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17 April 2017


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Col: This is very puzzling. Islamism didn't come to Turkey because the secular state failed.

Maybe some of your Turkish readers can explain the attraction to Erdogan.

Babak Makkinejad

The state was not secular in the Western sense, it was anti-akhund/anit-mullah; that is, it opposed much of Islamic Tradition of Sunnis. It had to be since the dead weight of the Islamic Tradition was going to result in the disintegration of what was left of Turkey. the state was going to be destroyed.

Where the Kemalists failed, in my opinion, was in the creation of a Liberal Order that was commensurate with Islam - they had decades to do so. But their policies, in effect, maintained a schism inside every Turk between Islamic identity, the new Turkic one as well as the project of the adaptation of the Western ideas and institutions and techniques into the body politics of Turkey.

An analogous dynamics, in my opinion, but more severely, worked in neighboring Iran. The Constitutional revolutionaries of 1905 failed to put in place a Liberal Order. And UK (and later US) helped destroy what was left of the old oligarchic Liberalism in Iran and by 1979, one saw the complete rejection of the post 1905 Constitutional Order by the Iranian people.

The situation in Turkey is socially much more explosive than Iran because of religious, ethnology-linguistic, and political orientation divisions among its inhabitants - some pining for Islam, some for that which is normative in contemporary France, and yet others who want to live in that fantasy called "Democratic Secular Republic of Kurdistan" (which, as everyone knows, will fully respect any all minority rights as long as they are Kurdish.)


Hm, Izmir, Smyrna, Rembetiko.

Somehow all that turned to ashes in the general rise of political Islamism across the Islamic culture continent.

At what point in time would you put it from your personal experience. And from my very, very limited nitwit basis; did this pick up on the earlier Pan-Arabism?


My experience in Izmir was decidedly mixed. After taking the boat over from the Greek island of Samos in 1974, we got our room, settled in, and took a nap. As dusk started to fall, we discovered that the room should more properly have been declared an insectarium. Creepy crawlies running everywhere. Fortunately, none bit.

The good news was that the next morning the owners turned out to very accommodating and gave us the penthouse, which was great. We stayed for several pleasant days.

Ephesus was amazing, particularly the Roman amphitheater. Bodrum, too. And then there was Istanbul the incredible, one of the most spectacular cities in the world. Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Golden Horn, etc.

The main problem seemed to be Turkish men on buses, who felt entitled to pinch my wife's butt whenever the urge arose. And then there was the matter of the bedbugs at the youth hostel. Fortunately, disinfected hotels were available.

Our goal had been to travel overland to Damascus. But travelers coming from the east raved at how clean Istanbul was! We decided to return to Samos, relax, and take in some rays.

It was then that Turkey invaded Cyprus. We learned about it early one morning when I went to the center of town to get food for breakfast. A crowd was gathered around a sign. I asked what it was all about. They told me that all men age 16-64 had been conscripted for military service, except homosexuals. They were very explicit about the last point.

Women were scrambling, buying everything in the stores. I asked one what we were to eat. She shared some bread with me, enough to get us through the next couple days. Greeks were remarkably hospitable!

Much of the local population were descendants of those who had escaped Turkey after World War I. They were scared. Samos was only a mile from the Turkish coast. You could see Turkey looming over the water. It was a lot closer to Turkey than Cyprus.

Meanwhile, among tourists, the joke was that the men had all run off into the hills to do their service and drink ouzo under olive trees, leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves in the villages.

We felt very exposed, too. The Regime of the Colonels had been overthrown. Turks were rumored to be at the gates of Thessaloniki. The American Embassy was incommunicado.

Fortunately, there were also some Brits on vacation there. They got in touch with their embassy, which actually seemed to care about the welfare of its citizens.

Soon word came via the Brits that a boat would stop to pick us up. It did. There was just barely room to sit on the floor of the deck. A Scot spent a good part of the trip trying to explain that we had to know what the Scottish flag looked like. It was so distinctive. It had a line on it. I could barely understand him and certainly could not understand what was so special about a line on a flag. Turned out, he was talking about a lion.

At 4 am we arrived in Piraeus and somehow got a ride to Athens. We went to the hotel where we had stayed and asked for a room. They were very accommodating. While a room was being made up, we had breakfast.

As breakfast was wrapping up, a bright eyed young couple bound into the room and said, "We just got here! What's happening?"

