Erdogan’s Ambition for the Caliphate and the Failure of Turkish Democracy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have won another five-year term in elections on Sunday. But what does that mean for the future of Turkish democracy?, asks Aydogan Vatandas.

By Aydogan Vatandas 

When the Justice and Development (AK) Party took office in 2002, many intellectuals in Turkey and abroad were convinced that the party’s commitment to democratization was promising. The first term of the AK Party rule, which is considered as a golden era, broadly extended from 2002 to 2007. This era was characterized by high, inclusive economic growth, coupled with significant democratic reforms, ranging from a radical reordering of civil-military relations to the recognition of minority rights, including language and cultural rights for Kurdish citizens.

This initial high performance created a certain level of trust in the AK Party rule among Turkish intellectuals, including the Gülen Movement, that in time the AK Party would eliminate all the undemocratic aspects of the Turkish governmental system. Between 2009 and 2011, the AK Party government successfully managed to create a legal framework that precluded Turkish military involvement in politics, which would prevent military interventions of the kind Turkey had suffered from in the past. The end result, however, was not a consolidated democracy as expected, but a highly personalized autocracy embodied in the figure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

What went wrong with the AK Party and its leadership during the democratization of Turkey remains an important question. Was the performance of the party between 2002 and 2007 mere window dressing, with Erdogan and his close, oligarchic circle waiting for a convenient time to apply their secret, true agenda? Were they never democratic at all? Or was Erdogan obsessed with the idea that he had a messianic mission like being the ‘Caliph’ of the Muslim world?

Resilience of Kemalist Institutions

It is argued that the failure of the AK Party rule to develop a consolidated democracy is deeply rooted in the traditional tutelage of secular Kemalist institutions (continuing from Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey) over the Turkish political system. Accordingly, regardless of their willingness or unwillingness to further democratize the country, the leadership of the AK Party was thwarted by the resistance of the Kemalist institutions to change.

A proponent of this theory is Ihsan Dagi, a liberal who gave support to the AK Party-led reforms in its golden era. Dagi notes that many people expected the defeat of the Kemalist state establishment by a broad coalition of liberals, democrats and conservatives under the political leadership of the AK Party which would lead to the creation of a democratic regime with a liberal constitution. But today he observes that, “Kemalism is dead, but its state-centric, Jacobin and illiberal spirit has been reincarnated in the AKP.”

Strong State, Weak Society

Ataturk: Founder of modern Turkey.

It is argued that Turkey followed the path of secular modernization by prioritizing the creation of a strong homogenized nation led by the ruling political elite.

This argument holds that the Turkish system of governance has been formulated upon the framework of a strong state and a weak society, which poses a major obstacle to the creation of a consolidated democracy. The governors and the governed had a one-dimensional relationship that oppressed the governed. As a result of this historical practice, Turkish society has never been able to establish an autonomous sphere free from state control.

Since the assertive secular modernization never prioritized the empowerment of civil rights or civil society, the Turkish political system has always remained illiberal and undemocratic even after the advent of a multi-party system in 1946, according to this argument.

Erdogan Fallacy

Many academics have suggested that what Turkey gets from AK Party rule is exactly what it should have expected. Accordingly, it was a fundamental mistake to expect that the AK Party would promote Turkish democracy.

Behlül Özkan, a political scientist at Marmara University, argues that the AK Party is a far-right party according to political science literature. He says:

“Assuming that the AKP would take Turkey forward was no different than thinking that Le Pen in France would advance democracy. When placed in the right-left spectrum, the AKP believes that it has a sacred mission and will remain in power forever. None of these are compatible with democracy. This extremism would emerge as racism in Europe, while it would become sectarianism in Turkey and would not consider other parties as representatives of the nation. The AKP is a model not for the Middle East but for the far right in Europe on how to instrumentalize democracy.”

The main reason that liberal intellectuals failed to see Erdogan’s real ambitions was the very belief that the elimination of the military tutelage and other secular institutions such as the judiciary would be sufficient to secure a democracy. It was not. It was correct that these institutions failed to create a functional democracy in the past, but it was wrong to believe that weakening these institutions would lead to the emergence of a democracy.

It has to be stressed that it was not only the Turkish liberals and religious democrats that were prey to the Erdogan fallacy. Even some leading international think-tank organizations failed to forecast the future of Turkish democracy.

