Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review July 2, 2002 / 22 Tamuz, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Teetering on the Democratic edge | ANKARA, Turkey "The main obstacle to democracy is not Islam, but Kemalism," says Atilla Yayla, the unassuming head of Turkey's Association for Liberal Thinking.

Turkey is a critically important country, but also an amazingly complicated and frustrating one. And while it has done better than most other Muslim countries in mixing Islam and secularism, as a democracy it remains a works in progress.

Turkey today is suffering political instability, with the illness of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. It is still recovering from the economic crisis of the last two years. And it is at a geopolitical epicenter: eastern Mediterranean, Mideast and southern Asia.

Ankara's future is still in play, as contending factions battle over joining the European Union. Ankara is a nominal democracy, with regular elections. Yet the military holds ultimate power, upending governments and dissolving political parties.

This frustrates Turks who are liberal, in a classical sense, supporting individual liberty, economic freedom and political democracy. Professor Soli Ozel at Istanbul's Bilgi University commented sardonically: "They have the bayonets and we don't."

Turkey's reigning ideology is statism, embodied in the nation's founder, Kemal Ataturk.

"Kemalism is treated like a religion," says Yayla, also a university professor.

It is hard to find a room in Turkey without Ataturk's photo; his overpowering, square block memorial in Ankara is a shrine.

Dissent is highly constrained. Criticism of the military and individual generals is simply banned. Criticism of other officials can be almost as dangerous.

A magazine published by Yayla's Association for Liberal Thinking criticized a Supreme Court ruling kicking religious conservatives out of politics. The ALT's publisher, Liberte Publication, and the author found themselves subject to a lawsuit and now face ruinous damages.

Academia offers no security. Ozel speaks of "immense pressure by the government" because the private university is seen as having "too many leftists and liberals, allowing women to wear head scarves, and talking about the Kurds." The government also controls the economy, creating a class of businessmen dependent on political subsidies; one cause of Turkey's recent economic crisis is a state banking system that lost billions while shoveling money to favored interests.

Ankara has begun to reform: "They've dug themselves halfway out," observed Scot Marciel, an economic counselor at the U.S. embassy. But in his view, Ankara still needs to privatize state enterprises and eliminate barriers to foreign investment.

Unfortunately, "You don't really have a political party that represents economic liberalization," complains Mustafa Sayinatac of Cargill.

All of these problems run back to Turkey's overarching philosophy of government. Gokhan Capoglu, a former Member of Parliament and now professor at Bilkent University, argues that "we have to achieve a liberal democracy. I'm speaking of the rule of law, separation of powers, accountability to the rules." More fundamentally, suggests Yayla, "Without dismantling Kemalism, I don't think there can be a real democracy, a real market economy." Democracy is important, but more basic is liberalism, with its commitment to human dignity and freedom.

Ozel says there are "liberal people in most every political party," though no party has yet taken up the reform cause.

Liberal-minded Turks tend to look outside for help, to both the EU and America.

But European pressure could easily spark a nationalist counter-reaction in Ankara. As for Washington, warns Capoglu: an open endorsement would risk "making the same mistake as in other countries," when people ended up "associating the U.S. with unpopular governments." Moreover, a domestic constituency is necessary for reform. Which the Association for Liberal Thinking hopes to create.

Yayla emphasizes that "We are not for political parties but for liberal politics." Indeed, ALT has "contact with members of all parties," including "the Islamic-oriented. They like us because they know we respect their rights." Headquartered in a small, four-bedroom suite in a central Ankara neighborhood, ALT employs five staffers.

Formally organized in 1994, ALT ( seeks to spread market liberal thought, publishing books and magazines, hosting forums and seminars, and working with like-minded groups in the United States and Europe.

"Anything you do is risky," says Yayla. But "if you are too cautious, you can't do anything."

Turkey's potential is vast. Strategically located and filled with entrepreneurial people, it could become a regional powerhouse between Europe, the Mideast and Caspian Basin. It could also provide the model for Islamic peoples to retain their culture while adapting to modernity and enjoying human liberty.

But to fulfill that role, Ankara must move away from its authoritarian past. Turkey may be more democratic "than any other Islamic country," observes Yayla, but that's not nearly enough.

