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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Not So Good

President Erdogan of Turkey is basically constructing a dictatorship in his country.  This, needless to say, is intensely troubling for American policy in the region.  That hasn't stopped Cheetoh Benito from praising Erdogan's power grab, because he admires the power, one grifter to another.

In many ways, Turkey's retreat from democracy into personal rule is yet another casualty of the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.  The American invasion was designed to "drain the swamp" of Middle Eastern politics.  (Funny how the swamp drainers always seem to bring more snakes with them.)  By disturbing the status quo - the theory went - you could attract jihadists to Iraq where you could kill them and create a new paradigm of democratic rule in a region.  The Bold Thinkers among neoconservative foreign policy "experts" felt that "creative destruction" would end the sort of political environment that spawned Al Qaeda and 9/11.

Yeah, so 15 years later, Iraq is a mess.  That mess spilled over into Syria, along with the millions of Iraqi refugees that flooded into that country.  The Syrian Civil War - exactly the sort of creative disruption the neocons wanted - has led to the rise of ISIS and the worst humanitarian disaster since Pol Pot, maybe World War II.  All of this chaos on Turkey's southern border fed Erdogan's appeal as a strong man who can bring order to Turkish politics and security to the Turkish state.

First, this is worth considering as a warning about the current Tangerine Nightmare in the Oval Office.  He has promised to be a disruptive force in Washington and the world.  America is an unusually large bull in the global china shop, and if we start running around thrashing norms and causing "creative destruction" we will see more of the sort of dynamics that we are seeing in Turkey.  Let's take Korea for instance.  If we get a war on the Korean peninsula, we will see massive casualties in South Korea (currently emerging from the roiling turmoil of an impeachment process) and the possibility that even with an Allied victory the country could lapse into dictatorship as it struggles to integrate the impoverished, dysfunctional North.  Similarly, if Japan suffers from North Korean missile strikes, they could move to an even less democratic form of government and re-militarize, including nuclear weapons.  That, in fact, could happen even short of a war.

Democracy is not inevitable, and chaos is a real accelerant towards dictatorial rule.  As Trump runs around creating uncertainty and instability, he undermines the global institutions put in place at the end of World War II - mostly by the United States - that seek to create the global stability that allows democracy to thrive.

When you see these (young) chaos agents like this fool in the United States, what you are seeing is a generation far removed from the horrors of global disorder.  Even the ever present threat of nuclear warfare that I grew up with has been subdued.  All those clamoring for a revolution have no freaking idea what they will unleash.  They should look to Iraq and Syria to see what happens when you overturn the existing institutions of the state in a capricious manner.  You get chaos, then you get a dictatorship.

In the specific case of Turkey, Trump's coziness with a new authoritarian is hardly surprising.  We know authoritarianism is perhaps his only constant orientation.  However, Turkey's move away from democratic norms could push it further from NATO (any hope of the EU died years ago).  From an American point of view, Turkey has been an increasingly unreliable ally in the war on ISIS.  At what point does Turkish intransigence and rejection of European norms open the door to the West supporting Kurdish independence?

An independent Kurdistan is more or less a reality in northern Iraq, and the Kurds are really our only ally in the region, aside from Israel (who are hardly steadfast in their support of America's interests).  A deft foreign policy team could leverage Erdogan's power grab into the creation of a democratic Kurdish state with reciprocal defense agreements with the US.  Of course, we don't have a deft foreign policy team, and the creation of Kurdistan would be another act of creative destruction.

From 1989-2016, the world was governed more or less by global integration and a steady move towards more democracy.  In 2003, the US rashly unleashed instability in the Middle East, and that has led to all sorts of unpleasant outcomes, from the Ahmadinjad presidency in Iran, to the Syrian Civil War to the rise of ISIS and now the collapse of democracy in Turkey.  The US is also now led by an ignorant buffoon who distrusts the global institutions most able to sustain order.

We are so very, very screwed.

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