In the end, though, access remains everything to the press.Combine access journalism with team spirit and you get articles like this one in the New York Times about how the politician who has won four straight general elections in Turkey is anti-democratic for not being Washington’s puppet.
Turkish Leader, Using Conflicts, Cements PowerThat’s rather misleading: the forces against democracy in Turkey were the anti-Muslim pro-Western secularist generals who four times overthrew elected politicians, including as recently as 1997. Of course, perhaps my definition of “democracy” is outdated and during the Obama Administration, democracy is whatever the American secretary of state is for.
By TIM ARANGO OCT. 31, 2014
… Mr. Erdogan has been in power for more than a decade, an Islamist politician and prime minister who was often touted as a role model in the Muslim world for having reconciled his faith with democracy.
But these days Mr. Erdogan stands for something quite different, having essentially pulled a Putin. Like Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, it does not matter which position he holds: He is his nation’s paramount leader. In Turkey, the president is technically second to the prime minister. But in practice, when Mr. Erdogan was elected president in August, he absorbed the power and privilege of the prime minister’s post into his new position.Okay, but unlike in Russia where term limits were a law that Putin evaded, the term limits in Turkey were a rule of the ruling party, not a law of the land. Perhaps that’s a technical point — term limits are a good idea: politicians who enjoy early success when in power usually regress toward the mean, or below — but it’s worth mentioning.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is kind of like Huey Long, the populist governor of the Louisiana until his still-mysterious assassination in 1935. Long was a great governor for his first two years in office, building the infrastructure Louisiana desperately needed. Then, his tax on Standard Oil to pay for it all led to his impeachment. He survived, but, embittered, devoted most of the rest of his life more to waging war on his political enemies rather than helping his constituents.
And like Mr. Putin, who also shifted between the presidency and prime minister’s office, the stronger Mr. Erdogan has grown, the tenser relations have become with the United States.You know, strange as it sounds to American ears, maybe not being America’s poodle is democracy in action?
If you look around the world and try to figure out what is the single most common common denominator of the Will of the People, it’s usually to not get pushed around by foreigners. That’s a big reason why there are 200 countries in the world today.
And these days the foreigners that are most frequently best positioned to push countries around are us Americans. The U.S. government is currently mad at the elected Turkish government for being reluctant to let Kurdish fighters freely cross its border to fight ISIS.
The current Turkish government has been less beastly toward the Kurds in Turkey than several past American-allied Turkish governments. But Turkish leader Erdogan appears to believe that what goes on in Arab lands is of less concern than the territorial integrity of Turkey, and that armed Kurds are the biggest long term threat to break up the country.
This is a famously tragic conundrum: when the Ottoman Empire became the Turkish Republic in 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk prudently gave up claims to Arab lands, which has cost Turkey oil revenues but brought it a lot more peace than it would have if it were still a power in the quarrelsome Arab world. But Ataturk held onto Kurdish-speaking regions and declared them to be “mountain Turks.”
I don’t have a solution for the Kurdish problem. In recent years, the Kurds had been achieving a heartening degree of de facto statehood in Iraq and, recently, Syria by keeping their heads down and minding their own business while their Arab neighbors fell apart. But the rise of of the anti-Kurdish Sunni Arab ISIS has brought the Kurdish Question back to the front-burner.
At the beginning of the year, none of this was assured. Still reeling from the sweeping antigovernment demonstrations of the summer of 2013, Mr. Erdogan was confronted with a wide-ranging corruption scandal that targeted him and his inner circle, prompting many analysts to predict the demise of his government.This was the conspiracy against Erdogan by the Gulen Cult currently in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The Gulenists had taken over the test prep business in Turkey, which allowed them to take over the police, which allowed them to publish wiretaps of Erdogan talking about his house stuffed with colossal amounts of cash from all his crooked construction deals.
Instead, he has used his conflict with Washington and his political enemies as a force to help consolidate power, as he continues to carry out the duties associated with the prime minister. He has rallied his conservative base behind his religiously infused agenda, clashing with United States policy for confronting Islamic State militants, while also blaming foreign interference for the growing catalog of crises he faces. As Turkey’s challenges have magnified — fighting on its border with Syria, strained relations with its NATO allies, pressure on the economy — Mr. Erdogan’s authority has grown only stronger.That does tend to happen when foreign wars impinge upon a peaceful society: people rally around the elected leader, as Americans rallied around George W. Bush in late 2001. Turkey under Erdogan had been following a “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy that allowed breathing room for domestic political discord, but the rise of problems across its southern border and America’s demand that crushing ISIS is the world’s top priority seems to have encouraged Turkish voters to rally around their veteran leader.
In a recent speech, Mr. Erdogan offered an assessment appealing to his religious Sunni Muslim base — and echoed by militants with the Islamic State — that the Middle East crisis stems from the actions of the British and French after World War I, and the borders drawn between Iraq and Syria under the Sykes-Picot pact.Well, yeah, that’s pretty much happening: Arabs and Westerners teaming up to intervene on the fringes of Anatolia.
Mr. Erdogan invoked Sykes-Picot saying, “each conflict in this region has been designed a century ago.” He suggested a new plot was underway, and that “journalists, religious men, writers and terrorists” were the collective reincarnation of T.E. Lawrence, the British diplomat and spy immortalized in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia.”
“It is our duty to explain to the world that there are modern Lawrences who were fooled by a terror organization,” he said, without saying exactly whom he was talking about.Like I’ve said a million times, everybody in Turkey is a conspiracy theorist. That’s because everybody who is anybody in Turkey really is conspiring against their foes.
… Turkey’s continued refusal to allow the United States to use its bases for airstrikes against the Islamic State’s forces in Syria and Iraq — and insistence that the coalition target the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — has laid bare deep divisions between the two countries that have prompted analysts to question Turkey’s reliability as an ally, and some have even suggested that Turkey be expelled from NATO.Only some kind of wacko dictator would avoid getting his country involved in George W. Bush’s Iraq Attaq.
The relationship with Washington has long been uneasy. In 2003, Turkey denied the United States the use of its territory to invade Iraq.
In 2010, the Turks infuriated Washington by voting against United Nations sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, and by working with Brazil to broker a proposed deal with Iran.David Frum could call it the Turko-Brazilian Axis of Inconvenience.