Saturday, March 06, 2010
Turkey has democratically elected an Islamic government. It is quite possible that it always would have were it not for the Turkish army. The constitution specifically enjoins them to intervene in the political process to maintain the secular regime Ataturk formed.
The arrest and indictment of top military figures in Turkey last week precipitated potentially the most severe crisis since Atatürk founded the republic in 1923. The weeks ahead will probably indicate whether the country continues its slide toward Islamism or reverts to its traditional secularism. The denouement has major implications for Muslims everywhere.
Turkey's military has long been both the state's most trusted institution and the guarantor of Atatürk's legacy, especially his secularism. Devotion to the founder is not some dry abstraction but a very real and central part of a Turkish officer's life; as journalist Mehmet Ali Birand has documented, cadet-officers hardly go an hour without hearing Atatürk's name invoked.
On four occasions between 1960 and 1997, the military intervened to repair a political process gone awry. On the last of these occasions, it forced the Islamist government of Necmettin Erbakan out of power
Our view should be conflicted. On the one hand as a democrat I believe even Islamic nutters have a right to win if that is what the country wants. On the other hand what are the chances that an Islamic regime which purges the military is going to feel a duty to hold a free election next time. Islamic regimes, not the same as governments in Islamic countries, have a very poor record in maintaining democracy, or human rights, or freedom or indeed economic competence. It seems unlikely such a regime is in the people's interests but that may be their problem.
It is certain it is not in ours. Turkey, while at the top of 3rd world countries, is the world's 17th richest, indeed I previously listed it as a country which could build a space elevator for the level of effort the US put into the Moon landings. It has a fast growing population which will soon make it larger than Germany. It has a military history of considerable toughness - from the days of Lepanto & their empire reaching the walls of Vienna to the reputation their troops had in the Korean war. An aggressive Islamic Turkey would be a much bigger problem than Iran & at least an order of magnitude more than Iraq ever was.
Much of the reason the Turkish military has not acted to dissolve the government & hang a few leaders must be Turkey's application to join the EU. Turkey applied to join back in the 1950s when it was just 6 countries & was promised it could join "some day" (this was the cold war when anybody who wasn't communist was welcome) but membership has always been put off. It should be obvious why. Turkey is far poorer than other members, much larger than the other poor members, not part of the European tradition & indeed, except for Constantinople, not part of Europe at all. With Turkey in the EU we would have 80 million dirt poor Moslems, eager to vote for an Islamic republic everywhere, able to come here. America has always supported Turkish membership since it kept Turkey politically onside & cost them no more than Mexican immigration to the USA costs Britain. However it is clear that not only would Turkish membership be the end of the traditional Europe but that, in making democratic accommodations to the EU they have emasculated their armed force's role in society & thereby opened the door to Islamic extremism.
The EU should say that while free trade with Turkey is desirable, EU membership is not. We should then stop meddling in their laws. I do not support overthrowing democracy in Turkey, if democracy is indeed the Islamic aim, but I do not insist on intervening to stop it happening. The problem may be insoluble but it can be & is being made worse by EU "human rights" bureaucrats (whose concept of human rights includes supporting murder, genocide, child sex slavery & dissecting living human beings in Kosovo so they have no right to morally censure anybody). It is difficult to think of any case since the end of WW2 when intervening in another country has been to their benefit & hardly any where it has benefited the people (as opposed to crony capitalists) of the intervening country.
The current drift leads towards EU membership someday of an aggressive Islamic extremist horde which would destroy both Europe & Turkey. If we cannot do good we should at least honestly say membership is not on & that we will stop meddling destructively in their society.
Labels: International politics