Tag: Turkey

It’s all About the Palace


presidential-palace-Turkey-3Over the weekend, I wrote this piece about what’s happening in Turkey with my friend and colleague Okan Altiparmak, and published it in politico.eu. As a bonus, for Ricochet members, here’s the extended release — I’ve included the parts that woudn’t fit into their space constraints:
In Turkey, it’s all about the palace
Erdoğan’s message to Turks: Vote correctly next time!


Don’t forget what’s really at stake for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Notes on Turkey, the Kurds, Incirlik, and ISIS


11705352_1005341582823689_7540684201876452080_nI’ve refrained from writing much about this past week’s news for a number of reasons. The first is that I’ve been deeply depressed about it, which doesn’t make for sober analysis. The second is that there are many elements of this story I don’t yet understand. I’ve been hesitant to make a categorical judgment about many of the rumors I’ve been hearing from Turkey, since I’m not there to evaluate any of them myself. The third is that there are so many aspects of this I do understand that I’m tempted to write too much, drowning everyone here in detail that’s essential — yet failing to convey the essence. The fourth, as one (good) journalist in Turkey put it on Twitter, is “[redacted’s] just too complicated. Moving too quick.”

I’m also aware how difficult it is to write about this in a way that makes sense. I remember studying the Spanish Civil War as an undergraduate and feeling so overwhelmed by the number of acronyms that I decided my exam strategy would be to play the odds, skip the Spanish Civil War, and instead master every other topic that might come up on the Modern European History finals. To this day, I could tell you all about Béla Kun, but my knowledge of the Spanish Civil War remains limited to what I learned from reading Homage to Catalonia.

So I’m not going to try to write a definitive update. I’ll just direct you to three articles, open the floor to discussion, and try to answer questions, although I may not know the answers. I’ve extracted key quotes from the articles, but if you read them in full, they’ll make more sense — not least because all these beastly acronyms refer to things that are, in fact, very different.

On Versailles, the Gypsy Circus, the Jews of Europe, and the “Relocation” of the Tomb of Suleyman Shah


bassins_versailles_statue (1)I spent the weekend with my family: my father, my brother, and my nephew Leo (age five, and a typically healthy, energetic five-year-old boy.) My brother and his Italian wife Cristina are now on a rotation to Brindisi, waiting for Cristina — a UN Peacekeeper — to be deployed to the next kind of place UN Peacekeepers get deployed.

I determined that we must all to Versailles, this on the grounds that it is rare for us all to be together on a brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoon in Paris; it would be fun and educational; it would get us all out of the house; that this would be the first time in years all of our immediate family (or what’s left of it) had gone on an excursion; and that one day I want Leo to remember — however dimly — his grandpa David, his Daddy, and his Weird Aunt Claire the Cat Lady doing something fun together in Paris.

Now, I had fully intended to write about that, but events have overtaken me, so I must compress that one down to the essentials. Ladies and Gentlemen of Ricochet, if you have children, I am in awe. That is hard work. And that’s the most understated way I can put it.

A Frolic with Fethullah Gülen


1420635133955My fellow editors asked me if I’d care to comment on Fethullah Gülen’s op-ed in The New York Times. I was uncertain whether I could do it without violating our Code of Conduct. I considered whether I might be able to get away with a few choice words in Turkish, but thought, “No, the Code of Conduct is sacred in every language.” I decided words like the ones I reckoned this inspired in Turkey really were too trashy. No need for that. So I offer just simple a rejoinder, seeing as the Times didn’t see fit to publish a rebuttal side-by-side–or even a clue who this writer is. Had they done so, I would have considered it perfectly acceptable. As it stands, I can interpret it only one of two ways: Charitably, they’re so stupid they don’t even read their own reporting. Less charitably, they’ve fallen in line with Our Thug, but for reasons so cynical–and stupidly cynical–they don’t even rise to the intellectual respectability of the word Realpolitik.

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — It is deeply disappointing to see what has become of Turkey in the last few years.

Yes, it is. I lived there during that time, unlike you.

Merry Christmas to All, and Some Thoughts on Turkish Thugs


Merry Christmas, Ricochet! Or Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and, otherwise, merry day in which you eat Chinese food and go to the movies. To those I’ve offended by mentioning Christmas, I apologize for my insensitive remarks. I promise I will learn and grow from the experience.

Speaking of things one must not say, I just published a piece in City Journal about the recent news from Turkey. As I stress in it, it’s not just news from Turkey, but news from America — news from the Poconos Mountains, in particular — and thus properly filed under “domestic news.”

No Easy Answers For Syrian Refugees in Turkey


640px-Aleppians_waiting_in_a_bread_line_during_the_Syrian_civil_warI have a lot of problems to overcome in trying to convince readers to think and — more meaningfully — to do something about this.

The first is convincing people that another country’s problems with immigration, legal and illegal, are worth attention when ours are severe, pressing, real, and tearing us apart.