For instance, Angel Rabasa and F. Stephen Larrabee produced for Rand Corporation in 2008 four possible scenarios. In order from most to least likely, they were: 1) AKP pursues a moderate, EU-oriented path; 2) AKP pursues a more aggressive Islamist agenda; 3) judicial closing of the AKP; and 4) military intervention.

For the authors, a regression of Turkish democracy was not likely, even under the second scenario, in which “the reelected AKP government pursues a more aggressive Islamist agenda. With full control of the executive and legislative branches of government, the AKP is able to appoint administrators, judges, and university rectors and even to influence personnel decisions in the military.”

New Powers

The authors concluded that this scenario is less likely because it would lead to greater political polarization and would probably provoke an intervention by the military. Most Turks support a secular state and oppose a state based on the shari’a. In addition, EU membership is a key element of the AKP’s foreign policy.

Political theorist Andrew Arato suggests that the liberal intellectuals understandably failed to see the logic of Erdogan’s actions, because of their own conflict with the military tutelage. They saw the Constitutional Court as merely an instrument of that tutelage, despite the fact that the Court had its battles with the military-bureaucratic structures as far back as the 1970s. The Court took several decisions supporting AK Party positions (e.g. in 2007, the quorum decision was soon balanced by one permitting a referendum on the presidency) and refused to dissolve the party in 2008, admittedly in a very close vote. They failed to understand that in the Turkish system, especially with the existence of a hegemonic party, the court and the judiciary were important counter-weights.

Clifford Anderson in a doctoral thesis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School emphasized that Erdogan’s main goal was to establish an executive power over the judiciary in a move that would violate the separation of powers. He further elaborated that the AK Party had subjugated the state without oversight from other parties or branches of government. He added that executive decrees and legislation indicate this regime’s authoritarian proclivities, which have precluded progress towards EU membership, despite the party’s initial efforts to the contrary.

According to Arato, while the leaders of the AK Party, along with many liberal intellectuals, continued to see the Constitutional Court as an enemy, the 2010 referendum represented an attempt to conquer one branch in the separation of powers, namely the judiciary. Arato contends that some of the more attractive provisions of the package served as window dressing for a monolithic project that actually aimed at creating a type of hyper-presidentialism. It sought to remove all impediments to this new system, especially the judiciary which had established its jurisdiction over constitutional amendments.

Ultimately, Erdogan won a referendum in 2017 that gave him far-reaching presidential powers, which he will now wield after Sunday’s election. The Turkish presidency had previously been a symbolic position, though Erdogan had unconstitutionally used it to exercise real power.

Erdogan’s Dangerous Charisma

Erdogan on July 20, 2016 declares state of emergency with the goal of eliminating his internal enemies. (Turkish government photo)

Besides all the systemic obstacles to a consolidated democracy in Turkey, I would strongly suggest that Erdogan’s personality traits and leadership style have also played a crucial role in the transformation of the political system in Turkey. Aylin Görener and Meltem Ucal, using the Leadership Trait Analysis designed by Margaret Hermann as a research tool, examined Erdogan’s rhetoric to analyze his leadership style. Their research concluded that Erdogan’s convictions “are so tightly held and preferences fixed, and that he tends to see only what he wants to see, [which] renders him incapable of deciphering the nuances of diplomacy and successfully navigating the tricky waters of international affairs.” 

The research also reveals that, “his dichotomizing tendency predisposes him to view politics as a struggle between right and wrong, just and unjust, villains and victims.” The research points out that Erdogan’s pattern of scores indicated that, “he has an “evangelist” orientation to politics which is the leadership style that results from a combination of the tendency to challenge constraints in the environment, closedness to information and having a relationship focus.”

Turkish academics Irfan Arik and Cevit Yavuz state that Erdogan has the qualities of a charismatic leader. However, this is not necessarily good news for Turkish democracy. Historical data shows that authoritarian tendencies coupled with a charismatic personality most likely give way to dictatorial rule. Lewis, for example, shows how charismatic leaders frequently aggravate their followers’ frustrations and prejudices through the use of “polarized aggression.”

Academics António Costa Pinto, Roger Eatwell, and Stein Ugelvik Larsen contend that every fascist dictator has to possess some individual abilities that made them ‘extraordinary’: “They need followers to ‘understand’ or ‘appreciate’ and connect their qualities and there must be a situation or an event that which required these unusual abilities, or which could ‘call’ for the reconstruction of the regime in such a way as to allow the application of new solutions to problems.”

