Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Coup that Wasn't

I have to admit I was experiencing mixed feelings when I heard about the attempt to overthrow Erdogan.  It's hard to feel sympathy for a leader whose goal appears to be personal autocracy; who suppresses free expression; who persecutes and jails perceived enemies; who is trying to rewrite his country's constitution to magnify his own power; and who demonstrates frightening paranoid tendencies.  On the other hand, a military dictatorship like that of the 1980s and 1990s was not a particularly good alternative.

Needless to say, my opinions and apprehensions don't matter — but the coup attempt is almost certain to inspire Erdogan to redouble his drive towards authoritarian Islamism in Turkey.  I can't see a paranoid narcissist taking the coup attempt as a signal that, perhaps, he has been pushing a bit too hard and too fast.  He instantly began expanding his enemies list; and, since he couldn't blame the Kurds for this one, he has fallen back on blaming Fethullah Gulen, who almost certainly was not involved.   As John Kerry observed, “I must say it does not appear to be a very brilliantly planned or executed event.” A coup attempt by Gulen's people would not have been so incredibly inept.

There's another leader in the Middle East whose resemblance to Erdogan is striking: Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu is driven by political cupidity rather than paranoia, but the likely outcomes for both Israel and Turkey may be distressingly similar.

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