September 17, 2012
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD ON TURKEY:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan (pronounced ‘rejep erdowan’ more or less) looked like Woodrow Wilson a year ago. Everywhere he went in the Middle East, crowds hailed him. Like Wilson, he brought a political movement out of the wilderness into power at home. Like Wilson, for his followers he embodied a mix of conservative religious and progressive social ideas. Like Wilson, events propelled him to a position of huge international prominence when he appeared to have the power and the ideas that could reshape world politics in the places he cared most about. (And like Wilson, he ruthlessly suppressed dissent in the press, sending opponents and critics to jail.)
Today, Erdogan still looks a bit like Woodrow Wilson, but it is the sharply diminished, post-Versailles Wilson he most remembers. His magic moment has passed; the world did not transform. The voice of God that sounded so clearly now seems to have faded, become indistinct. His dream of leading the march of Islamist democracy through the Middle East looks tattered and worn. Libya, Syria, Egypt: none of them look like successes for Turkish diplomacy or leadership, and Syria is a fully fledged disaster that threatens instability inside Turkey itself.
All hope of reconciling the Kurds is now gone; Erdogan is increasingly reduced to retracing the faltering steps of past Kemalist wars against this restive (and demographically booming) minority.
But without the boost of Kemalist ideology.