We all looked at each other. Finally, someone said, "Don't you know?"

We started describing events of the past few days. Finally, it occurred to someone to ask the obvious, "Where are you from?" (Have you been living under a rock?)

The young man replied, "Oh! We're from Northern Ireland. Things always sound worse than they really are."

Over the years, I have kept that couple in mind and subsequently safely traveled to many places where most Americans feared to go.


We are. That is why we are trying so hard in Syria I suspect. The neocons get Golan, we get a base, the Russians and Iranians are stopped out, and the QA/SA get their gas into Europe. A lot is on the line, enough for a world war I fear.

A similar story could also be said of Iran. History will not be kind to the US, and even less kind to those Arabs who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their kids and their gold and chrome wrapped toys to London every summer while their people suffer.



Some people attribute the present rise of Islamism to the failure of Arab Nationalism in the Arab countries. IMO Islam and Sunnism in particular contain within its dogma a claim to universal expression of God's will on earth. The Wahhabis express this in its most extreme form. There is an evident cycle in the history of Islam's existence in which every hundred years or so revivalist movements arise that seek to enforce their particular concept of what mankind's behavior and belief should be. These movement are sometimes pacific and sometimes not. the violent movements have all come to a bad end from the Muslim point of view but after the memory of defeat fades from living memory a new cycle begins. We are, IMO, in the midst of one such cycle and nobody suffers from these cyclic jihadi wars more than Muslims who dare to disagree with the jihadis' understanding of Islam. This description of my thinking on this matter will, of course, be challenged with the usual economic determinist drivel. pl



I often saw people like you wandering around Turkey looking like refugees from a nuclear apocalypse. What did you expect? You were obvious candidates for victimization in what was still a very conservative society. If you stay in hostels and flop houses you should not be surprised at what you get as accommodation. My wife is a very attractive woman. She was never accosted, pinched, groped, etc. in Turkey, nor in any Arab country but then she knew to dress conservatively and how to behave so as not to attract unwanted attention. If a woman does not act that way, the men are led to believe that she is a loose woman who will appreciate their attention. pl


I have a bet running with my brother that Erdogan likely soon will ...

(a) declare that Turkey - magic! - has 15 million more citizens than previously known ...
(b) who - magic! - all support Erdogan and that, ...
(c) magic! - Erdogan has gotten no less than 750% of support for his brilliant presidential construction.

If I win I will get ice cream from my brother.


Lots of reasons why Kemalism lost out to Erdoğan or morphed into what some Turkish critics call “Islamo-Kemalism,” is the same authoritarian/nationalist political culture but with a different underlying ideology. Unevenly distributed economic and social development widened the cultural gap between the pious, conservative peoples of central and eastern Anatolia and the more cosmopolitan urbanites of the cities of the western part of the country. As we saw revealed with the fall of the Soviet Union, no amount suppression can extinguish religious belief; it just makes it more tenacious, making believers ripe for the picking by a demagogue ready to exploit those sentiments. Add to that a very late migration from statist economic policies to global market capitalism and you have all the pieces of a slow slide into political Islam. After the level of crony-capitalism by the AKP reached a certain point, the regime could not maintain power and still abide by democratic norms.
The West let the “indispensable NATO ally” drift away with nary a whine. After all, they were helping us fight ISIS when they were not supporting ISIS. The future likely includes the consequences of the flailing economy, deepening debt, high unemployment and sinking currency, together with continued jihadi terrorism and regional military misadventures all of which combine for spontaneous combustion.

ex-PFC Chuck

Col. Lang:
" There is an evident cycle in the history of Islam's existence in which every hundred years or so revivalist movements arise that seek to enforce their particular concept of what mankind's behavior and belief should be."

This is not unlike the history of Christianity, from the founding of various reformist monastic orders in the Middle Ages on through the Lutheran Reformation and its subsequent offshoots (e.g. Calvinism, the Anabaptists, etc.) and on to the several Great Awakenings here in North America.

Eric Newhill

My first car, purchased when I was a junior in high school, used with low mileage and very little rust, in 1981, was a blue '67 Mustang with the 289 engine.Mine was an automatic transmission. Yes, a fun little car.

