Letter to the editor: A case for Turkey's coup
A case for Turkey's coup
If China's economy is "capitalist with Chinese characteristics" then perhaps Turkey can best be described as "democratic with Turkish characteristics." While no modern democracy is perfect, Turkey in particular seems to have established their own peculiar pattern for democratic subsistence: a decennial ousting of political leadership.
In this way, the recent showing of Turkish military force comes as little surprise. And though it is rightly met with global apprehension and fears of bloodshed, it might also be well considered as an exercise in one of Turkish democracy's most important features.
In a paper entitled The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East, MidEast expert and professor at Brandeis University, Eva Bellin, argues that authoritarianism in the Middle East has been maintained through wellfunded, patrimonial coercive apparatuses. That is to say, democracy has failed to take hold in many countries, at least in part, because of a system in which militaries are tightly wedded to the will of corrupt, dictatorial governments. If her argument is accepted, and I believe it should be, then the
Turkish military's continued assertion of independence should be lauded.
Turkey's previous military interventions have always reestablished a process of democratic rule and, though at times exacerbated civilian violence, have themselves been largely bloodless. The precedent for this spans almost every decade from Turkey's opening to political pluralism in 1950 to today (1971 and 1997 have both been called coups "by memorandum").
Turkey's first military coup toppled Adnan Menderes, a member of the Islamic Democratic Party, in 1960. Menderes' suppression of opposition voices and newspapers had worked to shift the political landscape to a single party system – an existential threat to the just decadeold democracy.
Erdogan, too, has shown an increasingly unnerving hunger for power consolidation in recent years. His 12 year tenure as Prime Minister and 2014 election to President, amidst questions of vote rigging, felt suspect even before he started pushing for a constitution with broader executive authority. His installation earlier this year of a chairman who declared, "My honorable president, we swear that your passion is our passion, your cause is our cause, your path is our path," did nothing to assuage concerns. His self-adoration and suspicions of his own closest allies (like former Prime Minister Davutoglu) lean uncomfortably Stalinish.
Does that mean it's always nationally advantageous for a military to throw a bad leader from office? Of course not. But the TAF happens to be well-practiced at it.
More will be revealed in Turkey this week, but if a strong and institutionalized military is an important component for thwarting authoritarianism in the Middle East, we should be worried about the way things have played out so far. Democracy with Turkish characteristics is better than no democracy at all.
— Carly Reilly Manchester
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