The Ataturk Gambit


So Nadim said this in a convo about MBS and it started me thinking.

This Ataturk one hundred years out of sync

There are not one, but TWO! wannabe Ataturks right now– CP Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS, aka Prince Reckless) of KSA and Sisi (military dictator and putzchist-in-chief of Egypt).

Here they are, having laffs at an official function.   Ataturk was a handsome charismatic military dictator who forced a western style constitution on his people and outlawed the arabic alphabet.  Kemalism lasted a glorious ninety years or so, but then the basal islamic composition of turkish citizens began to assert itself through the rise of AKP.  The 21st century has witnessed the re-islamicization of Turkey.  eg: Erdogan has restored the teaching of arabic in schools.  And as we now know from the Rise of ISIS, arabic is just a gateway drug for Quran.

In Egypt, during the “Arab Spring”, Muhammed Morsi won a democratic election and then was promptly couped by Sisi, who was bankrolled and supported by KSA.   Sisi immediately jailed the opposition (40k of the Muslim Brotherhood), massacred protestors, set about suppressing student protests at al-Azhar, removing “radical” imams and  promoting a statist brand of Islam.  Sis is on record as saying that it could take “60 years” to moderate “radical Islam” in Egypt.

MBS is already operating from the Ataturk playbook in KSA.   There is a joint US/Saud program to “sanitize” the ahadith.  KSA will recall all the old textbooks and replace them with new textbooks with sanitized, western friendly  ahadith.  And any academic or religious teacher will face the new anti-terrorism law if they refuse or dissent.  Much like Ataturk banned the arabic alphabet to discourage quranic study.

The current newly minted KSA law has nothing to do with corruption — that is just a headfake.  Its an anti-dissent law, and any dissent can and will be framed as terrorism.

I’m not at all convinced an Ataturk Gambit can work in the 21st century.  Ataturk controlled the news media of the time, the printing presses, the military and the police.  And 100 years to implement the plan.  Sisi is on record as saying it could take 60 years in Egypt.  Sounds about right– 30 years of Mubarek stacking al-Azhar appointments + 60 years of Sisi style military junta.  Except I don’t think it will work.

The problem for wannabe Ataturks is twofold– the internet puts everything on high speed, and social media connections ensure the aggregation of shared ideologies.  There are already secret societies starting up to use tech to preserve ahadith.  And the constitution of the Kingdom is actually the Quran.   How does MBS escape being branded  an apostate and a poodle of Kushner and Trump?  In Gulf I, the US great error was in trying to establish US base on KSA soil, in the land of Mecca and Medina– the result of this botched attempt was Osama bin Laden and 9/11.  The US wars in Iraq and A-stan have given us the endless supersoldiers of ISIS and the Taliban.

This is really interesting am to me…the memetic integrity of ahadith and Quran have been fiercely guarded for a thousand years… I am not so sure meaning of ahadith can be bent or corrupted.   But I guess we shall see.


Erdogan’s Game

Billboards the day after the failed Turkish coup– “rule by the people” has been changed to “rule by Allah”.

Its astonishing to me the amount of study lavished on failed western attempts to interpret the Mysterious East (yes, I’m studying Said’s Orientalism).  But a lot of Said’s carefully crafted analysis is wholly applicable to 21st century problems.  For example– the West was gobsmacked to find out the Arab Spring wasn’t really about embracing secular democracy, but more of a muslim revolution embracing representative theocracy.  So I guess I should have been expecting all the Erdogan hatred boiling up across the web– another rejection lol!

Does anyone actually think Erdogan’s plan was to nurture secular democracy in the wake of an assassination attempt and a failed coup?  Secular democracy doesn’t even work well in the richest country in the world.   I am going to offer a simpler and more straight forward explanation of Erdogan’s actions– using game theory and evolutionary theory of culture.  Erdogan’s strategy here is devoted to a single goal– avoiding the Morsi treatment– where a democratically elected president was overthrown by a military dictator who was subsequently unconditionally embraced by all western “pro-democratic” leaders.

In a parliamentary system its quite difficult to degrade the Nash equilibrium into a two-person zerosum game.  But surely Erdogan has been watching the US closely, where the elegant Nash equilibrium the Founders set up has devolved into Sinner v Sinner Tit for Tat, because the republicans began playing 2person-zerosum when Obama was elected.  The advantage to Erdogan of switching to a presidential system is not just consolidating power– a presidential system forces a two party system.  This is what fundamentalists do (Boyer 2001)– burn the middle ground and force moderates to choose a camp.  In Turkey Erdogan’s AKIP will become one of the two–  the secular kemalists will be forced to ally with kurdish separatists and PKK linked “terrorists”.   The turkish military and police have been trained to view the PKK as the major cause of disruption of order– Erdogan is sticking the separatist kurds onto the kemalists.  (Erdogan didnt fight ISIS until he was forced to. ) And Erdogan has been stoking the fires of nationalism and patriotism in a campaign very similiar to Trumps MAGA– using historical references and past glories.