This was inevitable. Ataturk, IMO, is highly over-rated as a visionary statesman, etc. Turkey had just completed a thorough butchering of all of its Christian inhabitants and had sided with the losers of WW1. So Ataturk took the most expedient course as a political opportunist; making kissy face with Europe and promising to make Turkey a civilized nation. I guess that was relatively shrewd enough, but certainly not exceptional. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

Sadly, you can't change nature. Things are what they are and will not be what they are not. Kind of like the Godfather series, wherein Don Corleone, the younger, attempts in vain to bring the family business to legitimacy, but in the end laments that every time he thinks he's out, they pull him right back in. The genetics, the history/karma, the call of the ummah; all forces too strong against western style secular government.



"We should stop pretending that this Turkey is an ally". Let's think about downgrading Turkey's status from an ally to whatever every other non-ally country is.

What strategic options does Erdogan have, if Turkey is sidelined in NATO and loses preferential treatment in trade and investment deals it's been enjoying so far?

Grand realignment at this point sounds impractical to me. Russia? No commitment. China? Limited. A regional block with Saudis and Israel? Unstable. Maybe he thinks the EU and U.S. will learn to live with the new Turkey, save making muffled human rights noises, because they need Turkey more than Turkey needs them. But how much does the U.S. need Turkey? More importantly, wouldn't ditching Turkey as an ally run the risk of radicalizing the MB types ruling Turkey into Jihadis with access to state aparatus?


I am nomore interested in justifying revivalist jihadism than I would be in justifying Christian fanaticism  PL

Sent from my iPhone


Eric Newhill

Same car, same engine, a fine little beast. I sold mine in Turkey to the USDEA who got it shot full of holes in a village drug raid they made with the Jendarma. I should have kept it. I know you are half Armenian but there is the little matter of many Ottoman Armenians siding with Russia in WW1. That does not justify Turkish crimes against the Armenian population but it was factor. pl


"Enlightenment" seems to reduce birth rates with the result that eventually the less enlightened outnumber the enlightened and then proceed to vote for the abolition of democracy.

Eric Newhill

My Mustang also met an underserving tragic fate. My younger brother totaled it in a drag race. Fortunately he was ok other than a broken arm and various bruises, the car, not at all. I had allowed him to borrow it with the promise that he would take good care of it.

What about other Christians such as Assyrians and Greeks that were also victims of the purges? Did they side with Russia?


I  will have to look into that. There were a lot of Greeks in western Anatolia until the Ataturk-Venizelos exchanges after the war and Christian populations remained in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq  pl

Sent from my iPhone


Albayim, your Apartment next to the old Greek Embassy, 2nd or 3rd apartment block on the Alsancak quay is still there, you have asked me to look for it sometime back and I did. There is MP guard in front of it, so apparently it is still being used by the US personnel still present in Izmir.

Yes, Turkey as I knew as a young man is finished and over with, RIP. All memory of Ataurk's incredibly progressive revolutions for its time and context, as they are called in Turkey, is over. It is a shame that no matter what Ataturk did, he could plant the seeds of rational, enlightened progressive ideas into the hearts of minds of only half of the population. The rest, who seem to prefer serfdom, blind following of religious dogma and a life without virtue as long as they have a place in the through, seem happy to celebrate the meticulously crafted transformation of an imperfect democracy into a sultanate.

As someone mentioned in one of the posts prior, this is Turkey's 1933 Germany moment, very easy to see especially reading through Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich by William L Shirer, over and over as I have been reading to see where this is going. What brought the Nazis to power, before anything else, was a huge portion of the uneducated, culturally slighted, humiliated, land based rural ignoramus, who initially saw concrete benefits and improvements into their lives, soon after Hitler seized all the levers of the state to transform it into an aggressive war machine. Then it was too late to get off the wagon for those who banked their hopes on him.

Yesterday, the educated, enlightened liberal urban electorate in all the large urban centers voted NO in this referendum, and the rest of the sheeple, voted YES uncritically within the remaining interior and south east.

Taxi driver I talked to other day who sounded like he was from the interior, told me that he will vote YES, and I asked him what he was voting for, and whether he had personally read the proposed changes to the constitution, he said no, but he was a pious Moslem. And that the leaders and his elders in the government knew better, of course. I then asked him whether he had read the Koran in Turkish, the only language he can read and write in, he said no, but he was a Moslem, elhamdurillah, and that he was doing OK financially, "ma ashallah, to our great chief". There you go, this is the profile of the electorate that exulted his excellency, Erdogan the First into his throne, though a mechanism called fair elections, rule of the majority, so foreign to him and his ilk, but oh so useful to get what he wanted. Not unlike the I phones and Mercedes they use, where they would have nothing in common with the people who invented and developed those conveniences, their mind set, the evolutions those people who inherited all the benefits of the liberal ideas of the enlightment, the renaissance and of the industrial revolution. But no matter, they are great to call people and get you from place to place in sublime comfort. Train of Democracy, oh so useful, but we will get off when WE get there, thank you for all your work.

