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Jewish World Review
Sept. 6, 2007
/ 23 Elul, 5767
Talking Turkey? We should be
An interesting and vital question in today's international
maelstrom is, what should the U.S. government's position be toward
Turkey? What should we do if the Turkish army which has long
regarded itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular form of government
decides to take action against Turkey's democratically elected
The Turkish army has held the keys to power since the death of
Kemal Ataturk, who radically reformed Turkey's government and culture.
The army has exercised its perceived prerogative to oust Turkish
national civil governments four times since 1960, and may do so again.
Turkey's army command sent signals it was opposed to the
selection of Abdullah Gul as president of Turkey. The army perceives
Gul to be an Islamist and supporter of a religion-dominated government.
Nevertheless, in a recent national election the Turkish people
reelected the Justice and Development Party. Based on its huge
electoral victory in a subsequent election held by the parliament, that
party voted to elect Abdullah Gul as president of Turkey by a vote of
339 to 83.
The military command conveyed its upset by declining to attend
the inauguration, a clear signal that its opposition to the presidential
If the Turkish military leaders who see themselves as the
guardians of a secular Turkey and fear Mr. Gul and his party will
gradually whittle away at the secularity of the Turkish government
steps in and supersedes the civil government imposing military rule to
protect a continued secular Turkey, should the then U.S. president, the
U.S. Congress, national media and our nation's other leaders denounce
the Turkish military in such event and call for sanctions against them?
When the Algerian military in 1992 stopped the then pending
second round of the national election because it was clear that were the
election to go forward, the fundamentalist Islamic party, Islamic
Salvation Front (F.I.S.) would win, deposing the National Liberation
Front (F.L.N.), a secular party which had ruled Algeria since its
independence achieved in 1962, and seek to implement its official
slogan, "No Constitution and no laws. The only rule is the Koran and
the law of G-d."
The New York Times in an editorial of August 24, 1993 after the
F.L.N. with the support of the military cancelled the elections,
inveighed, "Algeria, with opportunities for peaceful change rapidly
disappearing and its unpopular government clinging to power by military
force, slides deeper into the sterile politics of death." The article
went on, "Most Western governments winked when Algeria's army seized
power in January 1992 to deny the Islamic movement a victory it had won
in parliamentary elections." It continued, "Had the Islamic movement
been allowed to assume parliamentary power, would it have been any less
repressive, or more competent, than the army? No one can know."
On May 17, 2007, after a bloody civil war which claimed at least
100,000 lives, the Algerian military allowed an election to be held and
the secular, current Algerian civil government led by the F.L.N., won.
Was that preferable to the Islamist F.I.S. taking power? I
If Musharraf of Pakistan, Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah II of
Jordan, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia all leaders of
authoritarian-style governments were to allow fair elections in
their countries, there is little doubt but that the Islamic party
religious fundamentalists in those countries wanting to impose Sharia
(which among other penalties provides for the cutting off of hands for
those who steal and the stoning to death of those who commit adultery or
acts of homosexuality) and restore the caliphate with one religious
leader in command of all of the Islamic republics, would prevail.
Would that be good or bad for the U.S. and the Western world?
Is the conclusion reached responding to that question a legitimate
reason for our response in seeking as best we can an avoidance of such
an outcome? I think it definitely is and that first and foremost as
their obligation for any president and Congress is the protection of the
U.S. from foreign attack. I fear there are many in Congress, the media
and the public who would conclude, it is the choice of the people of
those countries and we have to live with it.
What would former President Jimmy Carter say? I have no doubt
he would denounce any action on the part of the U.S. to assist those in
those countries seeking to prevent such an outcome.
I for one believe we would be fools not to intervene and support
those seeking to stop the rise of another Islamic state bent on our
destruction. I believe Senator McCain best summed up what our response
should be in like situations when he said, "There's only one thing worse
than the United States exercising the military option, that is, a
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© 2007, Ed Koch