"We want freedom, peace, and the rule of law." That is a prescription for an abundant future for Turkey and its neighbors. nominees.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


06/25/02: Judicial litmus tests
06/18/02: Killer teeth?
06/11/02: Europeans defending whom?
05/24/02: Threatening pharmaceutical innovation
05/14/02: The war crimes fantasy
05/07/02: Paying a high price for befriending Saudi princes
04/30/02: The price of postal monopoly
04/23/02: The war on charity
04/16/02: The forgotten human right
03/27/02: Cuba's struggle to be free
03/20/02: How to defeat Cuban communism
03/12/02: Junk science, redux
03/06/02: Axis of hubris
02/27/02: Washington-style campaign reform: incumbent protection
02/20/02: The grand Enron morality play
02/12/02: Rebuilding what?
02/05/02: Succumbing to the terrorist temptation
01/29/02: Democrats for what?
01/22/02: The Iraqi question
01/14/02: Profiling frequent flyers
01/08/02: Trade, not aid
01/02/02: Treason by any other name
12/26/01: Preserving freedom in an unfree world
12/17/01: Dealing with terrorism's aftermath
12/10/01: Emerging friendships?
12/04/01: Uncle Sam: Insurer of last resort
11/28/01: Expanding the circle of trade
11/20/01: Free to be stupid
11/13/01: The meaning of compassion
11/07/01: Patriotic scoundrels
10/30/01: The coming postal raid
10/16/01: First, do no harm
10/12/01: Good news from a suffering land
10/04/01: Defending whom?
09/25/01: The wrong solution to the wrong problem
09/21/01: The price of terrorism
08/28/01: Uncle Sam's retirement scam
08/21/01: Canberra's quaint naivete
08/14/01: Uncle Sam's false fuel economy
08/08/01: The Clinton administration in drag
07/31/01: The high cost of government
07/24/01: Kill the campaign reform illusion
07/17/01: Do as I say, not as I do
07/11/01: Lawyers at play
07/05/01: Western blundering, Macedonian disaster
06/26/01: How best to honor Bill Clinton?
06/19/01: A maturing Europe?
06/15/01: Tell Beijing to mind its own business
06/06/01: Ukraine's boiling cauldron
05/31/01: Protecting privacy from Uncle Sam
05/22/01: America's Balkan quagmire
05/09/01: The Taiwanese flash point
05/01/01: Globalization serves the world's poor
04/24/01: Who's cheating whom?
04/10/01: The NCAA scam
04/03/01: Balkan stupidities
03/27/01: McCain doesn't want a 'risk for our country'
03/20/01: Dubious Korean alliances
03/06/01: Coercive patriotism
02/27/01: Bombing without end
02/20/01: A dose of misplaced outrage
02/13/01: Psst: Tax cuts for taxpayers. Pass-it-on
02/06/01: Bridging the unbridgeable gap
01/23/01: Left-wing demagoguery
01/16/01: The drug war problem
01/10/01: Politics and trade
01/03/01: Hope for liberty?
12/27/00: The debris of war
12/19/00: What's the rule of law for?
12/15/00: Ending silicone breast implant saga
12/05/00: Election may yield victor, but there are no winners
11/21/00: A Bush presidential mandate?
11/07/00: Exprienced Gore? Yeah, right
11/01/00: Interventionist follies
10/17/00: America's brightening prospects in Ukraine
10/11/00: GOP budget scandals
10/03/00: How a pharmaceutical 'crisis' was created
09/27/00: Clinton's empathy has helped nobody
09/13/00: AlGore's risky budget policies
09/05/00: Military readiness and Korean commitments
08/29/00: Let sleeping hypocrites lie
08/21/00: Targeting a journalistic pariah
08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
06/22/00: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
06/15/00: The end of U.N. peacekeeping
06/07/00: The Clinton regulatory miasma
06/01/00: Administration stupidity, congressional cowardice
05/25/00: The silence of the international community
05/18/00: Protecting the next generation

05/11/00: Freer trade with China will advance human rights

05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

04/18/00: Clinton administration believes the IRS is too gentle, wants more auditors

© 2002, Copley News Service