The 2023 Target and the Caliphate

Mehmet VI: The Last Sultan leaves Dolmabahçe Palace, Nov. 1922

In several articles and speeches of Erdogan and former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, both leaders seem convinced that AKP’s initiatives would make Turkey a global actor by the year 2023, the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Having considered the AKP’s opposition to the founding symbols of the Republic, the goal and the vision of 2023 is related to the re-production of the new identity of the state and the nation.

Since the process of state building refers to the development of a political entity with rulers, institutions and citizens, the AKP’s 2023 vision is an important indicator to see how an ‘imagined future projection’ is being used to mobilize the nation and to recreate the Grand Turkey that lost its grandeur a hundred years ago. This should be considered not only a journey to an imagined future, but also a journey to the past where the grandiose Turkish collective identity was lost. Examining this vision, it is quite clear that its intention is to reconstruct a Grand Turkey, while promising nothing about a strong society, civil rights or a consolidated democracy.

The leader-follower relationship is not ‘a one-way relation’ and both agents define each other. In other words, leaders cannot operate without followers. As for Erdogan’s followers, it is evident that many of them see him as a ‘caliph.’

According to political scientist Maria Hsia Chang, malignant narcissism begins with a collective trauma, such as a national defeat, an economic crisis, or subjugation by another?often more powerful?group. This defeat leads the nation to question itself and its history, “resulting in a pervasive sense of insecurity and an uncertain and weak collective identity.”

Chang argues that narcissistic nationalism “functions as ‘a leap into collective fantasy’ that enables threatened or anxious individuals to avoid the burden of thinking for themselves.” For example, the humiliating results of the Treaty of Sevres, the abolition of the Caliphate and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire left a broken and wounded Turkish nation in its wake. This painful history is recalled and used by the AKP leadership as both a rhetorical factor and a tool as compensation device over the last decade.

For instance, Turkish writer Abdurahman Dilipak, who is close to  Erdogan, said that the caliphate will return again with Erdogan’s reelection victory in 2018. During his participation in a 2017 conference in Canada, Dilipak said that “if Erdogan wins the presidency next year, he will become the Caliph and that the [Islamic] caliphate will have commissioners working from the rooms of the presidential palace that has 1,000 rooms.”

He added that the caliphate has moved to the Turkish parliament, stressing that after re-election, Erdogan will appoint advisers from all Muslim regions of the caliphate from various Islamic countries. These will commission the Islamic Union to have representatives of the areas of the caliphate in the thousand rooms.

And it is not only Dilipak; Suat Onal, a member of the Governing Council of the Ruling Justice and Development Party, has already mentioned on his Facebook account that “Erdogan will become the Caliph in 2023 and Allah will shed his light upon him.”

The ‘Shadow of God’

Similarly, in 2013, Atilgan Bayar, a former advisor to the pro-government news station A Haber, wrote that he recognized Erdogan as the caliph of the Muslim world and expressed his allegiance to him. In one of her recent tweets, Beyhan Demirci, a writer and follower of Erdogan, also wrote that Erdogan is the caliph and the shadow of God on Earth. Some of his followers have gone even further and said things like, “Since Erdogan is the caliph, he has the right to use money earned through corruption for his political goals.”

In her dissertation entitled Loss of the caliphate: The trauma and aftermath of 1258 and 1924, Assistant Professor Mona F. Hassan of Duke University notes that many Muslim rulers have aspired to augment their prestige with the supreme title of caliph. As I wrote previously in my book Hungry For Power,

“In addition to the claims of the deposed Ottoman caliph, Abdülmecid and the apparent ambitions of Sharif Husayn of Makkah, the names of King Fu’ad of Egypt, Amir Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan, Imam Yahya of Yemen, the Sultan ibn Sa‘ud of Najd, the Sultan Yusuf bin Hasan of Morocco, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Shaykh Ahmad al-Sanusi of Libya, the Amir Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi of the Moroccan Rif, and even that of Mustafa Kemal were all claimed to have ambitions for the position of caliph.”

It is also worth mentioning that Erdogan stated in February 2018 that, “The Republic of Turkey is a continuation of the Ottoman Empire.” He continued, stating that, “The Republic of Turkey, just like our previous states that are a continuation of one another, is also a continuation of the Ottomans.” Erdogan explained that, “Of course, the borders have changed. Forms of government have changed… But the essence is the same, soul is the same, even many institutions are the same.”

