The Lessons of Turkish Backsliding

Turkey has long been held up as an exemplar of a model Islamic state; secular, moderate, democratic, and collegial. Butt he inherent contradictions of an "Islamic republic" may be coming home to roost -- putting the lie to secular, moderate, and collegial.

Caroline Glick's piece in the Jerusalem Post, "How Turkey was Lost", is a cautionary tale about confusing elections with democracy. She describes Ankara's back sliding since the election of Recep Tuyyip Erdgan, head of the formerly outlawed Islamist AKP. Since Erdgan came to power in 2202, Turkey has given Hamas a reception usually reserved for heads of state, eliminated the visa requirements for Syrian travelers to Turkey, and now cancelled air exercises with Israel and begun joint military maneuvers with Syria. Glick seems to believe that the Turks have cast their lot with the Shiite Crescent. If what she suggests is true; we now have an Islamist fox in the NATO henhouse. Can membership in the European Union be far behind?

The irony of elections in a country with an Islamist majority is that it often represents the camel's nose under the tent; opening the door for opportunists to hold the one election that may be the last. On this score, Algeria evokes hot flashes of déjà vu. Islamists may be fanatics, but they're not morons; they will use Western institutions to undo apostates and infidels. Such are the vicissitudes of democracy. And such is the dilemma also in Afghanistan; we have a choice between the corruptible Karzai and the incorruptible Taliban, Mullah Omar. Not too many good options in this neighborhood. If Omar ever ran in a UN supervised election; he might win in a landslide.

The big problem with Afghanistan, as with Iraq before, is its potential for distraction. The only accomplishment of elections in Iraq was to reverse the sectarian poles - and assist Iraq in becoming the second Shiite nation in the Crescent, another potential ally for theocratic Tehran.

Land-locked Afghanistan is not an immediate, or should we say proximate, threat to America or Israel. Afghanistan has six neighbors; five of which are Muslim states, all with a vested interest in neutering the Taliban and al Qaeda.  As Bernard Lewis has reminded us so many times; Islamic fundamentalism is more of a threat to dar al Islam (the Muslim world) than it is to us.

Elections in Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan may prove to be meaningless. Another UN supervised circus proves nothing. We should turn nation building over to the natives. If we can't influence electoral probity in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or the Emirates; why do we think we can do it in Kabul?   With Turkey now backsliding, the European Union pandering, and the White House apologizing; we have to ask ourselves why another American kid should die in any Muslim backwater to underwrite another election.  Indeed, we need to know why we need to save Islam from itself.   

The difference between the Bush and Obama brands of Islamic electoral illusion is negligible.   Glick's analysis of Turkish irredentism is a cautionary tale.  Turkey, on a larger scale, is similar to Algeria; Islamists will use elections to come to power, but their objective is not pluralism or any notion of democracy as we know it.
Turkey has long been held up as an exemplar of a model Islamic state; secular, moderate, democratic, and collegial. Butt he inherent contradictions of an "Islamic republic" may be coming home to roost -- putting the lie to secular, moderate, and collegial.

Caroline Glick's piece in the Jerusalem Post, "How Turkey was Lost", is a cautionary tale about confusing elections with democracy. She describes Ankara's back sliding since the election of Recep Tuyyip Erdgan, head of the formerly outlawed Islamist AKP. Since Erdgan came to power in 2202, Turkey has given Hamas a reception usually reserved for heads of state, eliminated the visa requirements for Syrian travelers to Turkey, and now cancelled air exercises with Israel and begun joint military maneuvers with Syria. Glick seems to believe that the Turks have cast their lot with the Shiite Crescent. If what she suggests is true; we now have an Islamist fox in the NATO henhouse. Can membership in the European Union be far behind?

The irony of elections in a country with an Islamist majority is that it often represents the camel's nose under the tent; opening the door for opportunists to hold the one election that may be the last. On this score, Algeria evokes hot flashes of déjà vu. Islamists may be fanatics, but they're not morons; they will use Western institutions to undo apostates and infidels. Such are the vicissitudes of democracy. And such is the dilemma also in Afghanistan; we have a choice between the corruptible Karzai and the incorruptible Taliban, Mullah Omar. Not too many good options in this neighborhood. If Omar ever ran in a UN supervised election; he might win in a landslide.

The big problem with Afghanistan, as with Iraq before, is its potential for distraction. The only accomplishment of elections in Iraq was to reverse the sectarian poles - and assist Iraq in becoming the second Shiite nation in the Crescent, another potential ally for theocratic Tehran.

Land-locked Afghanistan is not an immediate, or should we say proximate, threat to America or Israel. Afghanistan has six neighbors; five of which are Muslim states, all with a vested interest in neutering the Taliban and al Qaeda.  As Bernard Lewis has reminded us so many times; Islamic fundamentalism is more of a threat to dar al Islam (the Muslim world) than it is to us.

Elections in Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan may prove to be meaningless. Another UN supervised circus proves nothing. We should turn nation building over to the natives. If we can't influence electoral probity in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or the Emirates; why do we think we can do it in Kabul?   With Turkey now backsliding, the European Union pandering, and the White House apologizing; we have to ask ourselves why another American kid should die in any Muslim backwater to underwrite another election.  Indeed, we need to know why we need to save Islam from itself.   

The difference between the Bush and Obama brands of Islamic electoral illusion is negligible.   Glick's analysis of Turkish irredentism is a cautionary tale.  Turkey, on a larger scale, is similar to Algeria; Islamists will use elections to come to power, but their objective is not pluralism or any notion of democracy as we know it.