There is not much that I have to add to the responses from my colleagues Philip Giraldi and Rod Dreher, but I will say a few things about the attempted coup in Turkey last week. Selim Koru gives us an interesting and informed report from Ankara on what the scene was like as the foiled coup unfolded, and offers some comments on the political effects it may have:
But more than anything else, the 15th of July will be remembered as a pivotal moment for the political right. Erdogan and his cadre have been mentally preparing for a coup ever since they rose to power in 2002. The danger was especially high during the AK Party government’s initial years and always remained on their minds since. It is true that as far as coups in Turkey go, this one was poorly planned and lacking in execution, but that won’t matter. The AK Party’s nearly 15-year long struggle to tame the leviathan now feels complete. The party’s conservative base feels an ownership of the state like never before.
In one sense, that will be bad news for Turkey, since it will help make the AKP even more dominant and bring it that much closer to one-party rule. As Giraldi notes, it was Erdogan’s consolidation of power and his reckless foreign policy (especially in Syria) that seem to have been responsible for causing the coup attempt, and so unfortunately now he and his party will benefit from the backlash to their own power-grabbing and incompetence. On the other hand, it should be a good development that Islamist and nationalist forces were the among the leading groups that resisted the coup and helped it to fail. They rallied to defend their elected civilian government and in the process preserved a system of representative civilian government that would have at the very least been suspended for some period of time.
As bad as Erdogan has been, replacing him and the AKP with military rule would have meant switching out an illiberal majoritarian government for a purely authoritarian one, and that would have been no better for Turkey’s political stability in the coming years. If that seems unlikely, consider how stable and orderly Egypt has been since it was “saved” by a military coup three years ago. Toppling one of the few elected Islamist governments would have also been a boon for jihadist groups, since it would provide another example of removing Islamists from power even though they won it through legitimate, contested elections.
The coup’s failure saves the U.S. the embarrassment of treating yet another coup government with kid gloves, which is almost certainly how Washington would have responded to the overthrow of the civilian government in Turkey. This coup attempt would likely have happened even if the U.S. had cut off post-coup Egypt, but Washington certainly did very little to discourage would-be coup plotters elsewhere from making the attempt. One interesting difference between Egypt three years ago and Turkey last week is that secular and liberal political groups in Turkey were horrified and opposed to the coup instead of cheering it on. If the coup had succeeded in ousting Erdogan and his allies, it would have done so without any fig leaf of popular support.