Turkey Can't Act Rationally

Why Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan chose the year 2038 as the point at which his country will cease to exist, I do not know, but that’s what he’s been saying in stump speeches to his home audience, as I report in my new book, How Civilizations Die. He can’t be too far off. A generation from now, Turkey will cease to exist in its present form. The ratio of Turks to Kurds today (defined by cradle tongue) is about 4:1, but Turks have 1.5 children on average, while Kurds have 4.5. In little over a generation, Kurds will comprise half the military-age population of Anatolia. After decades of civil war and 40,000 casualties, Turkey’s Kurdish problem is as vivid as ever.

Erdogan, like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is inherently incapable of rationality. Turks and Persians both show a total fertility rate of 1.5, which portends national disaster–as both leaders have said repeatedly in public. In Turkey, Iran, and almost everywhere in the Muslim world, women with a high school (let alone university education) stop having children. Paradoxically, the best-educated populations–Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey and Iran–have the same fertility rate as the Europeans. Demographically, the Muslim world has passed from childhood to senescence without ever having reached adulthood.

What’s the rational self-interest of a doomed culture? Rather than return to the Western fold, Turkey is likely to become more and more erratic. “Fatalism” does not begin to describe the mindset of the new Turkish Islamism. Its guru, Fethullah Gulen, whose movement controls several Turkish banks, the Zaman news organization, and billions of dollars of other business assets, is a madman by Western standards. He is less a modern Islamic thinker than an Anatolian shaman who lives in a world infested by magic beings, by jinn and sorcerers, as one can verify by consulting his published writings. Erdogan, the small-town Anatolian boy made good, comes from this magical world. He has a peasant’s shrewdness and self-preservation instincts, and a politician’s knack for the pulse of his constituents. The conjunction of his magical world-view and the misery of his country’s long-term prospects, though, cannot have a good outcome.

Update, Sept. 27: Erdogan’s security personnel beat up UN security guards when they attempted to stop the Turkish delegation from going through the wrong door on the way to the General Assembly. The New York Post account includes video. Erdogan mistakenly headed for the visitors’ gallery rather than the General Assembly room, and the guards were attempting to direct him to the correct entrance. That’s without precedent. What planet is this guy from? Hmmmm…. Short temper, craving for sugar? You know who Erdogan reminds us of.