Erdogan himself is bereft of University level secular education, what High School education he has had is religious in a Moslem Seminary school. And don't be fooled by his Wikipedia bio, his University diploma is fake, proved over and over but the sheeple does not care.

Dark times await Turkey, will not be noticeable right away of course, as in the boiling frogs allegory. My longest physical absence from Turkey was 20 years, and when I returned for the first time for a visit, it was a different country altogether. Last 6 years I have been here as a resident, the change is easily observable, especially from the ground level, from the street perspective, day to day, and always for the worse. But happy to report that the street I live on has voted 2 to 1 NO.

The constitutional changes that were voted on unequivocally concentrate all executive power within the person of the president, and bestow upon him indirect control and power over both the legislative and the judiciary. Whereas the wording over the accepted changes to the constitution is vague, Erdogan can act anyway he wants, and since there is no recourse to object in any level of the government, his actions can become law and precedent. HE CAN NOT BE IMPEACHED OR REMOVED FROM OFFICE, period. There is no such mechanism or procedure in the new constitution. Now, who would like to fit this kind of administration into the observed and accepted forms of governance? Erdogan is here to stay, for decades, as long as he lives. I would be surprised to see if this was not the last election Turkey has ever seen.

Babak Makkinejad

I think Erodogan knows that he is indispensable to Fortress West and he is acting accordingly.

Babak Makkinejad

What I read, from Armenian sources, was that many were hiding weapons and bombs in their backyards.

There were multiple waves of forced displacement, some Armenians were denounced to the Ottoman military be their fellow Armenians - neighbors and acquaintances.

Those people were not spared the fate of other Armenians; they were extinguished during later forced displacements.

I do not know who supplied the weapons and munitions but I would not put it past England to have done so through Iran; in addition to the "Usual Suspect", viz. Russia.

Babak Makkinejad

There were also the Pontics, who were not Greeks at all, but served the purpose of furnishing the local Turks their homes, shops, orchards, businesses etc. Nothing like a little bit of ethnic cleansing to help one's standard of living.

ex-PFC Chuck

Col., I understand that, and would be surprised if you were more interested in the latter considering the immediacy of the threat. It just seemed appropriate, lest we be tempted to pat ourselves on the back for our present-day tolerance here in the predominantly Christian West, to remind ourselves that we've had episodes in our past in which those who dared to disagree with the prevailing understanding of Christianity also did so at their mortal peril. The latter applies both on the individual level, for example Jan Hus, and at the societal level in the case of the Thirty Years War.


ex PFC Chuck

You have to be careful about guilty conscience about long past deeds. That easily can lead to paralysis of action against present danger. pl

Eric Newhill

My great grandfather was summarily executed for smuggling weapons. This was before the 1915 purges in the town of Orfa (aka Urfa). He was a merchant of some kind and he was obtaining German Mauser rifles from a Syrian source (or so family lore has it). The desire to arm - against Ottoman law for Christians to do so - was in response to predations by Turks and, especially, Kurds. I always wondered, if the rifles were indeed Mausers, if they were stolen. The Mauser was the rifle of Germans, who were aligned with Turkey and Turkey also was armed with Mausers, but who knows? Arms dealers were probably as prolific and profit motivated back then as they are today. Or perhaps Turkish deserters sold their rifles to the black market.

Ishmael Zechariah


We have seen and dealt with worse situations. This, too, shall pass. Despite the blatant, fully-documented, voting fraud, the results were not what tayyip expected. This result might even have a silver lining; given the current boundary conditions, the situation is going to go from bad to worse, and there is no one left to blame. tayyip will see himself as a sundenbock sooner or later-sooner if Russians stand fast in Syria.

BTW, it is entertaining to read the bloviation of the useful idiots who supported tayyip and his klepts in the name of "democracy" and "islam" until they were woken up to smell the hummus.

Ishmael Zechariah

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