Erdogan wins: why should you care
As I am spending my vacation at North Cyprus, I have to watch a lot of Turkey TV trying to catch the World Cup games. Surfing through the multiple Turkish channels I inevitably had to watch Rejep Taip Erdogan’s Big Time TV commercials.
Funny, it reminded my Vladimir Putin’s recent TV campaign commercials: the content and style are different but the spirit is the same. It is all about a great country we’re living in, its glorious past, its great achievements and its promising future. The future where we’re heading to under the wise rule of the great leader. In case on Turkey, it is Erdogan. Add some over-the-top nationalism and the brew is ready.
The only difference that in Turkey Erdogan was the lead man starring in the commercials: shaking hands, making statements, etc. In Russia Putin didn’t feature in the commercials preferring to stay at the backstage.
I recently was writing a book review for the ‘USA and Canada: politics, economy, culture’ journal that is the voice of the USA and Canada Institute, a state-owned think tank with rich history and good academic reputation. The book’s title, interestingly enough, is ‘The Return of the Marco Polo’s World’, by Robert Kaplan. Its author, very well-known in Washington, D.C., is arguing that the 21 century’s political landscape in many ways would resemble that of the Marco Polo’s time with Turkey (the Porta), Iran (Persia), China and Russia as its main actors in Eurasia as opposed to the U.S., the great island off the supercontinent. It is not them being allies, it is just the return, in modern format, to the familiar world of the past.
Robert Kaplan’s point about Turkey was that now, under Erdogan, it is not drifting away from the West. It is simply getting back to its original state being an autonomous power in the Middle East, full of its imperial dreams . And another dream, alliance with the West, started by Ataturk, is now about to finally vanish.
I agree with Mr. Kaplan on that. Turkey under Erdogan is coming back to its traditional existence being a bridge between the West and the turbulent Orient. It is not a thing to worry about, it is just the way it is. Turkey is not the West and, judging by the numerous traditionally dressed Turkish women coming in to North Cyprus for a vacation, would never be.
I don’t like the traditional Islam values, to me, they are limiting your capability to adapt to our rapidly-changing world. But it seems to be the choice of the Turkish people. For many of them, the Erdogan era is a comfortable comeback to the glorious days of the Osman empire. By the way, it also relates to Putin’s Russia with its ideological mix of nationalism and Communism left-overs that reflects Vlad’s vision.
Instead of worrying we should be thinking if they ever wake up ending that long and pointless dream
. Otherwise, without internal changes, Turkey will not have a chance to develop as a dynamic country. Just
look at Iran stuck in the Dark Ages. The grip of Islamic traditional ideology, though they are Sunnis, not Shiah, like Iranians, may eventually lead Erdogan’s Turkey into the same direction towards the strategic dead-end.
Erdogan wins – why should you care?
May years ago, before Erdogan, the US and Turkey were best friends. During the Cold War, America located half of all it’s European nuclear warheads there as a sign of trust in Turkey. No longer. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shares a spirit with Trump, Putin, and Le Pen.
These leaders all represent the far right in their respective countries. Indeed the right is on the rise across the world. Italy now says no more refugees. The same political position is animating politics in the UK and the US. In many nations, there is a feeling that the system is broken and something must be done. I can certainly understand the emotion.
When it comes to refugees, Turkey stands out and moves in the opposite direction. They have given shelter to many Syrians. While I don’t claim expertise in the subject, there are several things making this possible: its turned into a powerful bargaining chip with Europe. The EU is paying Turkey to house these people and prevent further migration.
Religion and history also play a roll. Northern Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Language and culture bind in powerful ways. Turkey cannot turn it’s back on these people.
Unfortunately, these conservative leaders all seem to share another facet: the truth is malleable. If it sounds good, say it. If it will energize your base, say it. If it can easily be proven false – still… say it.
An example of this would be Erdogan blaming the Americans for the attempted coup. There does seem to be evidence that US Intelligence agencies knew what was coming in advance and they didn’t share this information. Russia did.
However, even Erdogan knows they didn’t plan or orchestrate it. As support of this I would offer that Erdogan himself offered to send Turkish troops into Syria in support of the Americans just a couple of weeks after the coup. He was quite vocal about wanting to work with the US.
Now, consider that; if you truly believed a group or nation tried to have you killed, would you support them, ever? But the damage has been done: Erdogan controls the press and almost all Turkish citizens are sure the US was behind the attempted coup.
So let us go back to our question: why should you care? For one thing, Turkey is a moderate, Muslim nation: a bridge between Europe and the Middle East in almost every way. This allows Turkey to play an important moderating influence.
Turkey can play the roll of peace-maker or war monger. With a powerful, NATO Army, Turkey can more or less do as it pleases in much of the Middle East and there is almost nothing anyone can do about it.
With the ugly exception of the Kurds, Turkey has shown moderation in this sphere.
Perhaps the biggest weapon in the Turkish arsenal is its refugee population. Greece only thinks it has a refugee problem. Turkey could destabilize most of Europe by unleashing millions and millions of immigrants on nations unable able to adsorb the population they already have. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel would certainly be among the first to fall. It is easy to imagine far-right governments sweeping to power all across the continent. A radicalized, far-right Germany is not something anyone wants.
Yeah, you care…
Erdogan wins – why should you care?
The man has gained sweeping new powers, extending his-iron-fisted grip over Turkey, following the presidential elections. Total authority is now in Erdogan’s hands at the expense of the the Turkish parliament and the judiciary.
Effectively now a dictator, I have no doubt that if 96% of the population had voted against him, he still would have won. Under what is now a new constitution, he could continue his dictatorship for another ten years.
You should care about this because this man is following a well-known path… he offered hope to his people, rescuing the economy of his country to the extent that the world recession of just ten years ago was met by Turkey’s GDP actually increasing. Then he increased his powers to the extent that he now has become a dictator. The rule of law has been constantly eroded, and human rights violations include the imprisonment of hundreds of journalists and opposition members.
So just think about Germany in the thirties.
Many people now think of Erdogan as the Hitler of the 21st century. And it’s hard to disagree.
So support the guy with a very loud voice, who hates minorities, imprisons his opponents, and claims he, and only he, alone, can fix things.
What the fuck could possibly go wrong?