The second is convincing people that Turkey’s problems, in particular, are worth attention: not much of a secret that Turkey’s gone, in the public mind, from “most excellent ally” to “utterly screwed up and no friend of ours.” (Neither are quite right, but the upshot is that I’m trying to get people to be interested in something they’re not, naturally, going to think of as “our problem.”)

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Is Biden the Punchline — or Is America?


Joe Biden is a punch line.

Our Vice President is more famous for his foolish pronouncements than he is for being second in command of the world’s greatest superpower. It has gotten so bad that a mere mention of his name provokes laughter, as late-night comics (and Clint Eastwood) can attest.

Outrage in Ferguson


Just hours ago, I proposed to Ricochet’s Liz Harrison that comparing the United States under Obama to Turkey under Erdoğan reflected a failure of imagination.  I was remembering, among other things, the circumstances under which I left Turkey, which I detailed at length here:

June 1: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in more than 40 Turkish cities keep protesting. The protesters move to the office of Prime Minister Erdoğan in Beşiktaş, providing the police with an excuse for even harsher retaliation. Every living being in the district gets showered with tear gas—including, I’m told, the officials in the office, which at least was satisfying to imagine, if it’s true. Ankara and Izmir rise up in force.Snippets of conversation: “They’ve got to be running low on tear gas.” … “They saturation bombed this part of the city with gas, how much can they possibly have?” … “This is just ridiculous. What the [redacted] are they thinking?” … “Why the [redacted] are they provoking this, I wonder? Completely lost it? …

Liberal Outrage Over Tyrants


Recep_Tayyip_ErdoganAll things are not necessarily equal when it comes to tyrants and liberals. Turkey has just elected a new president, or more accurately, they had their first popular election for that office, and moved their prime minister into that position. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been acting a little power hungry lately, and decided that he wanted to be president, and expand the powers of that office to meet his desires. For better or worse, the people of Turkey have obliged him. Because he’s backed by mostly conservative Sunni Muslims, it won’t be surprising if in the coming months we’ll see liberal foreign policy wonks talking about how bad this is. They’ll be right, but probably for the wrong reasons.

Cenk Sidar offered a very interesting pre-election analysis of the situation in Turkey at ForeignPolicy.com, particularly through a thumbnail sketch of the Erdogan administration. The first statement of interest had to do with Erdogan’s attitude about the system of checks and balances in the Turkish government.

Lately, Erdogan has shown little interest in preserving a system based on checks and balances and the separation of powers. The prime minister’s harsh crackdown on his political opponents and his combative rhetoric strongly suggest that he would like to see Turkey become a decidedly illiberal democracy, one in which he and his party can use the mandate of the ballot box to rule as they please, with little or no consideration of dissenting views.

Erdoğan: the Putin of Turkey


ErdoganAs some of you may know, I was a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs from 1984-86 and was based in Istanbul. I learned to speak the Turkish language adequately (but never, alas, quite fluently), and I traveled far and wide in Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus in those years. Between 1986 and 1992, I returned every couple of years for a month, and I went back again in 1998 and 2002. I once knew the country well.

I mention all of this because, in the last few days, I have made brief forays into Istanbul, the region south of Izmir, and the region of Antalya and Alanya on the south coast. I left Jerusalem on 27 July; flew to New York, Detroit, and Portland, Maine; spent one night at my wife’s parents’ home in Whitefield, Maine; and flew on the 28th from Boston to Istanbul via Amsterdam. There my wife and I boarded the Regent Seven Seas Mariner and I took up duties as a shipboard lecturer on a Hillsdale College cruise. If this itinerary seems mad, it is because it really is mad. I was not invited to take up these responsibilities until 17 July when I was already in Jerusalem about to start my teaching stint at Shalem College; and, given the troubles at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv, the itinerary I followed was the way to go.

But enough about me. What is interesting is the manner in which Turkey has changed. I first visited Kusadasi on Turkey’s west coast in 1973. At that time, it was a fishing village. Cruise ships docked there so that those in attendance could visit Ephesus. But the village was nothing. It boasted one hotel, and that hotel, in which I stayed, was a dive. There were no paved streets.

As We Await the End Times


harun-yahyaThe art of writing a first paragraph is said to lie in the ability to draw the reader in.

I would say that Lily Lynch’s remarkable new piece in The Balkanist passes that test very well indeed:

Harun Yahya is said to be the messianic leader of an apocalyptic Islamic sex cult. He’s also the owner of a Turkish television station called A9, and the host of his own religious talk show, which just might make your eyeballs pop out of your skull. The entire set and everyone on it glow like irradiated ultraviolet rays. Five amazing looking women usually co-host the show, wearing things like false rainbow eyelashes, wigs, and diamond-studded Versace bondage gear. The backdrop is a blinding fake lavender cityscape. Conversations often focus on how materialism and Darwinism are dead, how to recognize the face of a real Muslim, and how Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — with whom the host is rumored to enjoy friendly relations — is “one of the important figures for the End Times”.