural revolution that, when complete, would render past battles moot. [...]

"The real coup against democracy, however, came on July 14, 2008, when a Turkish prosecutor indicted 86 Turkish figures – retired military officers, prominent journalists, professors, unionists, civil-society activists [...] – on charges of plotting a coup to restore secular government. [...] The indictments had a chilling effect across society. Turks may not like where Erdogan is taking Turkey, but they now understand that even peaceful dissent will have a price. [...] Nor can liberal Turks rely on the Turkish military to save them. Bashed from the religious right and the progressive left, the Turkish military is a shadow of its former self. [...] A decade ago, Turks saw themselves in a camp with the United States, Western Europe, and Israel; today Turkish self-identity places the country firmly in a camp led by Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Hamas. Turkey may be a NATO member, but polls nevertheless show it to be the world's most anti-American country [...].

"Many diplomats and journalists inserted into this situation their own disdain for any military, let alone Turkey's, and embraced a facile dichotomy in which Islamism and democracy represented one pole, while the military, secularism, and fascism represented the other. Hence, they saw the AKP [Erdogan's Justice and Development Party] as democratic reformers, while the military became defenders of an anti-democratic order. Certainly, the healthiest democracies have no room for the military in domestic politics, but by cheering the AKP as it unraveled the military's role in upholding the constitution without simultaneously constructing another check on unconstitutional behavior, the European Union and Western diplomats paved the way for Erdogan's soft dictatorship. [...] As mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan quipped, 'Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.' Perhaps, in hindsight, the West's mistake was to ignore the danger of Erdogan's ascendance into the driver's seat."

Michael Rubin is a Senior Lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Civil-Military Relations and a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

No comments:

Post a Comment