July 20th, 2016

More on the Turkish coup attempt—“democracy” at any price?

In one of my first posts on the coup attempt in Turkey, I mentioned that Daniel Pipes had written a 2015 article asserting that Erdogan’s 2014 electoral victory was bogus. Many people in the west who have championed Erdogan against the coup plotters have cited the fact that Erdogan is the democratically elected leader of the country as the foundation of their defense of him, but even that fact may not be true, according to Pipes.

Now Pipes has written another piece entitled “Why I rooted for the Turkish coup attempt.” Well, I was certainly rooting for it, too (although I saw it as doomed almost from the start). And even though I don’t tweet, I pretty much agree with Pipes in his first paragraphs here:

Every major government condemned the coup attempt in Turkey, as did all four of the parties with representatives in the Turkish parliament. So did even Fethullah Gülen, the religious figure accused of being behind the would-be take over.

All of which leaves me feeling a little lonely, having tweeted out on Friday, just after the revolt began, “#Erdoğan stole the most recent election in #Turkey and rules despotically. He deserves to be ousted by a military coup. I hope it succeeds.”

Pipes goes on to explain further:

Erdoğan stole the election. Erdoğan is an Islamist who initially made his mark, both as mayor of Istanbul and as prime minister of Turkey, by playing within the rules. As time wore on, however, he grew disdainful of those rules, specifically the electoral ones. He monopolized state media, tacitly encouraged physical attacks on opposition-party members, and stole votes…

Erdoğan rules despotically. Erdoğan has taken control of one institution after another, even in the two years since he became president, a constitutionally and historically non-political position. The result? An ever-growing portion of Turks are working directly under his control or that of his minions: the prime minister, the cabinet, the judges, the police, the educators, the bankers, the media owners, and other business leaders. The military leadership has acquiesced to Erdoğan but, as the coup attempt confirmed, the officer corps has remained the one institution still outside his direct control.

Erdoğan uses his despotic powers for malign purposes, waging what amounts to a civil war against the Kurds of southeastern Turkey, helping ISIS, aggressing against neighbors, and promoting Sunni Islamism.

Military intervention has previously worked in Turkey. Turkey is the country where military coups d’état have had the most positive effect. In all four of the modern coups (1960, 1971, 1980, 1997), the general staff has shown a disciplined understanding of its role — to right the ship of state and then get out of its way. Their ruling interludes lasted, respectively, five years, two and a half years, three years, and zero years.

Pipes goes on to say that he thinks Erdogan’s days are numbered, and that his downfall will be to overplay his hand in the international arena. I’m not as expert on this as Pipes is (to say the least), but I think he’s being too optimistic. I think that the moves Erdogan is making to solidify his power will indeed solidify his power, much like what happened after the 1979 revolution in Iran. That regime is still in place, although some of the players are gone.

I think it’s also of note that Pipes has long been lumped with the neoconservatives:

Pipes had previously considered himself to be a Democrat, but after anti-war George McGovern gained the 1972 Democratic nomination for President, he switched to the Republican Party. Pipes used to accept being described as a “neoconservative”, once saying that “others see me that way, and, you know, maybe I am one of them.” However, he explicitly rejected the label in April 2009 due to differences with the neoconservative positions on democracy and Iraq, now considering himself a “plain conservative”.

My change experience was complete by around 2003, and thirteen years isn’t so “neo” anymore (although it’s shorter than the amount of time for Pipes, who left the liberal camp in 1972). I also have thought from the beginning that there’s no magic about “democracy” itself without guarantees of liberty and the rule of a law that protects individual liberty. When a dictatorial tyrant is elected, and that person dismantles the structures that protect people’s rights, to defend that person in the name of “democracy” is an absurdity and an outrage.

Articles by Pipes such as this one from 2012 may explain the sort of thinking that led him to differentiate himself from some neocons. I agree with him on the problem with supporting democracy so matter what it looks like; many of my posts about democracy (see this, for example, as well as this) contain such caveats. For example, the following is from that latter post (written nine years ago):

In the many posts I’ve written attempting to explain the basic neocon attitude towards the spread of democracy-(see this and this) I’ve tried to be careful to use the term “liberal democracy” to describe what is advocated. Why? Because democracy alone is not enough.

Democracy can devolve into tyranny almost as easily as a powerful central government can…

History teaches that the Bill of Rights was adopted with an eye to limiting the power of both the executive and the legislative branches, as well as to make clear that all powers not specifically listed in the Constitution as belonging to the federal government were retained by the states and the people. But what would prevent the people from voting away any of those rights? History also teaches us that crowds are strange and fickle things, subject to persuasive demagoguery as well as coercive threats, and that Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor wasn’t lying when he said that humankind is often willing to lay down the burden of freedom for easy answers and the promise of protection from its responsibilities…

Without these guarantees, democracy can mean “one person, one vote, one time.” The Ayatollah Khomeini was given dictatorial powers in a process that began, after the fall of the Shah and the Ayatollah’s triumphant return, with a nationwide referendum that was passed with an extraordinary 92.8% percent of the vote. This established the theocratic dictatorship that exists to this day, with the constitution of Iran being totally rewritten shortly afterwards.

Hitler came to power without ever winning a majority vote for his party, but the German government had another weakness—under its constitution, it was relatively easy to suspend civil liberties and establish a dictatorship. This did not even require the vote of its people, merely a two-thirds majority of its legislature. Therefore it was done by republican means; the Reichstag obligingly voted to abolish itself, although not without the “persuasion” of Hitler’s storm troopers surrounding the building with cries of ““Full powers—or else! We want the bill—or fire and murder!”

