FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Turkey Rising

by RAMZY BAROUD

Many commentators today are basing the success of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the June 12 elections largely on its ability to guide the country through a decade of remarkable growth.

Economic indicators are often seen as the obvious logic behind economic stability – lack thereof. However, they are not enough on their own to reach such sweeping conclusions.

In an article entitled, ‘Look toward Turkey’s economy to understand Erdogan’s re-election’, Ibrahim Ozturk opined: “From 2002 to 2007, Turkey experienced its longest period of uninterrupted economic growth, which averaged 6-7 percent year on year, while annual inflation plummeted. Moreover, the economy proved resilient following the global financial crisis, with growth recovering rapidly.” (Lebanese Daily Star, June 18).

According to Ozturk’s perceptive analysis, the AKP’s success in picking up the pieces of a shattered economy (as a result of the 2001 severe economic ‘crisis’), and the ever-popular Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “appear to have secured democratic political control of Turkey’s military and bureaucracy.” The powerful Turkish military had repeatedly interfered in the country’s politics, leading three military coups which all but destroyed Turkish democracy.

The very promising Turkish political experience, now branded the “Turkish model”, had its many challenges. It took a new generation of Turkish leaders to position their country as a politically stable regional power with a rising economy (the GDP registered an increase of 9 percent in 2010).

Did sound, self-assured policies engender a strong economy, or was economic growth responsible for the political stability (by keeping the military at bay, thus further solidifying Turkey’s democratic experience)?

Libya is an interesting example to consider while reflecting on this question. The North African country, which is currently undergoing an armed revolt and Western-led war, had been scoring high in terms of sheer numbers. Thanks to petroleum-generated revenues, and a small population, Libya has the highest per capita GDP in Africa. Its economic growth has been relatively stunning from 2000 onwards. In 2010, GDP grew by over 10 percent.

For many Libyans however, social justice, distribution of wealth, political freedom and other issues proved of greater relevance than gratifying GDP charts.

In Egypt too, despite the greater poverty experienced by the much larger population (compared to Libya), the youth of the January 25 revolution came from varied economic backgrounds. For many of them, freedom seemed to top mere economic sustenance.

Turkey’s case is not dissimilar to these. In fact, a discussion of Turkey’s success cannot be reduced to one decade of economic growth and political stability. More, ‘modern Turkey’ cannot be reduced to the palpable successes of the AKP. It goes back to earlier generations, starting with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. A larger-than-life figure in the eyes of several generations of Turks, Ataturk was able to win Turkey’s independence ? no easy feat, considering the challenges of the time. However, neither he nor his style of politics resolved the question of Turkey’s cultural and political identity as a majority Muslim country that defined modernity based almost exclusively on Western values. This question actually lingered in the country for decades.

One could argue that situating Turkey in suitable socioeconomic, cultural and political contexts was one of the greatest challenges facing modern Turkish politicians.

For decades, Turkey was torn between its historical ties to Muslim and Arab countries on the one hand, and the impulsive drive towards Westernization on the other. The latter seemed much more influential in forming the new Turkish identity in its individual, collective, and thus foreign policy manifestation and outlook.

Even during the push and pull, Turkey grew in import as a political and economic player. It also grew into a nation with a decisive sense of sovereignty, a growing sense of pride and a daring capacity for asserting itself as a regional power.

In the 1970s, when ‘political Islam’ was on the rise throughout the region, Turkey was experiencing its own rethink. Various politicians and groups began grappling with the idea of taking political Islam to a whole new level.

In fact, it was the late Dr Necmettin Erbakan, Prime Minister of Turkey between 1996 and 1997, who began challenging the conventional notion of Turkey as a second-class NATO member desperate to identify with everything Western.

In the late 1980s Erbakan’s Rafah Party (the Welfare Party) took Turkey by storm. The party was hardly apologetic about its Islamic roots and attitude. Its rise to power as a result of the 1995 general elections raised alarm, as the securely ‘pro-Western’ Turkey was deviating from the very the rigid script that wrote off the country’s regional role as that of a “lackey of NATO”, (a phrase used by Salama A Salama in an Al-Ahram Weekly article last year).

The days of Erbakan might be long gone, but the man’s legacy never departed Turkish national consciousness. He began the process of repositioning Turkey – politically, as well as economically – with the creation of the Developing Eight (D-8), which united the most politically significant Arab and Muslim countries. When Erbakan was forced to step down in a ‘postmodernist’ military coup, it was understood as the end of short-lived political experiment.

But the 2002 election win of the (AKP) rekindled Erbakan’s efforts through a young and savvy new political leadership. This has just been awarded yet a third mandate to continue its program of economic growth, political and constitutional reforms.

Now Turkey seems to be offering more than stability at home. It is also serving as a regional model to its neighbors, an important contribution in the age of Arab revolutions and potential political transformations.

It is essential that the Turkish experience is not reduced to only charts and numbers delineating economic growth. Some very wealthy countries are politically restless. The success of the Turkish model supersedes the economy to sensible political governance, democracy, the revitalization of civil society and its many institutions.

Good economic indicators can be promising, but without responsible leadership to guide growth and distribute wealth, political stability is never guaranteed.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London)

 

 

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail