Administration hails 'back door Islamist coup' in Turkey

There may be practical reasons for the Obama administration to support Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's victory in a referendum on numerous constitutional changes that opponents charge is little better than a "back door Islamist coup." After all, the striped pants set at the State Department abhors instability in an ally more than just about anything - including, apparently, an attempt by Erdogan to establish Islamic law-lite in Turkey.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Erdogan's party has deep Islamic roots but, as J.E. Dyer points out, has been stymied to some degree in carrying out its Islamic vision by a combination of the courts and the military.

The reforms will seriously reduce these checks (for example, the constitutional court has been expanded from 11 to 17 judges, with the Prime Minister to select 14 of them). They are thus democratic in a sense, but they are also ominous given Erdogan's lack of respect for free speech, a free press, and women's rights. Dyer is thus correct in wondering why the U.S. government hailed the results of this referendum.

The referendum results are particularly ominous for Israel. First, although this weekend's vote was not explicitly about Erdogan's foreign policy, it was to some extent a referendum on all of his major policies. And one of his signature policies has been to break Turkey's traditional ties with Israel and to replace them with a belligerent posture (the Turkish government effectively supported the Gaza flotilla campaign, for example). Second, the Turkish military has been a major force in favor of these ties. By diminishing the military's role in Turkish politics, Erdogan helps clear the way for a break.

Erdogan has also been cozying up to the Iranians of late, going so far as making the statement that Iran has a right to develop "peaceful nuclear energy" and using ever harsher rhetoric against former ally Israel.

Turkey has always been caught between the west and the Middle East. They still wish to join the EU but it is doubtful they can get the votes given the changes in Turkish society Erdogan has in mind.

Someone might want to ask Obama; what's there to celebrate here?