Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Worst Possible Result

The coup in Turkey has apparently failed.  It was so ham-fisted and amateurish that some have suggested that Erdogan himself planned it.

Coups have a long history in Kemalist Turkey.  The Army has insured that the state remain secular and largely oriented towards the West.  Erdogan has been slowly eroding the democratic and institutional checks on his power, and the failed coup will accelerate that consolidation.  Hence the conspiracy theories that Erdogan planned it.  That's probably confusing cause and effect, as conspiracy theories often do.

From - broadly speaking - the West's point of view, we would prefer Turkey to be a democratic, secular state that models stability for the Middle East - a modern Muslim state, though not an Islamist one.

Whatever the motivations of the coup plotters, it's pretty clear that this coup will deal a potentially fatal blow to democracy in Turkey.  Erdogan is already more or less following the Putin blueprint in consolidating power, and just as Putin used Chechen terror attacks to consolidate power, Erdogan will use this event to snuff out opposition.

The opposition to Erdogan is primarily focused on two groups: the Kurds and the Gulen Movement. The Kurds are more or less America's best friends in the Middle East.  Iraqi Kurdistan is reasonably secular and pro-Western, and there is a certain sympathy for the self-determination of the Kurdish people in America.  Certainly, US troops that served in Iraq preferred working with the Kurds over anyone else.

The Gulen Movement is precisely the sort of Islam we would like to see: Islam should inform your private life, but Islam should not be political.  Islam should build bridges to other faiths.  This is why Fethullah Gulen currently lives in the Poconos, because he's hated by Erdogan but represents what we would like to see Islam become.  Of course, he's probably corrupt, but that hardly differentiates him from other developing world figures who has money at his fingertips.

An ideal end for the events of yesterday - from a US point of view - would have been a collapse of the Erdogan regime and the failure of the coup.  We would like democracy to survive in Turkey and neither Erdogan nor a military coup really delivers on that hope.

Terrorist attacks like what happened in Nice are tragic and horrific and violate our sense of shared community and public spaces.  But what just happened in Turkey is probably worse for the Middle East and Europe than what happened in Nice.  More Turks died last night than died in Nice, but even more troubling is it's tough to see democracy in Turkey survive either.

UPDATE: Maybe this actually leads to more and better democracy?  

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