On the Pajamas homepage, Steve Green asks, “What just happened in Egypt? Let’s call it the Turkish Solution:”
The First World War did not end neatly in the Middle East — or anywhere else. The Ottoman Empire quit fighting a week before the armistice on the Western Front, and two weeks later the capital at Istanbul was occupied by Entente troops. But that was hardly the end of it.
There were two different peace treaties. First came the Treaty of Sèvres, which chopped up the Ottoman Empire about as neatly (and completely) as the European powers had carved up Africa 45 years prior. But Sèvres was never ratified by the Turkish parliament, as the Brits had dissolved it already. And anyway, Mustafa Kemal Pasha wasn’t having it, and set up his own post-Ottoman government in Ankara.
Naturally, that led to more fighting — the Turkish War of Independence. This time the Turks won. The resulting Treaty of Lausanne was much more generous, and gave Turkey the borders it still has today. (OK, except for Iskenderun, but that was a trifle.)
Mustafa Kemal Pasha also changed his name to Kemal Atatürk (“father of the Turks”) and went about modernizing and westernizing his new country as quickly as he dared — and gave us the Turkey we know today. Or at least the Turkey we knew up until a few years ago, before Atatürk’s westernization gave way to a sort of creeping Islamization.
As Claire Berlinksi wrote in her brilliant “Weimar Cities” article at City Journal, Turkey’s creeping Islamization (to borrow Steve’s phrase) has that nation poised on a knife-edge, much like the namesake city in her title:
Weimar Cities are not freaks of nature. They may be expected to arise under certain social, political, and historical circumstances. World War I destroyed both Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire. The remnants of both entities succeeded in imposing alien new social orders on themselves, fragile experiments in democracy. The Turkish Republic has lasted far longer than the Weimar Republic, but the stories do not differ in the fundamentals; they have merely been telescoped or expanded by contingent events.
With the rise to power in 2002 of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the Turkish Republic has experienced a fresh convulsion. The AKP opened the Pandora’s box of political Islam. It has presented its reforms as an exercise in liberalization. In a sense, this is true: religion as a political force had, since the founding of the Republic, been repressed. In another sense, it is not true at all: this particular political force is one that, by its nature, tends ultimately to erase liberal reforms. “Democracy is like a streetcar,” Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan, now prime minister, said infamously in 1995. “When you come to your stop, you get off.”
What stop did Egypt arrive at on Friday?
Related: At Ricochet today, Berlinski explores “What the Turkish Military is Thinking.”