A couple of us Agonistas solicited Sean Paul Kelley’s views on the current brouhaha involving Turkey and Syria. Having recently returned from Istanbul – a city and culture he knows well – and with his familiarity with the peoples and history of the area, he was kind enough to enlighten us with the following:
This last election, just two weeks behind us now, more or less, proves the following: The AKP has firmly consolidated its power in Turkey in the political realm, the media, the military, the ministries and the provinces. They have swept the board, run the table, pick you metaphor. They’ve won.
This victory means that the AKP has effectively destroyed Kemalism, which was that broad political consensus from the left to the right regarding modernization and secularization. For the longest time Turks believed that to have modernization it must be accompanied by secularization and vice versa. But the legitimate economic miracle Erdoğan presided over drove a nail into the coffin of the great Kemalist consensus. Modernity and secularism were no longer to be sought after equally. In fact, modernism wasn’t the enemy, secularism was. And now secularism is under complete attack from all directions. To those wishful thinkers in the West who think, “Oh, if the Turks just get the right media savvy, moderate, attractive candidate things will change,” I tell them this: if you believe that silliness Erdoğan and the AKP have some great seaside property they want to sell you near Erzurum.
It is time to accept reality: the Turkish Left is dead. Any one who says otherwise is like the young boy whistling past the graveyard at night. And Erdoğan? He’ll be Turkey’s Putin, changing places with Davotoglu every few years, or some other stand in.
Finally, the AKP, in order to keep its grip on power will now attack the Kurds with every weapon in the post-modern arsenal to keep Turks unified. They’ll support ISIS to attack the Kurds, they’ll attack the Kurds in the schooling systems, and in many other ways. The sole goal of the AKP domestically is to stay in power and all keep Turks united by fighting their internal enemy: the Kurds.
Do I sound cynical? Well, Turkish politics are not American politics. We’re talking about the place that gave rise to the term Byzantine as shorthand for the place where all political agency, gets sucked into Schrodinger’s cat’s furballs and become quantum super-entangled, shattering assumptions into a million particles, just like the big supercollider at CERN does to a single atom.
One question remains unanswered: how long does Turkey remain a member of NATO? If Davotoglu and Erdoğan’s covert and sometimes overt alliance(s) with ISIS and Al Qaeda like elements in Syria is any indication, Turkey leaves sooner than the NATSEC elite desire (replete with cries of “but no one could have foreseen!”), but longer than the realists who see the region in need of a general way and realignment. It will be ugly. Paisktan has nukes and so does India. It’s a tough neighborhood.
What we’re witnessing is a return to the old way of politics, when the Akkoyunlu, Safavids, Karakoyunlu and Ottoman’s battled it out with each other and then, when everyone was exhausted from fighting, the leading power would graciously offer his hospitality in his tent that evening for dinner. Once all the princes arrived, he had them slaughtered and became regional hegemon. This is what Erdogan seeks. Perhaps not as graphically as I laid out, but he wants the role of big boss in the Levant. Erdogan is not America or the EUs friend.