In the light of recent controversy over the right posture to take over Turkey and the Kurds, this three-year-old post seems as instructive as ever. Updated and republished.
David Goldman, Teacher
The 2016 Hillsdale College Alaska cruise aimed to educate, and so it did. I learned more from David Goldman about Erdoğan, Turkey and the Middle East in an hour than from anything I’ve read over the last five years.
David Goldman, a New York economist, is a columnist for First Things magazine and writes under the name “Spengler” for Asia Times Online. Previously he was the global head of credit strategy for Credit Suisse, and head of fixed income research at Bank of America. In addition to his journalism and financial work, he was a regular on CNBC.
Goldman’s book is entitled, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too). Reviewers praised it:
“David Goldman muses on population trends and religion with a breathtaking depth, originality, and panache. Some of his startling but documented predictions: Europe is in its death throes. Muslim demographic collapse will undercut Islamic triumphalism. The United States and Israel will emerge triumphant. And that’s just the start.” —Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum and Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University
“Goldman has explored the political implications of demography with rare insight [to produce] a mind-expanding peek into the likely political future of our planet.” —Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
Mr. Erdoğan’s Coup
Whether planned by Erdoğan or his opposition, the coup attempt worked out well for the bossman. Der Spiegel described the aftermath (Fethullah Gülen is Erdoğan’s convenient straw man, an exiled dissenter holed up in Pennsylvania)…
Erdoğan arrested over 2000 soldiers and fired several tens of thousands of civil servants. Among them are 36,200 teachers and officials in the Education Ministry, 8000 police officers and almost 3000 judges, many of them alleged followers of Gülen. Forty-seven provincial governors resigned, as did the deans of all of Turkey’s universities. Academics and scientists may no longer leave the country. Now, though, in the wake of the failed coup, what remains of public opposition is likely to disappear entirely.
Some might say in relation to Erdoğan something like Henry the Young King said about Thomas Becket: “Who will rid me of this pestilent priest?” He is the definition of a loose cannon. Nobody really knows how deep is his commitment to the Islamic state he says he favors. How to get rid of Erdoğan? Goldman said it was really quite simple: stop looking upon Turkey as a stalwart NATO ally; and stop loaning him money. Of course this would take, er, courage. Maybe someone will find it.
One area of political agreement exists between America’s divided Left and Right. It is that we’ll never make the Middle East over in our image. So what’s the strategy? Well, there is energy independence—which now seems to be accomplished. Beyond that, there’s the strategy Winston Churchill enunciated in 1958 (Mr. Putin seems already to have read his Churchill)….
The Middle East is one of the hardest-hearted areas in the world. It has always been fought over, and peace has only reigned when a major power has established firm influence and shown that it would maintain its will. Your friends must be supported with every vigour and if necessary they must be avenged. Force, or perhaps force and bribery, are the only things that will be respected. It is very sad, but we had all better recognise it. At present our friendship is not valued, and our enmity is not feared. —Churchill by Himself, 439
So. Support your friends, by bribery if necessary. Avoid wars with your enemies, but don’t make life easy for them. At present we hold our collective noses over El-Sisi in Egypt, but declare Erdoğan a loyal friend, and frequently loan him lots of money.
“You’re doing it just backwards,” said our Turkish waiter.