September 22, 2003


Realism About Turkey: One in a series of excerpts adapted by Robert Locke from Dr. Serge Trifkovic’s new book The Sword of the Prophet: A Politically-Incorrect Guide to Islam. (Serge Trifkovic, February 13, 2003 ,

The lack of cultural rootedness of Turkey’s political elites remains as serious a problem today as it was in Ataturk’s times, and in many minds the question about the dormant Islamic volcano is not if, but when. The narrow stratum of the Kemalist ruling class rules Turkey by the grace of the West and the will of the Army, period. The same dynamics that have swept it away in Teheran may apply in Ankara in the next decade. The parallel with Iran is alarming. Backed by the United States, both the Shah and the Turkish generals have pursued a policy of militarization as a means of solving the tension between modernization dictated from above and religiously expressed resistance from below. Repression and militarism have provided fertile ground for Islam.

Inseparable from internal repression is Ankara’s external expansionism as a means of lessening political tensions and military threats in pursuit of territorial revisionism. In January of 1996, Ankara disputed Greek sovereignty over the Greek islet of Imia. Six months later Turkey claimed the Greek Island of Gavdos near Crete - 240 miles from the Turkish shore. And this is a country that wants to be allowed to join the European Union, further flooding the already-Islamized streets of Germany and other European nations with cheap Turkish labor?

With each passing year it is becoming more urgent for the U.S. government to break away from its unthinking Turkophilia. It is using its special status in Washington to develop itself as a regional power of considerable significance, and that position will not be subject to change if the Islamists take over. Turkey’s cultural and political influence is on the rise in its old holdings in the Balkans, as well as throughout the former Soviet Central Asia. Its proximity to the Caspian oil fields has fortified its position as a key U.S. ally in the area and a major recipient of American weapons and technology, whose air base at Incirlik is regularly used by the U.S. Air Force to bomb Iraq.

The Bush administration may yet discover that "democratization" of Turkey may mean its irreversible Islamization. The latest crisis should sound alarm bells in Washington that America needs alternative scenarios to cover such eventuality. We have seen former friends turn foe before in this part of the world, and it is time to plan for realistically-conceived possibilities. Above all, let’s stop lying to ourselves on the theory that flattering foreign nations can make them conform to our wishes for what they should be.

Though Mr. Trifkovic’s concerns about the Islamicization of Turkey are certainly legitimate, his predictions about what that would mean are just as senseless as the recurring Cold War predictions about the threat and power of Communism. No totalitarian system will ever function as well as liberal democracy does. We'll have the advantage so long as we maintain the health of our own system and will have the choice of either outlasting them while they crumble as a result of internal contradictions and inefficiencies (as Bolshevism) or going to war and terminating them more quickly (as Nazism). Nothing is more reversible than totalitarianism in all its many, though essentially identical, guises.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2003 11:53 AM

Aside from the Iberian peninsula and Sicily, I cannot think of any place that has deIslamized.

Sicily was accomplished by slaughtering all the Muslims. Spain by driving them out.

If you ask a Russian whether totalitarianism is a passing fancy, I bet he'd say no.

Anyhow, you're singing quite a different tune about Turkey now from back in January. What changed your mind, Orrin?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 22, 2003 5:43 PM

Nothing. They're a great and valued ally but we should be considered about them going through a brief Iranian Revolution phase. In particular, it's hard to believe there are as many sensible leaders in the West as there used to be who would give an Army crackdown a wink and a nod. Also, our interests diverge in Kurdistan, though both are legitimate.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 6:21 PM

How are you going to guarantee it will be brief?

You guys were anticipating Iranian revolution before the robins bloomed in Spring this year, but it hasn't happened.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 22, 2003 10:12 PM

They're all brief. You can't run a country effectively under totalitarianism, not even your USSR lasted three generations.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 10:22 PM