Not that many years ago Country X was considered by its neighbors, and indeed the rest of the world, as a great success. Nobody around was powerful enough to challenge its armed forces, its economy was strong and growing, and while serious problems remained, it appeared to have passed the tipping point and set a course for democratic stability.
Something went wrong. Its leader took several wrong turns and now Country X finds itself with hostile neighbors while domestically, the country seethes with dicontent. Evolution toward modern democratic governance has reversed; in fact the country is sliding back into dictatorship.
The liberal American reader, still mortified by Trump’s victory, may assume we are talking about the United States. We are not. We are talking about Turkey, and its dictator-to-be, Erdogan.
Turkey’s number one problem has always been its inability to assimilate its Kurdish minority. Under Erdogan, previous efforts at reconciliation were reversed, Kurdish leader Ocalan was jailed and rendered incommunicado, and mainly Kurdish parts of southeast Turkey gradually came to resemble war zones. Meanwhile civil liberties are being drastically curtailed throughout the country and a recent purge decimated the ranks of the military and the civil service.
Erdogan’s choices in foreign affairs have been, if possible, even worse. His fixation with his ‘Kurdish problem’ has led him to support a band of Syrian rebels that have proven to be losers, while alienating Russia and putting severe strains on the US tie. He has managed to let the objective of becoming a part of Europe slip: membership in the European Union is no longer an option. And then there’s his personal war on Gulen, who has done a lot more than he has to build friends abroad.
In sum, Erdogan’s choices in dealing with the rest of the world have added up to disaster, and Turkey has plummeted from paragon to pariah.
Why worry, asks the American reader? Turkey’s a long way away. Well, we should worry because the Turkish example demonstrates how quickly and how thoroughly wrong choices at the Presidential level can turn a strong country around. Could it happen here, anything like this?
That is the main reason we should be worrying.