Monday, October 29, 2007
Turkey And The Mullahs
A short while ago, in a post about the damage we've done to our strategic alliance with Turkey, I made the mistake of suggesting that one of the dangers of alienating Turkey might be to see that country slide into theocracy. A reader left a comment to the effect that there's little likelihood of that happening. This Dissent interview with Seyla Benhabib, a Turkish political scientist, confirms that analysis:
...I don’t think that the AK Party wants a theocracy. They are carrying out an incredible experiment and it is unusual for some one who is a democratic socialist like myself to be supporting, and watching very carefully, a party like them. But we are all watching carefully because they also represent a kind of pluralism in civil society which is absolutely essential for Turkey.
So I don’t fear an Islamic theocracy in Turkey. I don’t think that the Turkish people want an Islamic theocracy and I don’t think that the AK party wants an Islamic theocracy. There have always been some elements who may have dreamed of this but I can’t see it happening...
Benhabib also briefly addresses the extent to which Turkey might serve as a model for other Arab Islamic states. Remember that the failure of the secular Arab nationalist movement, of which Turkey was an early example, directly led to the emergence of the Iranian-style Islamic revolution throughout the Arab world. And it's against the backdrop of this latter movement's inability to free the Middle East of Western influence that Osama Bin Laden's brand of Qutbism has taken root.
So inasmuch as Turkey -- as a healthy, secular democracy with a modernized economy -- represents the alternative to what the jihadists offer, the question is an important one. Benhabib is optimistic, specifically as regards Syria, whose improved relations with Turkey could serve as an incentive for Bashir Assad to open his country up a bit to the world.
In other words, while Andrew Sullivan is correct that a Turkey-Iran-Syria re-alignment would certainly deal a blow to American regional interests, it wouldn't necessarily result in a three-headed theocratic hydra. In fact, the opposite assumtion, that Turkey could function as a moderating influence on both Syria and Iran, is entirely plausible.