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And Erdogan has been stoking the fires of nationalism and patriotism in a campaign very similiar to Trumps MAGA– using historical references and past glories.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?

My DIY on Syria: The Maze

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For me the real star of the teen dystopia movie The Maze Runner is the shape shifting reconfiguring maze.  The labyrinth changes every day.  The giant ivy covered stone walls grind slowly into new configurations, trapping the gladers in a complex puzzle.  Much like the American misadventure in the Middle East.  And unlike the gigantic shape shifting maze in the movie– its a puzzle that the US can’t seem to either solve or escape from.

Its no secret that I think Hassan Hassan is the best ME analyst around– he and Dr. Atran have been my greatest influences over the last two years.  Hassan inspired my Embracing Apocalypse series with his comment about how IS is multidimensional– past, present and future.  Part1 (past) and Part2(present) are written– im still working onPart3(future) which will incorporate a lot of my boring math/physics stuff like the arrow of time, LaPlace’s daemon and predestination, branes, bulks, AdS space, curvature of spacetime, entropy, complexity, chaos, etc.

But for today lets talk about the Maze.  Think about the realignment of factions as the walls of the labyrinth shifting in the Maze.  Hassan Hassan has an excellent piece on just that.

Notwithstanding what happens next in Aleppo, JFS has already made its entrance. Inside and outside Syria, support for the group appears to have risen. Many seem to be comfortable with showing support for a group that is supposedly no longer part of Al Qaeda, while others support it for its lead role in the continuing counterattack. This normalisation and show of support are at the heart of the group’s reconfiguration – and the Aleppo offensive was partly designed to achieve that.

 The social goodwill that the group has gained over the past two weeks should not be taken lightly. The way the situation looks for anti-regime Syrians is that, while the world stood by as nearly 300,000 civilians were under siege by the regime, and in violation of an understanding between Moscow and Washington not to support such a siege, it was extremists who again won the day. Also, despite the involvement of Russia, Iran and foreign Shia militias fighting under their command in Syria, those forces could overrun a well-secured regime base and break a siege within a few days.

In Syria Obama hoped to be the hero of a diplomatic solution– instead, he is once again the goat.  Michael Weiss, Hassan’s co-author says:

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And now the jihadis are the Heroes of Aleppo.

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Another recent realignment of factions just happened in Turkey– here is Hassan again on the new post (failed) coup alignments.

Ankara’s foreign policy will probably be more assertive in the coming weeks and months. Domestically, the episode shows that the mark Mr Erdogan has already made in the Turkish political landscape might be deeper than it is often made out to be. Mr Erdogan leads a ruling party that is increasingly entrenched, not only because of power-grabbing but also because it commands an increasingly committed social and political base, and whose detractors sometimes appear to be detached from reality. Whereas Mr Erdogan’s popularity has been on display after each election, the media portrays him as an insecure and embattled leader. For Mr Erdogan and his supporters, the attempted coup and its failure justified the policies he followed over the past three years to increase his grip on power, which will embolden them to push further.

And the Maze shifts again.  These two events demonstrate a remarkable lack of agility in Obama’s foreign policy.  Agile applications are a big Silicon Valley buzzword right now.  USG has actually hired the Scrum software guy to “agilize” the ponderous antiquated US military.  Obama had hoped for a soft coup– gulenism is supported by the RAND Building Moderate Muslim Networks initiative.  Most Americans do not realize that gulenism is a moderate, quasi-sufi variant of Islam– a kind of “reform” Islam.  The abortive coup smashed years of careful covert work by the US.  Gulenists even have a lobbyist group in the US– much like Israel.  Now gulenists have been wiped from the judiciary, academe, military, intelligence and police force.  And Turkey is free to develop closer ties to Russia while continuing on the path to islamize the country.

My obsessive interest is complex adaptive systems dynamics– as an observer my model of MENA is a landscape of sandpiles weakly or strongly connected by attractor and feed-forward networks– any realignment flows through all the alliances and enmities of the landscape.  IS and JF are complex interconnected emergent movements– they cannot be bombed away or droned away.  Syria is connected to Turkey is connected to Iraq is connected to Yemen is connected to Bahrain etc etc…

Right on cue– Hassan Hassan:

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US is desperately trying to stabilize the sandpiles, but the Second Law (of Thermodynamics) rules.  Its simply not possible.  So US stays trapped in the Maze.

I once thought Obama was skilled at 11-D chess…it turns out he has been zugzwang all along.  For now Incirlik is open– but Erdogan demonstrated that he can close it at will, and that he no longer trusts the US.  I just dont think the US will escape the Maze before the sandpiles collapse.  And this (from Turkey) is the result of Obama’s sneaky, covert, lead-from-behind gulenist crusade.  The signs have been changed from rule by the people to rule by Allah.

Takbir!

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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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