The Turks and Mr. Erdogan

The Turks and Mr. Erdogan

Erdogan
Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938). Turkey could use him today. (Wiki­me­dia)

The Hills­dale Col­lege Alas­ka cruise aimed to edu­cate, and so it did. I learned more from David Gold­man about Erdo­gan, Turkey and the Mid­dle East in an hour than from every­body else com­bined over the years.

The Author

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 is a reg­u­lar on CNBC’s The Kud­low Report

The Book

Goldman’s lat­est book is enti­tled, How Civ­i­liza­tions Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too). I tried to buy it on the spot, but so heavy were sales that I had to order a copy. I haven’t yet read it, so I will quote what learned peo­ple say:

“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

The key mes­sage in Goldman’s talk was the con­tract­ing demo­graph­ics of the Islam­ic world. This may not be as wel­come news as some might assume. The Ira­ni­ans, for exam­ple, are well aware of the com­ing decline in birthrates. He explained the rea­sons, which are detailed in his book. That means their geopo­lit­i­cal objec­tives have a rel­a­tive­ly short lead time—and could make them, in the short run, all the more dan­ger­ous. There are fur­ther obser­va­tions about birthrates in places like Israel, Pales­tine and Europe which will be of inter­est to think­ing per­sons of what­ev­er polit­i­cal per­sua­sion.

Mr. Erdogan’s Coup

One of our Crys­tal wait­ers was a bright young Turk, whom we soon engaged in a polit­i­cal chat. It isn’t often that we talk to Turks just recent­ly removed from their coun­try. This man was well read and eas­i­ly engaged our atten­tion. 
Nat­u­ral­ly, one of my first ques­tions was: who engi­neered the recent coup in Turkey, which attempt­ed to throw out Pres­i­dent Recep Erdo­gan and return to the tra­di­tion­al sec­u­lar state found­ed in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk).
“Oh, that’s easy,” our Turk­ish wait­er said. It was Erdo­gan him­self! It was a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty for him to clean house.” But David Gold­man said no, it was the mil­i­tary, who did not plan well and exe­cut­ed worse.

The Result…

Whether it was planned by Erdo­gan or his oppo­si­tion, the coup attempt was just what the boss­man need­ed. Der Spiegel described the after­math (Fethul­lah Gülen is Erdogan’s con­ve­nient straw man, an exiled dis­senter holed up in Penn­syl­va­nia)…

Erdo­gan has had over 2000 sol­diers arrest­ed and sev­er­al tens of thou­sands of civ­il ser­vants have been fired. 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 were forced to resign as were the deans of all of Turkey’s uni­ver­si­ties. Aca­d­e­mics and sci­en­tists are no longer allowed to leave the coun­try. Now, though, in the wake of the failed coup, what remains of pub­lic oppo­si­tion is like­ly to dis­ap­pear entire­ly.

Some in the West, and not just the West, might say in rela­tion to Erdo­gan 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 Erdo­gan? 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. And courage seems to be in short sup­ply these days.

 

Churchill’s Wisdom

If there is one area of polit­i­cal agree­ment left 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 has had lip ser­vice since the Bush years but is nev­er seri­ous­ly attempt­ed. 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 Erdo­gan a loy­al friend, and fre­quent­ly loan him lots of mon­ey.

“You’ve got it just back­wards,” said our Turk­ish wait­er.

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