Leadership: Turks Turn On Their New Caliph

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October 27, 2013: Turkey’s economy has been booming for the last decade, ever since an Islamic party took control in 2002, by promising to finally do something about the corruption that had long crippled the government and the economy. But now the corruption is returning in the form of increased secrecy in the defense budget and growing signs that the Islamic politicians are falling victim to the same financial temptations that have always led civil and military leaders astray. For example, Turkish military spending is 1.3 percent of GDP. That’s low by world standards, and one reason for that is additional funds are provided for the military and the details (including the amount of money) is kept secret. Moreover, if you count the national police, the intelligence operations and other paramilitary forces then “security” is 3.7 percent of GDP. Again, that understates actual spending because the classified spending amount is itself classified. This is all worrisome because social spending (education, health, R&D) are not classified and are going down while security spending, at least the unclassified part is going up.

Meanwhile, the moderate Islamic politicians also sought better relations with Islamic states, especially Iran and neighboring Arab countries. That meant an end to the close economic and diplomatic relations with Israel. This is a return to the past. Until 1924, the Sultan of the Turks was the Caliph (technically, the leader of all Moslems). But in the 1920s, Turkey turned itself into a secular state. Although Turkey became a major economic power in the Middle East, with one of the best educated populations in the region, it was still hobbled by corruption and mismanagement. The Islamic politicians promised to attack the corruption (which they have) and return religion to a central place in Turkish culture (a work in progress). This has upset a lot of secular Turks. But it's fashionable to hate Israel these days, over their efforts to cope with Palestinian terrorism. Now Turks are noticing that the Islamic politicians are beginning to act like the corrupt and incompetent aristocrats that brought down the empire, which had turned from “The Pride of The Turks” to a shameful and dysfunctional organization that is not missed.

Meanwhile, military commanders in Turkey and Israel appear to get along better than their respective governments. But this does little good when Turkish politicians grow increasingly anti-Israel. Recently, Turkey declared Israel to be a threat, while Iran and neighboring Arab states were considered no problem. Turkey is severing the many ties with Israel that have existed for over half a century and becoming more hostile to its NATO allies in general. A lot of Turks don’t agree with this shift in attitude, but at the moment it is popular with a lot of voters. That is changing because of the growing signs of government corruption, arbitrary rule, and secrecy.

 

 


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