[Marxism] Is Turkey Leaving the West? (from "Foreign Affairs")

Emrah Goker antidoxic at gmail.com
Thu Oct 29 05:28:36 MDT 2009

A few cents from here, Ankara:

I don't condone ad hominem attacks on authors before commenting on
what they have actually said, but as a trained sociologist, I do
believe that organizational / network affiliations have the power to
shape our political convictions. Cagaptay (author of the FA article)
has been an astute anti-Islamist and anti-AKP analyst, from a hawkish
perspective. His views have always been in alignment with the official
line of Israeli foreign policy. As far as I know, Washington Institute
for Near East Policy is known for its vicious anti-Arab and
anti-Muslim rhetoric and has ties with AIPAC.[*]

That Turkey is drifting towards the radical wing of the "Muslim World"
is a gross manipulation, which I read as an agit-prop attempt to pull
US public opinion more towards Israel and against Turkey concerning
"leadership in the Middle East". I don't know to what extent Obama and
the State Department are convinced. (From what I gather here, Turkish
Foreign Ministry acts as if encouraged by the US in its recent
initiatives.) I have no sympathy for what AKP stands for in my
country, but (I believe I have written this at length on Marxmail
before) the rank-and-file of the party are neoliberal pragmatists,
perhaps of a more moderate/less crony disposition than Berlusconi.
Their interpretation of the good old religion is socially
conservative, as %70 of citizens vote socially *very* conservative for
the last 30 years. That's the name of the game. But they also are the
most successful centre-right organization so far in terms of
integrating bourgeois-democratic processes with social conservatism in
governing Turkey. There is a divided and weakened nationalist
opposition in front of them, which also helped reinforce their
positions in the bureaucracy and public opinion.

Now with the momentum of electoral support (%40-45 of the voters), AKP
is trying to push a few agendas which further undermines the military
and civilian supporters of old-style Kemalism:

1. Resuscitating the EU integration process.

2. Given the strong possibility that EU doors will remain shut for
Turkey, digging a "strong regional leadership" position in the Middle
East: Recent dances with Armenia, Iran, Syria, Northern Iraq (all
neighbors), Lebanon, and the "close encounters of the democratic kind"
with Turkish Kurds, are all parts of that initiative. Trying to push
Israel out of the way in this "leadership" business is another must.
AKP must be thinking that the Obama administration can be convinced,
and that maybe Israel can be persuaded to cautiously step back, at
least temporarily, as Turkey boasts about being the "Muslim leader for
peace and prosperity". This initiative is not about a fundamentalist
will to unify Sunni Muslims and establish a theocratic empire, this is
stupid. But this is what radical Kemalists believe in, anyway.
Remember: Kemalists hate the Arabic and Armenian East, both for their
culture, and for their "treason" in the pre-Republican era. Whereas
AKP is fond of using the "Ottoman co-existence" rhetoric to justify
the new leadership initiative.

3. Dismantling the domestic radical-Kemalist military and paramilitary

The "paramilitary" part of this dismantling is well underway. By now,
after 7 years, almost the entire police organization is co-opted by
various Sunni denominations which are close to the party organization,
as well as the Fethullah Gülen network. By 2012 (official end of the
current term), I believe that AKP will have total control of the
paramilitary network. There is nothing democratic about that, by the
way. Police violence is on the rise and will become an acute problem
the administration will have to address. At the moment nobody (at
least organizationally) challenges police violence since military
violence and getting rid of it occupies the agenda. As for that tricky
part: I don't think the radical elements in the Army will revolt and
attempt a coup. Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) has been a loyal NATO
sidekick, despite the fact that TAF is not on the same page with NATO
on some issues. First and foremost, the dominant leadership of TAF has
too many economic interests at stake, after all those years of
armament trade, NATO-funded specialist training, etc. There are too
many neoliberal generals today. They may not like AKP culturally, but
they believe in survival, and as cases like Ergenekon dig up the
corpse-stinking dirt of the Turco-Kurdish war, these generals have
negotiated with the government in order to stay clean. Some of the
high-ranking generals have even begun snitching about illegal TAF
schemes to destabilize the government through psychological warfare.

Dismantling radical elements from TAF will not be easy, and will be
incomplete. AKP cannot (as long as the Constitution remains the same)
have its own, religious, socially conservative battalion of officers
in TAF, the way it did in the police organization. I believe there
will be further negotiations, some military heads will roll and TAF
will be contained. There is no way, in the current situation where
there are so many high-profile security leaks, a coup can be organized
and executed. There are elements in the police intelligence and
National Intelligence Organization, close to the government, which
monitor suspicious TAF networks.

So, no, Turkey is not leaving the West, unless the West decides Turkey
is a lost case. It is not becoming a theocracy under AKP. It is still
a hellhole of sexism, discrimination, anti-union policies, poverty and
unemployment, religious zealotry and precarity, like the next
bourgeois-democratic regime in Europe.


[*] Cagaptay is no simple-minded, pro-Army Kemalist. Check around the
net, he has some good critical academic analyses on early Turkish
nation-building and ethnicization of citizenship. I believe he likes
the role of the auto-orientalist analyst who carries "opinion from my
country" to his civilized masters.

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