Kadir Misiroglu, who has worked with Erdogan since the 1980s, remains staunchly anti-secularist. He has claimed that Turkey’s incursions into Syria and Iraq will empower Erdogan to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and declare himself caliph.

The obsession with the caliphate is not limited to political Islamists. For example, the number of recruits to ISIS increased enormously after its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself caliph. “Regardless of ideology, individuals from around the world who felt repressed by their own governments, most of which were unable to guaranty their personal safety or sustainable infrastructure, rushed to join his army. The bottom line is that the concept of a caliphate is not a hard sell, whether in an authoritative state, in under-developed Muslim countries or in developed countries where Muslims are more often than not stigmatized,” according to a June 2017 article by Cynthia Lardner, “Erdogan: Self-Proclaimed Caliphate?”

A caliphate is a state ruled by an Islamic steward known as a caliph —a person considered a successor to the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad (Muhammad bin Abdullah), the Prophet of the entire Muslim community. The word caliph actually refers to the ruler of the global community of Muslims, or ummah. During the centuries following the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, the rulers of the Muslim world were called caliph, which means “successor” in Arabic. In 1924, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the new Turkish Republic, abolished the caliphate.

The caliph has long been viewed by many Muslims as the legitimate representative of God on earth, heir to a chain of uninterrupted succession reaching back to Prophet Muhammad.

Professor Zeki Saritoprak emphasizes that ISIS and some political Islamists use eschatological themes and ‘caliphate’ extensively in their ideology, especially certain narratives found in the hadiths, the collection of reports of sayings and teachings of the Prophet:

“Nowhere in the Qur’an or hadith does it say that the duty of Muslims is to establish a caliphate, and in fact, the idea of an Islamic state did not exist prior to middle of the 19th century. I think that they are so obsessed with a state because they have forgotten how to apply the rules to themselves, and so they have a desire to impose the rules on others. ISIS is thus a version of political Islam, which as a governing philosophy holds that Islam can be imposed on a population from the top down. This actually goes against Quranic principles, which focus on the individual as a universe in and of her or himself,” Saritoprak said.

He continued,

“One thing that followers of political Islam are generally not aware of is that time is an interpreter of the Quran. Some Quranic verses should be interpreted under the conditions of our time and not under the conditions of the Middle Ages. Therefore, I do not think that a caliphate or an Islamic state is necessary for Islam to flourish in the 21st century. It seems the future of Islam is in cooperation with the West and with Christianity. There is no imperative in the Quran to destroy the West or Christians. Quite the opposite; Islam should be built upon Western civilization, not seek to destroy it. Those who see problems in the West should take solace in the words of Said Nursi, who said that eventually the negative aspects of the West will dissipate and there can be a coming together of Western and Islamic civilizations.”

According to Ali Vyacheslav Polosin, Deputy Director of the Fund for Support of Islamic Culture, Science and Education, “Erdogan used the image of the caliphate and traditional Islamic values to gain popularity in the Middle East, expecting to gain it all over the world.” He explained that, “After Erdogan became president he started positioning himself in image ads not only as the president of the Turkish Republic, but as a reader of the Quran, as though he radiates some nur, light. It is more an image of a caliph, a ruler of true believers, than the president of a republic, especially considering that Turkey has very great experience in this aspect. So the claims are not that groundless.”

Methodologically speaking, establishing an Islamic state may sound very attractive to many Muslims, but in reality it may not solve the problems of human beings. If you provide the best rules and put them in the hands of corrupt people, those rules will be used for corruption as well. The attraction of the caliphate blinds many Muslims to the reality of their situation and morality.

Erdogan did not declare himself as the new caliph of the Muslim world. But his actions may be a harbinger of what may come.

It is important to keep in mind that establishment of the Turkish state always played a crucial role in shaping the society as a constituting agent. While the constituting role of the state was performed in the past with a secular world view, today this constituting role seems to have passed to the AKP leadership and particularly to Erdogan himself, suggesting that the mission of the state is now to bring up a religious generation. This indicates that the “social engineering” aspect of a “constituting state” is not ruled out as Erdogan clearly said: “the new constitution will be in harmony with the values of our nation.”

