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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Erdogan Moves Turkey Closer To The Edge (Part I)

Link: A. Erdogan Blames Europe For Paris Attacks
          B. Troubling Comments By Turkey's President
          C. Turkey Purges The Military
          D. Turkish Intel Arming Al-Qaida In Syria?

Turkish Flag
The more President Recep Erdogan aligns Turkey with the cause of Radical Islam, the more I feel my heart breaking.  You see, I am a Turkophile.  I studied Ottoman history when I was younger, and have enjoyed a number of visits to Turkey.  One of the most startling impressions I recall during my initial trip to Turkey, was that the Turkish people appeared to be much more European than "Middle Eastern" (forgive the use of that term).  I had spent time in Jordan and the Gulf States, and also in Lebanon.  I expected Turks to be similar in appearance and culture to Jordanians and Egyptians, but I was mistaken.  I had no trouble imagining the Turkish people living in Greece, or the Balkans.  In fact, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Turks do live in the Balkans, in Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  A substantial number of Turks also live in the Thrace region of Greece, although no where near the numbers who inhabited Thessaloniki at the turn of the century 1900.  Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and its subsequent disposal in the bonfire of history (1922), Turkey's new leader was determined to steer a modern, secular path for new Turkish state.  Kemal Ataturk was successful at just about every turn, as the people were more than ready for his message of peace, accountability and reform.  Turkey managed to stay neutral during the Second World War (not declaring war on Germany until February 23, 1945).  The Turkish people were in no position (or mood) for another World War, and they used peacetime to expand and diversify the Turkish economy, reform the educational system, and rewrite the tax codes.  When first taking power, Ataturk decided to end the Turkish habit of wearing the Fez.  He was successful, and it became acceptable for women to dress in the European style.  Ataturk was so successful because basically the Turkish people were of one mind.  They wanted to put the rigid, excessively conservative traditions of the Ottomans back into the seventeenth century, where they belonged.  The economy of Turkey slowly began to resemble its European neighbors, as hard-work, determination and dedication became the keys to personal success.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Turkey took a hit in the international press because of the amount of hashish that was being grown and exported out of Turkey.  As an Example, the Turkish Courts locked up a few European (and one very vocal American) smugglers and threw away the key.  The Turks thought that they were responding appropriately, but instead, the curse of "The Midnight Express" continued to damage Turkey's international reputation and tourism for at least a decade.

Over the past three decades, the Turkish economy has experienced its share of highs and
Flag of NATO
lows.  Fortunately, the highs outnumber the lows. At times, the Turkish economy has been a juggernaut.  Even after the end of the Cold War, when the newly free economies of Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary were expected to stand out, Turkey continued to double other European nations in percentage of GDP growth.  The Turkish people do not shy away from hard work, and Turkey seems to be permanently poised on the precipice of developing a full-scale European style economy.  The EU is waiting for just such an indication to move the Turks closer to EU membership.  Roughly fifteen years ago, the Turkish government made a huge statement by normalizing relations with Israel and beginning a series of joint military exercises.  The west and NATO were thrilled with this development, because it confirmed in their minds what they had hoped: that Turkey, regardless of its democratically-elected government, was still controlled by the pro-west, secular Military High Command.  The Turkish Army had already exhibited its willingness to remove a democratically-elected government or two, if they weren't pleased with the direction of the country.  For the most part, the Turkish people seemed content with the "backstop" provided by the Generals.  The United States/NATO, with bases in Turkey and missiles on Turkish territory pointed at the USSR, were only too happy to train and equip what had become an outstanding armed forces.

Fast-forward to 2015.  Sometime since the turn of the millennium, the Turkish people have become more comfortable with religion in their politics.  When Recep Erdogan was first elected Prime Minister in 2003 (he had been mayor of Istanbul from 1994-98), everyone was aware that his political party was sympathetic to some of the groups on the
Putin, Erdogan, and Berlusconi 2005; source:
religious right.  But Erdogan played his cards like a master.  He was patient, and used the time to flirt with the west and the EU, all the while insulating the Turkish bureaucracy and military with his sycophants.  Erdogan had a plan, and it required that he stay in office until 2014, at which time he would run for president (successfully).  He didn't miss a beat; all the way, Erdogan loyalists started showing up in the police and intelligence agencies, on the bench, in the different branches of the military, and as political strong-men around Turkey proper.  By 2010, Erdogan felt safe enough to speak ill of the west and the EU.  The United States was next on his list, and the end of the good relations with Israel was only a matter of time.  What a far cry from Erdogan at his initial inauguration in 2003, when he spoke so respectfully of the EU and Turkey's rightful place in the Union.  Erdogan began to create a new foreign policy for Turkey: one that appears headed for the end of Turkish membership in NATO.  It's safe to say that unless something happens very soon that changes the direction of Turkish politics, the idea of Turkey being a member of the EU is nothing more than a joke.  What I find fascinating, is that Erdogan appears to be replicating what Hitler achieved in 1933-39.  Erdogan is determined to create a strong Turkey, so strong that alliances can be made at the moment and discarded when no longer needed.  He wants a rebirth of the nationalism that coincided with the Ottoman Empire at it's zenith, and he is to be the new Suleiman the Magnificent.  Just as Hitler discreetly promoted anti-Jewish and anti-minority movements, Erdogan quietly (but obviously) encourages right-wing groups to attack U.S. sailors and march against foreign influence in Turkey.  His lasting campaign has been internal, as he begins a determined assault on the traditionally non-aligned, vocal Turkish press.  Last year, a scandal involving corruption and persons close to Erdogan, almost brought down the government.  As I write this, the bill has come due.  Journalists have been arrested, dailies shut down, and untold numbers of persons threatened.  This pattern seems so familiar.  In the past, the west and the Turkish people could have relied upon the military to return the balance by staging a coup and replacing now-President Erdogan.  But that part of his plan has already gone into affect.  Erdogan purged the military hierarchy in 2013, and today one in five Turkish Generals sit in prison (see Link C for details).  The details concerning the prosecutor's case against hundreds of military officers is much too complicated for this blog.  But I've read just about every document I can find, and this is without doubt a well-planned and flawlessly executed operation to neuter the Turkish military.  The only Generals and Admirals left on the General Staff are cowed yes-men and Erdogan Sycophants.  Again, just like Hitler.  (End of Part I)

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