by Barry Rubin
I'm not going to bash or rant about a Newsweek article about
Here's the title: "The Army Is Beaten: Why the U.S. should hail the Islamists." Yes, we should thank the Islamists for taking over
"The political logic should be simple. The arrest of a shadowy group of generals for allegedly plotting a bloody coup should be a victory for justice. The end of military meddling in politics should be a victory for democracy. And greater democracy should make a country more liberal and more pro-European."
Each of these sentences makes a false assumption and must be examined a bit.
Sentence one: Arresting military officers is only a victory for justice if they are guilty. Why does the author assume they are guilty? In fact, the claims are ludicrous. That a group of officers created a 5000 page plan for a coup that involved attacking mosques and massive attacks on civilians. It is one of a series of such accusations for which no real evidence has been presented, in which a widely disparate group of people have been arrested as alleged conspirators when their sole connection is that they are critics of the government.
This is ridiculously gullible. It's like the famous sentence by a newsweekly magazine that even if the Hitler diaries were forgeries (they were) that would tell us a great deal about the history of the time. If in fact the arrests were trumped-up to tame the army so that the current regime can impose a dictatorship in practice it was not a victory for justice but for injustice. Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and Islamists in general lie a lot (and a lot more than democratic government) so why should they be taken at their word, especially when any serious examination of evidence shows the truth.
Sentence two: Of course, in general, keeping the army out of politics is a victory for democracy, but that ignores the specific history of
The Turkish army is not like those of the
For example, there is no awareness that the regime is seizing control of the media; that the party leader (which means the prime minister for the ruling party) simply picks candidates for parliament as he pleases; that the reforms have strengthened the prime minister's power and not parliamentary democracy; and that women are being forced out of high positions. Merely weakening the army doesn't mean more democracy when in almost every other respect there is less.
Sentence three: If indeed—as is the case—the regime is systematically cracking down on the free media and imposing its control over all the institutions. This is not leading to greater but to less democracy. There should be a lot more reporting on what's happening within the country instead of just repeating the regime's claims.
Indeed, the author states:
"And with the last major obstacle to the ruling AK Party's power gone, Turkey's conservative prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be free to implement his vision of a more Islamic Turkey. More democracy, then, doesn't necessarily lead to more liberalism, either."
The assumption here is that this is what the Turkish people want. Yet it should be noted there are some big problems for that claim.
Moreover, many or most Turks who voted for the AK weren't doing so because they wanted Islamism—as public opinion surveys clearly show--but because they thought (mistakenly, even according to this author) that it was a mildly conservative party.
And finally, the AK is seizing control over institutions so as to be sure that it will never lose another election. It is destroying Turkish democracy, a point made rather obvious by a long list of such actions over non-military institutions like the civil service, courts, and media. The author—and many others—are simply taking the regime's word for it and ignoring what the government is actually doing.
The author concludes by saying: "It's also clear that
Then, this unusually candid if wrong author explains:
"How do we know? The AK Party says so, and it has no real options. There's no rival alliance, not with
Incidentally, this "no option" argument is the root of a huge amount of confusion in the
And one of the key factors in this process is that--rightly or wrongly--they think they are winning so why should they change course or make compromises? And certain other ideas are calculated into their list of options: soon
Now of course, the Turkish government doesn't have to say:
So, the article concludes, "The world would be wise to side with the AK Party, not seek a return of the discredited generals." I'm not sure why the generals are supposed to be discredited by ludicrous accusations orchestrated by an anti-American (in practice) government which needs to destroy them. Rather, it is the current regime in
Still, it's a pretty neat trick when a regime repressing Turkish democracy and increasingly siding with the enemies of the West can convince people in the West that this is a good thing.
Incidentally, the New York Times has only a slightly more nuanced editorial than the Matthews article. Among other things, it take at face value that the story about the military planning a coup was broken by a small "independent" newspaper in
As the theme song to the television show "MASH" put it:
"The game of life is hard to play,
I'm going to lose it anyway,
The losin' card I'll someday lay;
So this is all I have to say...
"That suicide is painless…
And I can take or leave it if I please."
The Western world should reject playing that particular card as its strategy.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and of Turkish Studies journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.