While Ataturk saw himself as the savior of the nation?a kind of demigod?the secular state establishment acted accordingly. Erdogan and his bureaucracy seem convinced that they also have the ability to construct their own state, society and even myths. Erdogan’s authoritarian charisma and narcissistic personality provide evidence that he would be willing to rule Turkey as the ‘undisputable sole leader,’ but not as a democratic leader. Readily available data demonstrates that authoritarian charismatic leaders with narcissistic personalities tend to be dictators.

I would strongly argue that Erdogan’s 2023 target and his ambition to resurrect the caliphate was not formulated only to idealize his rule, but also to serve as the ‘call’ for this reconstruction of the regime.

An Exchange of Elite Power

Despite elimination of the military tutelage from the political system during the AK Party era, Turkey has had several historical and structural shortcomings that have prevented it from becoming a democratic state. Erdogan’s efforts to exclude the Turkish military from the political system did not aim to consolidate democracy, but rather to create an autocratic system according to his wishes.

What Turkey has therefore been experiencing for years has been the ‘charismatisation/Erdoganization’ of Turkish political institutions through the idealization of the 2023 target and an imagined future of the caliphate which damaged not only democratic institutions, but also led to radical shifts in Turkish domestic and foreign policy. Due to the systemic obstacles to democracy, whatever emerges in Turkey in the near future, will not be a consolidated democracy, but rather an exchange of power between elites.

This article originally appeared on Politurco.

Aydogan Vatandas is a veteran Turkish journalist and editor-in-chief of Politurco.

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28 comments for “Erdogan’s Ambition for the Caliphate and the Failure of Turkish Democracy

  1. June 28, 2018 at 3:18 am

    How does a massive influx of immigrants harm democracy?

    Did it help or harm.

  2. steve miller
    June 27, 2018 at 1:09 am

    When a democracy democratically votes to do away with its democracy, maybe a majority don’t want to live in a democracy. Seems like Turkey has gone in this direction over a number of elections. Under principles of democracy, seems like its their choice.

    • Deniz
      June 27, 2018 at 1:38 am

      The US was flirting with theocracy during the reign of the evangelicals during the Bush era and the near election of Mitt Romney.

      Additionaly do you really believe that the US government has any thing to do with the will of the American people And can be legitimatly called a democracy? Do you think the majority of the US people want to spend trillions on defence to help defend oil profits for a select few board members of Lockhead Martin and Exxon?

      • Not Sure
        June 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

        “Do you think the majority of the US people want to spend trillions on defence to help defend oil profits for a select few board members of Lockhead Martin and Exxon?”

        If the major portion of the US people work in the defense and oil industry and those are the people voting, than based on the election results the answer would be yes. Not to mention all the people who work in the healthcare, financial services and insurance business who benefit from the status quo. But to answer your other question no the US is not a legitimate democracy, it is a democrat republic. Why don’t we have a true democracy? Because our founding fathers were smart enough to realize the tyranny of the majority is just as bad as the rule by a few. And as FDR once said, “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob” unfortunately the frame work FDR built with the new deal has been slowly destroyed by organized money.

        • Deniz
          June 27, 2018 at 2:06 pm

          If the majority of Americans democratically support war profiteering, then the majority of Turks will vote for a ruthless dictator who will stand up to a depraved America.

        • Deniz
          June 28, 2018 at 9:24 am

          To clarify, my position is that Americans don’t live in a democracy either, and that exlains the trillions in MIC spending. The war profiteers, who run the country, are a tiny sliver of the population.

  3. Not Sure
    June 26, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Dictators normally obtain control by force. Did Erdogan use force to win the election? If not than it sounds like Erdogan was democratically elected by the Turkish people. But is sounds like this author is not happy with the results and seeks to demonize Erdogan. But in a democratic society if you don’t like the elected leader you vote him out when his term is up.

    • Paranam Kid
      June 27, 2018 at 7:54 am

      @NotSure: did Hitler use force to win his election?

      • Iron Felix
        June 27, 2018 at 11:14 pm

        Reichstag fire.

  4. John
    June 26, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    I think someone needs to dig up Vlad Tapes, screw a couple of bolts into his head, zap his brain with a defibrillator, and send him to Turkey so he can sit Erdogan on a pointy stick like in the bad old days.

    • John
      June 26, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      Stupid spellchecker it is Tepes not Tapes. Learn a little Hoffman history for chrissake!

      • John
        June 26, 2018 at 7:31 pm

        Goddamn not Hoffman!

