David Warren has an important column about Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan in the September 15th edition of the Ottawa Citizen.
Turkey has become an increasingly important player in the Middle East since the Arab Spring began earlier this year. Its prime minister, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, is the leading Sunni politician in the world.
Erdogan is a new kind of Muslim leader. He is essentially a free market Islamist. The Turkish economy has soared on his watch: per capita income has tripled since he came into office in 2003. His fiscal policies have encouraged economic growth as well: inflation is under control, public deficits have been reduced and the bureaucracy has functioned well.
His platform is essentially a Muslim version of Max Weber’s protestant work ethic. This fuses free markets with religious piety.
Erdogan is an Islamist who wants reverse Turkey’s secular tradition and roll back the Ataturk constitution, which has shaped the country for the past century.
These ideas are wildly popular with the Turkish electorate. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) have won landslide elections. Demographics help Erdogan too: the faithful make plenty of babies; secularists don’t.
Turkish voters support his foreign policy initiatives as well. Erdogan envisions Turkey as the Sunni power in the Middle East. He has picked fights with Israel, a wise move for a Muslim democrat. Ankara supported the Gaza flotilla last year, kicked out the Israeli ambassador, ended cooperation with the Israeli military and sought ties with Tehran, Israel’s existential enemy.
Last month, Erdogan purged his military leadership. Gone are the military leaders who are friendly with the West and those who helped secure Turkish secularism. Erdogan’s allies replaced them.
This change has significant geo-political consequences. David Warren writes: “Turkey’s powerful, western-equipped military is now entirely Erdogan’s baby, and the country’s secularist constitution is a dead letter. Erdogan, the Islamist, now has absolute power.”
Observers think it’s only a time before Erdogan launches a regional war.