Turkey upheaval augurs challenges to West

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/21 23:48:01

Turkey after the failed coup has started a nationwide purge. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday declared a three-month state of emergency in order to wipe out the "virus in the military" that attempted the coup. Some 6,000 military personnel were arrested. In addition, the Turkish authorities fired nearly 9,000 police officers and suspended 3,000 judges. Academics were also targeted with more than 1,500 university deans ordered to resign, all scientists banned from leaving the country and scholars abroad instructed to return to Turkey. It's estimated at least 50,000 people have been arrested, sacked or suspended from their jobs.

Turkey is turned upside down. Although the West responded with restraint due to its intimate relations with Turkey, a storm of criticism has been provoked. Some media hold Erdogan is taking the chance to suppress dissent and speed up his centralization of power. US Secretary of State John Kerry said NATO "has a requirement with respect to democracy." This was interpreted as a warning against Turkey that its NATO membership will be affected.

It seems like post-coup Turkey is heading toward a crisis with the West. Turkey's march toward authoritarianism is accompanied with reshuffles in the military, judiciary and educational system, three pillars of secularization, that will inevitably tilt in favor of Erdogan. This augurs that Turkey's secularization is coming to an end. Turkey will remain insistent on a basic form of Western-style democracy, but will gradually swing to Islamic tradition.

This is a challenge to both Turkey and the West. Turkey is a springboard for the West to exert influence on the Middle East and the Islamic world. If Turkey exits from the Western camp, changes will take place in the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East, bringing an even bigger shock than Brexit.

The post-coup purge claims to root out supporters of Fethullah Gulen. But the actual effect is that the foundation of Turkey's Western-style democracy will be dismantled should the three pillars of secularization be vandalized. Traditional religious forces will surely fill the vacuum, causing a systematic change to everything from ideology to political imperatives.

The implantation of Western political civilization in the Islamic World is fragile. The most typical example is the modernization of the Iranian Pahlavi Dynasty which was given up halfway.  The US and Europe have shrunk their input in the Middle East. They put their stake on endogenous impetus for democracy to advance secularization in the Middle East. However, Western civilization has not expanded in the region, but has been gradually overwhelmed.

The Middle East is slipping into a turbulent transition period in which the political order is restructured. The West has underestimated the influence the chaos in the Middle East will have on Western civilization. 

Posted in: Editorial

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