  5. June 26, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Where is there a true democracy anywhere? I do not know much about Turkey, having only read Stephen Kinzer’s “Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds”, which predates Erdogan. But where is the interview with Erdogan to place among interpreters of his political aims? The Middle East wars of aggression by the US and NATO have created heavy changes for Turkey, obviously. I may be wrong, but I interpreted Erdogan’s actions more related to modernization and industrialization than to religious aims.

  6. Deniz
    June 26, 2018 at 11:03 am

    The assumption in this article, and much of secular Turkey, is that Erdogan has gone rogue by bringing in muslim fanatics that have destabilized the country and thwarted any hopes of democracy. Thus acting against the interests of the US. In fact, the last thing the Empire wants is stable, secular, uncorrupted middle east governments that will act in the best interest of their people.

    After studying Dulles, et al, and learning about PNAC and the destabilization policies of any non-western actors, I think that Turkey is exactly on plan. My only question is if he is the long arm of the British Empire, vis the Muslim Brotherhood, why would they try to assasinate him. So astonishingly,, the western press may have been telling the truth and the coup was staged.

  7. June 26, 2018 at 9:08 am

    It’s yet another “evil dictator”. Some would say “Yankee stay home”, which means clean up your act at home, and stop pointing fingers at others.

    • Joe Lauria
      June 26, 2018 at 10:58 am

      The author of the article is Turkish

  8. Bob Van Noy
    June 26, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Brilliant article. If one is inclined to read this article with the idea that, if carefully read, and analyzed, one could figure out a solution to the complexity, then join the Geopolitical Club. The Geopolitical Club is the Club that astute intellects like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski follow, that allows them such profound insights to geo-line drawing capabilities. Forget that cultural tradition and actual families are an aspect of such lines. If you’re well read and have influence, join the Club, what could go wrong?

  9. padre
    June 26, 2018 at 6:14 am

    You just can’t restrain youselves on lecturing others, as if everything was peachy in your western world!Clean up your house first!

    • Joe Lauria
      June 26, 2018 at 9:11 am

      The author of the article is Turkish.

  10. KiwiAntz
    June 26, 2018 at 1:39 am

    I recently watched a wonderful Turkish documentary movie called “Kedi” (Turkish for Cat) which was about the fabulous street cats that inhabit Istanbul & how they contribute to the history & richness of the City & its inhabitants! The movie intro stated that cats have inhabited Instanbul for centuries & that the Cats have seen whole Empires, come & go. Erdogan may have his little Empire & time in the sun at the moment but as the movie intro stated regarding the transitory nature of this rulership arrogance, the cats have seen all this before having witnessed whole Empires & Leaders come & go & they will remain, a long time after Erdogan is turning to dust, in his grave!

    • LarcoMarco
      June 26, 2018 at 1:53 am

      Those street Kedi Cats also contribute to “the history & richness” of tourists. I was amazed at the number of black and orange cats there. They may have been calicos, but they had no white fur. Gotta find that flick!

  11. CitizenOne
    June 26, 2018 at 12:02 am

    Comparisons of Turkey to some eruptive Caliphate only give credence to the mythical power of Erdogan and his stranglehold on Turkish democracy. The Turks under Erdogan might be able to capture the limelight and grow the ire of NATO but they also have a government that has secular roots and a long history of military coups that dot their history like many plays set on a stage in front of the Western World.

    It seems to me to be a dress rehearsal from “The Mouse That Roared”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mouse_That_Roared

    I guess that if Turkey wanted to garner attention it would find a happy home where it would play the part of the bully nation seeking to end its own democracy and thus gain favor with the Muslim world.

    Much of this has to do with the nationalist emergence of Erdogan as a hero fighting for Islam and the hope it will either garner support from the Islamic nations or it will garner the ire of western nations or perhaps both. Turkey is hosting over 3.5 million refugees mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the first secure destination for people fleeing war. This makes Turkey the single biggest refugee country in the world.

    It is not realistic to expect Turkey to overcome this crisis alone. Erdogan’s Turkey is continuously on the edge of chaos. Turkey has always been a problematic country, but it has never been so close to the edge of chaos as Erdogan’s Turkey is today.

    Perhaps Erdogan will unleash Turkey’s refugees in some recreation of Bastille Day toward launching a revolution aimed at cutting off the heads of western nations but I don’t think so. Turkey’s programs of welcoming mass immigration from middle eastern nations combined with the difficulties of the prospects of employment of so many refugees will most likely mean that Turkey will choose to keep all the people it welcomed with open democratic arms incarcerated for the long haul.

