Turkey: The Mother of Revolutions
by Eric Margolis: Battle
Stations. Battle Stations. The Red Chinese Navy Is Coming at Flank
The most important
revolution to occur in the Mideast has taken place with little notice
or understanding in the west. The Muslim world’s uprisings against
dictatorship did not begin in Tunisia, but in Turkey.
The first seeds
of revolution in Turkey were planted in 2002 when its Justice and
Development Party began the long, arduous battle against eight decades
of disguised military dictatorship.
the importance of the 12 June Turkish elections, step back for a
moment to distant 1960 when I was in high school in Switzerland.
A Turkish classmate
named Turgut told me, tears in his eyes, "The generals hanged
my daddy!" His father had been a cabinet minister in the government
recently overthrown by a military coup.
Turkish armed forces, NATO’s second biggest after the US, have mounted
four military coups since 1950. Turkey’s current constitution, which
facilitates military intervention in politics, was written by the
military after its 1980 coup.
the era of national hero turned strongman, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,
Turkey has been run by its powerful military behind a thin façade
of squabbling politicians. In the process, it suffered widescale
political violence, Kurdish secessionism, rigged elections, and
endless, ruinous financial crises and the constant threat of war
liked to point to pre-2002 Turkey as the ideal Muslim state. "Why
can’t those Arabs be more like the sensible Turks?" was a refrain
often heard in Washington. Americans chose to ignore, or simply
failed to see, that Turkey was an iron-fisted military dictatorship.
to change in 2002 when the new Justice and Development Party (AKP)
led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul (today president) won
an historic electoral victory. The shift from the traditional leftists
and rightist Kemalist parties was due to a major demographic shift.
Rural and middle class Turks began moving into the cities, diluting
the political and economic power of the minority secular elite made
up of the military, big business, media, academia, and judiciary.
Muslim religious establishment was kept under tight security control.
Under Ataturk and his successors, Islam, the bedrock of Turkish
culture and ethos, was savagely attacked, nearly destroyed and brought
under state control – just as the Russian Orthodox Church was during
called "the deep government" – hard rightists, security
organizations, gangsters, the rich elite, and rabid nationalists
-wielded power and crushed dissenters.
AK called for
Islamic political principles: welfare for the poor and old, fighting
corruption, ethical political leaders who heeded their own people,
good relations with neighbors. Turkey’s right and its military allies
screamed that their nation was about to fall to Iranian-style Islamists,
or be torn apart by Kurdish rebels.
In fact, AK’s
decade of rule has given Turkey its longest period of steadily improving
human rights, stunning economic growth, financial stability, and
Under AK, Turkey
has moved closer to the European Union’s legal norms than, for example,
new members Bulgaria and Rumania. Even so, French and German conservatives
insist Turkey will never be accepted in the EU. Europe – particularly
its farmers – does not want 75 million mostly Muslim Turks. Nor
competition from Turkey’s lower cost, superior agricultural products,
and its fast-growing industrial sector.
by outsiders, AK has relentlessly pushed Turkey’s reactionary military
back to its barracks. This long struggle culminated in attempts
by the military, known as the Ergenekon affaire, to again overthrow
the civilian government.
The plot was
broken: numbers of high-raking officers were arrested and put on
trial. So were a score of journalists and media figures involved
in the plot – probably too many. Investigators are examining questionable
arms deals between Turkey’s military and Israel.
the power of Turkey’s generals, who were closely allied to the US
military establishment and Israel’s Likud party. In fact, the Pentagon
often had more influence over Turkey than its civilian leaders.
Until AK, the US nurtured bitter Turkish hostility to Iran, Syria,
Hezbullah, Hamas, and, at times, Iraq, and an artificial friendship
with Israel that dismayed many Turks.
has changed. Popular prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, backed
by a majority of voters, has turned Turkey into the Mideast’s role
model for successful democracy, and unleashed the latent economic
power of this nation of 75 million.
foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, engineered a "zero problems"
policy that vastly improved Turkey’s relations with all its formerly
hostile neighbors, excepting Armenia and Greek-Cyprus. Turkey’s
foreign policy now reflects Turkish rather than US and Israeli interests.
problems" opened the Mideast’s doors to Turkish business, restoring
Turkey to the former dominant regional leadership it held before
World War I.
support for the Palestinians led to a bitter clash with Israel.
As a result, Turkey has become the target of fierce attacks by the
US Congress and media for no longer being responsive to Israeli
interests. The Wall Street Journal, the North American voice
of Israel’s hard right Likud Party, has led fierce attacks against
by the right that Erdogan is turning Turkey into an Islamic dictatorship
are false. The stable, democratic, productive Turkey he is building
is a boon for all concerned. Istanbul used to be the Paris of the
Muslim world. It’s returning to that role again.
electoral victory fell short of allowing him to rewrite the obsolete
constitution without consensus from other parties, but his victory
means years more democratic and economic progress for this vitally
important nation that will play a key role in stabilizing and building
a new, modern Mideast.
has any sense, it will join hands with the new Turkey and help promote
its sensible, highly successful brand of gentle Islamic government,
political enfranchisement and democracy as a role model for the
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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