I’ve been wondering how to title this post since late Friday night, when it became clear that the attempted coup in Turkey will fail, but I’d say this is short, simple and accurate enough. Sure, military rule can never be desirable and a coup usually works out dreadfully, Egypt now being clear and obvious recent proof that even when it’s meant to solve an obvious existing problem, it’ll replace it with an even worse one. However, Turkey’s history offered some hope that it’ll be different, and reasons to allow for some tentative, limited and definitely conditional support for this as a temporary solution to a very real and major problem plaguing not only Turkey but negatively influencing the entire region and even the world.
But Friday night was do or die, and now Turkey’s lost for many years to come, with fallout almost certain to spread over the entire region and beyond. What Turkey’s looking at for the foreseeable future is an authoritarian president whose paranoia has apparently been proven justified and who has lost no time in making full use of the events in order to greatly hasten his ongoing efforts to ensure complete control over all sectors of the country, ruthlessly eliminating anyone not fiercely loyal to him and jailing anyone who as much as dares to express any sort of criticism even more than before. There’s of course even the very serious talk of reintroducing the death penalty, and it was said that opponents will be “eradicated”.
Articles detailing exactly what happened, why and why it failed are all over the Internet and that’s not just because everybody has an opinion about it, but because it’s so easy to say, especially when it comes to the reasons for the failure. It was a poorly planned and poorly executed attempt, the president not being captured or killed as the very first action, the Parliament not being taken over or at least put under complete siege, the media not being taken over and used efficiently in order to give the impression that the deed was already done and there was no turning back, the Internet apparently not used in any relevant manner at all, aircraft and vehicles not under the control of the rebels not being disabled or too far to react in time… In short, they made just about every mistake they could have made, almost as if this was all staged and meant to fail quickly and offer the authorities this opportunity to return triumphant and take revenge.
Which, of course, is something many have been saying was actually the case. But I remain “allergic” to conspiracy theories and would require some solid direct evidence before believing such a claim. Instead, at the moment I’m thinking it was a rather desperate attempt by the relatively few who managed to remain in any position to do this without being fiercely loyal to the regime, and who knew the last possible window of opportunity was about to end. So they had neither the time nor the resources to plan this properly, the regime was probably aware of the threat and took precautions, and the result was what it was and it is now being taken full advantage of. Which, in fact, means it was caused and is being used by the regime just as much as if it’d have actually been staged, so it doesn’t make much of a difference whether the conspiracy theorists are right or not.
Which leads to the bigger problem, which is the reaction. Inside Turkey, all the political opposition was united in condemning the attempt, there are reports that those who took part in the protests that started with Gezi Park were even on the streets Friday night to push back against the rebel troops, Saturday saw large gatherings of loyalists praising Erdogan and Allah and demanding the death penalty, and anyone who may have any real and completely justified concerns or criticism to express is being silenced. So there’s absolutely no hope left for anything but a drastic worsening of the situation for the foreseeable future.
Even worse was the international reaction, however, and it all started from the United States, the current administration once again proving that having even someone with half a ball in the White House would be an improvement and absolutely necessary for the world when they were the first to release a firm message of support for the Turkish government while the situation was still fluid. Of course, it’s also possible that they had all the information before anyone else and already knew the outcome at that time, so they were merely backing the winning side, but an explicit message of support for that regime, without pointing out its crimes and demanding drastic and immediate changes for the better, is a terrible signal, and one which has unfortunately been echoed since then by nearly all other countries, as well as the European Union and NATO. Egypt, for obvious reasons but making a perfectly valid point, got in the way of a UN resolution, but that’s a rare exception, if not even the only one.
So this is the end. Huge increase in the support enjoyed by the regime, a complete and ruthless consolidation of power and control, the elimination of any known or suspected critics while any who may still think for themselves and manage to get away with it will flee or hide in fear and censor themselves, and an “international community” not daring or even caring to react to the abuses. Erdogan was elected president in 2014 for a five-year term that can be renewed once, so, barring truly shocking events, Turkey is lost until at least 2024, and almost certainly for some time after that as well, as merely being unable to maintain this particular position after that point will stop neither him nor those he surrounded himself with. As a status I saw today said: “If an attempted coup doesn’t result in the death certificate of the dictator, then what dies is even the shadow of democracy which had still existed until then.”