    If that is true then Turkey might become the biggest source of Islamist terrorists not because Turkey refuses to allow refugees entrance into the nation but because it has no plans of doing anything with them other than housing them in camps.

    The bright spot for the refugees would naturally be some dreamed of place where they have a nation unto themselves called a Caliphate.

    One thing that the western nations might decide is to accept these captives into the European Union but this is not likely given the current anti immigration policies of Europe.

    Hence all the pressure is on Turkey to come up with a solution to the massive intake of refugees it has voluntarily undertaken.

    It is all a measure of success or failure that the Erdogan led Turkish government tries to balance its growing Muslim refugee population which is swelling with the need to assimilate those refugees in the light that European nations have had enough of allowing the wholesale importation of refugees.

    As long as Turkey feels stuck between a rock and a hard place with no relief in sight for the millions of refugees it has accepted it will feel the sting of nationalism as it identifies itself with a new caliphate.

    So where did the West go wrong? It did not imagine that waging war on the Middle East would result in the war fueled mass immigration from the nations we attack.

    This is the definition of “Blow back” which we have been warned about but which our foreign policy for the last century has been blind to. Much like our own immigrant crisis at home, the crisis in Europe has found out the Erdogan government and the Trump administration in lock step that people fleeing the foreign policies of the West will eventually come home to roost,

  12. Joe Tedesky
    June 25, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Here’s Der Spiegel’s take on Erdogan.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/erdogan-seeks-unprecedented-powers-in-weekend-vote-a-1214009.html

    Read carefully, with Der Spiegel’s description of Erdogan you may get confused with someone else we all know all the way down to the detail of the son in law.

  13. F. G. Sanford
    June 25, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    The mythos of an idyllic past that was somehow swept away, a time of greatness when purity of body and spirit were the guiding principles, then these were corrupted by usurpers, and the fall from grace was accompanied by a treaty which codified the betrayal of a destiny ordained by providence ripped from its rightful purveyors…but then to the rescue, a charismatic evangelical prophet appears, claiming at first to be merely the awakener, the drummer…

    Jeez Louise, where have we heard that scenario before? This article is a masterpiece. I just hope the guy who wrote it recalls what happened to Fritz Gerlich, and that he can get the hell out of Dodge in a hurry if that’s where he lives. That picture of Erdogan dressed as a Sultan looks like a “Dutch Masters” production: it would look great on a cigar box. But hey, if he can Make Turkey Great Again, who am I to object?

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 25, 2018 at 10:05 pm

      Hey F.G. Don’t knock it. We, you and the rest of us here, me included, are living in the most spectacular of ages… I mean any minute now Caligula and Ferdinand & Isabella will return, but never fear our modern day Crazy Egotistical Leaders will outshine those tyrants of our past, because our current nutcases are TV Ready and right on cue. What an age to live in I tell ya, what an age to live in F.G. Joe

  14. Deniz
    June 25, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    I always find direct Turkish views myopic. It is as if Turkey exists in a vacum, completely independent of the influence of foreign powers. No mention of the dynamics of the war on terror, oil, the cold war, the Muslim Brotherhood, it is all just enlightened secular Democrats vs uneducated religious Muslims. The corrupt Muslim strongman in the Middle East has been the US/British model since the start of.the could war, why should this time be any different?

    • cal
      June 25, 2018 at 11:03 pm

      A dimension of this point that the author just skims across is how Erdogan was the disciple of Gulen, and the AKP his creature. After the sudden, and bizarre, death of Catli, and the unmasking of the Turkish deep-state, with a parallel government connecting paramilitary pan-Turkick fascist, military officials, and underworld mafiosi, Gulen became the ticket in. But Erdogan broke with his master, and the feud has been going on ever since. While it’s still not clear who was behind the coup last year, it’s unlikely to be a total fabrication, per some Western media. Gulen’s comfortable position in Saylorsburg, PA has been maintained since the Clinton eras, and Erdogan’s purges, as well as his presidential power, is as much a power-grab as it is clearing the chessboard. While a neo-Ottoman foreign policy is not good, it will be interesting to see how (and if) Erdogan shifts Turkey out of being a NATO puppet and into a regional power. However, the new Great Game (if we can call it that) requires powers like Turkey to balance on a razor’s edge. Erdogan can only ever be sultan if he gets big enough friends who will let him.

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