Friday, May 25, 2007

Turkey, should we be worried?

I have shamelessly lifted this from jerry Pournelle's site: CHAOS MANOR MUSINGS.

Jerry as many of you know, is a prolific SF author. He is also IMHO one of the worlds smartest persons, and entertaining as hell. For your edification, I suggest,You pop on over and visit.

The Crisis in Turkey
Turkey has long been an ally of the United States, and is the closest thing Israel has to an ally in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The current constitutional crisis has long-reaching implications in the current cultural wars.
Turkey is a curious land, a blend of a modern secular state integrated with a medieval fundamentalist Muslim nation. The secular-religious divisions are more important in Turkey than religious or even ethnic divisions.
Modern Turkey was created by Mustapha Kemal known as Kemal Ataturk, a general under the old monarchy who abolished the Sultanate, decreed a secular state, and became the founder of the modern nation. He outlawed Moslem dress including wearing the Fez (that odd hat that Shriners like) and burka, and set the Turkish Army as the protector of the constitution. The officer corps became a brotherhood devoted to that end, and Turkish enlisted personnel are educated to that belief. The army guards the constitution.
So far this is hardly new; Aristotle and Plato describe "rule of honor" which in practice is rule by the officer corps, and rule by military junta is common in history. It may start as protection of a constitution or a form of government, but the temptation to run things is great, and soon the military has its nose in everyone's affairs. Startlingly that has not happened in Turkey. Since Ataturk the Army has intervened in political affairs. It has hanged prime ministers and jailed corrupt politicians. It then retires to barracks and allows new politicians to govern. The result has been remarkably successful. Turks enjoy considerable freedoms and liberties that are unusual in neighboring countries.
The new rise of Islam did not neglect Turkey, and Islamists hold a majority of seats in the Turkish Parliament. This makes the Army nervous, but so far it has not interfered. Now, however, the Parliament wants to promote an Islamist to the Presidency. The President of Turkey is Chief of State, Commander in Chief of the Army, and holds the powers of veto and judicial appointment. He does not otherwise participate in government -- that is the business of the prime minister -- but the position is one key to the surprising development of the Army as protector of the constitution without constant interference in political affairs. That is what is at stake in the current constitutional crisis: will an Islamist become President? The Army is not going to let that happen. Alas, every time the Army must come out of barracks and interfere with government, there is a new temptation to do more: to actually govern. This is a powerful temptation, and one that must be resisted -- has been resisted since the days of Ataturk.
None of this is particularly new, and need not be an actual crisis, except that Turkey has applied for entry into the European Union. In my judgment that would be a terrible thing for both the EU and Turkey, but I quickly add that I haven't done a serious analysis, and I start with extreme prejudice against the bureaucratic state being created in Brussels by unelected civil "servants" who have become a new aristocracy that will soon be hereditary. (That is, bureaucrats send their children to the right schools, promote each other and each others children, and so forth: offices are not hereditary, but positions in the civil service might as well be; this always happens. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy always prevails.)
Worse than importing a million pages of bureaucratic regulations -- I am not making that up -- would be the Jacobin notion that Turkey must get rid of the Army's interference in political affairs and cease to be the guardian of the secularist constitution. For reasons beyond my ken, the EU bureaucrats actually welcome the notion of including a non-secular -- i.e. an Islamist -- nation within the EU. The result of doing that is predictable.
The new President of France has indicated that he does not want Turkey in the EU -- a triumph of actual politics over the EU bureaucrats -- and that should have an effect. The Turkish Army, now aware that nothing it can do will gain it admission to the EU, is free to act according to the pact they have all sworn to themselves and the memory of Kemal Ataturk. I suspect it will now do so.


Idaho Joe said...

Thanks for the hat tip to Mr. Pournelle, his site looks great. I'll add it to my must read list.

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