Currently AKIP is larger than the kemalist and kurdish parties combined.  Turkey is 99.3 % muslim– citizens become registered muslims at birth.  The failed coup empowered Erdogan to purge gulenists from executive branch, military, judiciary, and academe.  And then there’s the 2 million syrian (mostly sunni) refugee problem.  Dont look for Erdogan to lose power anytime soon.

I wish Edward Said and Scott Atran could have had long discussions instead of Said and Hitchens.  Surely science is a much better way to get around Orientalism.  And we need to figure it out pretty quickly– muslims are about to be one quarter of the global population.  Its not possible to destroy an idea with bombs, and majority muslim states will inevitably have some form of representative islamic government.  Like Dr. Atran says here:

So which do you prefer?  Erdogan or Baghdadi?

Understanding Erdogan: A Primer for Aspiring Western Putschists

I am seeing so much unhelpful verbage vomited out by the cottage-industry jihadologists like Shadi Hamid on the failed Turkish coup that I have to correct the record.  First, this is an enormous blow to Barack Obama and the US covert plan to create a “moderate” Islam (See Rand).  Second, the failure of the coup was utterly predictable in the sense that ever since the Sisi coup in Egypt Erdogan has been preparing for an attempt like this, and probably even before, given the history of military coups in Turkey.

One of the most important things Erdogan has done was the formation and fierce support of loyal religious police and intelligence services to counter the military.  The police and intel agencies subscribe to a traditional conservative islamic ideology which is very different from Güllenism– which is a kind of reform or “pluralist” Islam designed by Rand Corporation (see Fixing Islam) and covertly promoted by the US.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 9.16.04 PM Police praying.                 So here is the first difference: Sisi had both the military and the police, and the intelligence branch on his side.  But Erdogan had the support of loyal police and intelligence forces.  This is why we saw the putschists attacking not just the presidential palace and parliament, but Police and Intelligence Headquarters.  When the military coupists fired on the crowd the attempt was finished– the Egypt military never fired on the crowds in Tahir– nothing deligitimizes a coup attempt like live fire on civilians.

Although the elements that made up Sisi’s coup are roughly equivalent to the turkish putschists– secularists, military, deep state– there is a major difference btwn the islamic defectors (Noor Party in Egypt) and the turkish islamic defectors (Güllenists).  That is, public support by KSA.  Although the US was secretly very much in favor of the coup in Turkey, it could not be seen as publicly supporting it for a variety of reasons: NATO, Incirlik base, Syrian refugees, etc.  Obama had hoped for an eventual “soft” coup and the ascendency of güllenist “reform” Islam– this is now delayed for at least 50 yrs.  Who knows what Obama had to promise Erdogan to get Incirlik opened again before IS slaughtered all his kurdish mercenaries.  But if Erdogan really wanted Gülen I am positive Obama would have had to give him up.  The failed coup also showcased Incirlik value as hostage– it hosts some 50+ NATO nukes and is the lichpin of Obama’s kurdish mercenary protection plan.

I don’t think its in Erdogan’s advantage to extradite Gülen and try him– what he is doing is much more powerful– purging guellinsm from the military, the judiciary, and most importantly from academe.  In Egypt Mubarak currated appointments of jurists to Al Azhar for 30 years– creating a sort of statist reform Islam that Sisi has been able to exploit.  Now even Gullenist intellectuals are barred from leaving the country.   Erdogan is simply using Gülen to embarrass Obama.  The overture to Russia is just insurance.  Obama thought he could bully/persuade Erdogan into doing any thing Obama wanted– that relationship is shattered now.  Erdogan is rightly suspicious, and will be even more careful going forward.

The second difference is social media and flash mobs.  Ataturk was a dictator that outlawed the arabic alphabet and the adhan– both of which Erdogan has restored.  It is ironic especially that the adhan was used to call flash mobs to the street to protest the coup.  Westerners seem to have a terribly hard time  distinguishing between forced secularism of tyrants and consent of the governed (democracy).  What actually destroyed the coup was  a single CNN Turk anchorwoman and Erdogan facetiming his citizens on an iphone.  I hope she got a medal.

When Sisi prepared to slaughter the peaceful protestors in Rabia square he shut down the cell towers– so the world wouldn’t see him burning muslims alive in tents and bulldozing their bodies.  A big mistake of the putschists was failing to shut down the internet.  So the coup was defeated by social media and flash mobs, while Erdogan’s loyal police and intel forces stood off the putsch long enough for Erdogan to mobilize the citizenry.  The funniest thing to me is now that Erdogan has reaped incalculable power gains from the failed coup, there is all this western conspiracy theory about how the coup MUST have been staged!  Because western sympathizers could never have possibly executed so poorly– 911 truthers is the best analogy.

To me the most important outcome of the failed coup is the epic destruction of güllenism– practically eradicated from Turkish society and culture, demonized and deligitimized for the next half century at minimum.  The validated purge of discredited gullenist professors, jurists, and intellectuals on a vast scale…it says to me that Erdogan learned a great lesson from my hero Malcolm X.

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