Another Turkey Coup Attempt: Will it Affect Us?Posted: July 20, 2016
Another Turkey Coup Attempt: Will it Affect Us?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
The nation of Turkey sits in Western Asia. That is, most of it. A small part of Istanbul, the great city in Western Turkey (formerly Constantinople), can be found across the Bosphorus Strait that separates Asia from Europe. This European portion of Turkey (a mere three percent of the nation’s land area) is geographically and even culturally part of Europe.
A charter member of the United Nations (membership since 1945), Turkey also became a member of the NATO alliance as far back as 1952. A huge U.S. air base sits in the Asian part of the nation. In addition, Turkey has applied for membership in the European Union. Therefore, what happens in Turkey is of great concern to the West, certainly including the United States.
Turkey has experienced several coup attempts in recent years (1960, 1971, and 1980). Each failed and each sought to increase the secularization of the nation. The latest attempted coup d’état during July 15-16 failed almost immediately. After a surprising absence in the early hours of the plot, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged and reasserted control. Immediately, the government forces captured several thousand military personnel along with an equal number of judges. Some commentators labeled the coup a failure through ineptitude. But others have speculated that Erdogan engineered the short-lived event in order to centralize and increase his power.
Turkey is at least 95 percent Muslim; some claim that the figure should be 99 percent. Without doubt, yearning exists among a small percentage of the people for a more Westernized style of living. But Islam rules, not as strictly as in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere, but a dominant force nevertheless. Erdogan himself is a relatively strict follower of Mohammed. Suspicion has arisen that he engineered the plot so it would quickly fail and, while being put down, provide him an opportunity to increase his power and send a message throughout the nation not only that he is solidly in control, but that Islam and many of its controlling strictures would continue to prevail, even grow tighter.
Over the years, military forces within Turkey have become a sort of watchdog or guardian of a partial secularization of the nation. Hence, a more committed Muslim such as Erdogan would surely seize any opportunity to water down, even eliminate, such a challenge to Islam’s power. Ergodan’s allies have claimed that Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, engineered the coup. Gulen immediately denied having any role whatsoever. But Ergodan has asked the U.S. to extradite Gulen to face charges back in Turkey. Is such a request real? Or has it emerged to help cover up Ergodan’s creation of the now-failed plot that will undoubtedly result in an increase in his power and more dominance by Islam.
Three years ago in Egypt, the military rose up and, in a lightning coup d’état, deposed elected president Mohammed Morsi, a strict follower of Islam. That country went from rule by increasingly dominant Islamists to a more westernized secularism under the generals. Turkey seems to have undergone exactly the opposite transition as a result of the recent coup attempt. How Erdogan deals with the judges and military personnel he has in custody will indicate how deeply Islam will rule in the future. Meanwhile, ISIS in next-door Syria and Iraq looks northward to Turkey to see if help in achieving its draconian goals will be forthcoming from its nearest neighbor.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.