And recent less dramatic, but similar and still worrisome, events by which Venezuelan dictator Chavez has seized power with the full cooperation of the Venezuelan legislature—which, as in Germany of old, can amend the constitution by a mere 2/3 vote—demonstrate once again that there are not only “democratic” ways to seize power, but “republican” ones as well (and please note the small “d” and the small “r”)…

How does this apply to the attempts to spread democracy to a country such as Iraq? It makes it clear that democracy itself is a highly flawed “solution” without the guarantees inherent in a liberal democracy, and that none of it is of much use if the constitution of a country is too easily amended or suspended.

It is unsettling to see how many people—on left, right, and in the middle—do not see the truth of this.

25 Responses to “More on the Turkish coup attempt—“democracy” at any price?”

  1. artfldgr Says:

    I wonder what he thinks of this as it’s an related nowA French government committee has heard testimony, suppressed by the French government at the time and not published online until [last] week, that the killers in the Bataclan appear to have tortured their victims on the second floor of the club.

    The chief police witness in Parliament testified that on the night of the attacks, an investigating officer, tears streaming down his face, rushed out of the Bataclan and vomited in front of him just after seeing the disfigured bodies. …

    According to this testimony, Wahhabist killers reportedly gouged out eyes, castrated victims, and shoved their testicles in their mouths. They may also have disemboweled some poor souls. Women were reportedly stabbed in the genitals – and the torture was, victims told police, filmed for Daesh or Islamic State propaganda. For that reason, medics did not release the bodies of torture victims to the families, investigators said.

  2. neo-neocon Says:


    I assume if it happened he’d condemn it, so I’m not sure why you’re asking the question.

    As for the charges themselves, it’s not at all clear those aren’t just rumors.

    I’ve read several articles pro and con (including, for example, this). I also find it odd that none of the survivors—and there were many—are speaking out now about it.

    However, no one who is familiar with past terrorist attacks would be surprised had it happened (as I pointed out when writing about the Luxor attack, during which some atrocities occurred in addition to the murders).

  3. Nick Says:

    Been following the news stories out of Japan?



  4. blert Says:


    ISIS has been engaged in feral warfare — at every turn of the screw — so anyone that’s in their camp would feel ‘liberated’ to do likewise.

    Officialdom – from Luxor to Paris — has EVERY reason to lie about these atrocities — as terrifying future tourists is EXACTLY why the mutilations were inflicted in the first place.

    It’s not as if the party-goers had double-top secret information.

    This is sadism for the sake of cruelty and blood lust — no different than that inflicted by the SS in the camps.

    In Eike’s ‘philosophy’ it was not enough to murder out-grouped enemies of Hitler — every victim had to be scourged.

    Hence, the vicious barbed-wire ‘beds’ seen at Dachau.

    The proper term for such feral fighters is PIRATES — universal enemies of civilized man.

    By their own sins they ought to be paid.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Been following the news stories out of Japan?

    Heh, “out of Japan”? That’s like thinking CNN is getting American life and politics out of America.

    Half of what you hear about foreign countries has been mistranslated and propagandized, so that fools can fall for it. Just as they do for the rest of the Left’s propaganda.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Turkey’s majority never stopped being Islamic. While tragic, is Turkey’s fall really a surprise? Erdogan could do nothing without the support he enjoys.

    “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.” Winston Churchill

  7. Cornflour Says:

    Typo in 14th paragraph, 2nd sentence:

    “I agree with him on the problem with supporting democracy so matter what it looks like; … ”

    Make “so” into “no.”

    Noticing this kind of thing is one of my many flaws.

  8. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    Erdogan needs to play these cards to increase his power. Not all Turks are Islamists or even strict followers of Islam. Drinking is accepted (there is an interpretation that only drunkenness is forbidden by islam), women are unveiled and their hair is out, and people just want the economy moving again. When I was in Istanbul, a business associate pointed out how the practice of building a mosque as a gesture by the rich was wasted charity when other things are needed. The manager at the hotel asked me how I was enjoying my visit the told me there were “too many Arab Tourists”. He then gestured to a couple at restaurant with the wife eating in her burka.

    The old ottoman empire included the balkans and much of greece. Without Saudi funded preaching, much of this area would be calmer and more modern

  9. Nick Says:

    Ymarsakar – I’m sure it is distorted. But nobody proposes changes without a reason, and for some reason Abe’s side wants to exempt the Emperor from the Constitution. I can’t think of a health reason for that. Or for limiting freedom of the press.

    GB – The problem in Turkey is that the rural, religious population has been growing while the urban secularists haven’t been. And then, of course, the rural population has been moving to the cities.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    But nobody proposes changes without a reason, and for some reason Abe’s side wants to exempt the Emperor from the Constitution. I can’t think of a health reason for that. Or for limiting freedom of the press.

    And you know this because you read the Japanese draft of their new constitution?

    If you got it from your English sources over at NRO, they “translated” it the way they “interpreted” Hussein Obola’s healthcare bill.

    Of course there’s a reason, but since I knew about the Japanese trend away from pacifism from around 2008, no reason for me to repeat myself.


    As for democracy as the topic, democracy is a poison. Too much of it and you end up as dictatorship, oligarchy, totalitarian regime, or something in between.

    The Founding Father’s supposed “necessary evil” of government was the Republic which they gave as a government to the American people, colonists now independent. Now if the Republic is the necessary and lesser evil, then democracy would be the greater evil and the unnecessary one.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    Erdoğan has taken control of one institution after another, even in the two years since he became president, a constitutionally and historically non-political position.

    Evil has shown itself to have an interesting power. The same as obtained by the Leftist alliance. The ability to hijack, not create, human institutions for the purpose of destruction or to wage war against humanity itself.

    While political intrigues are old hat for Constantinople and Greeks, what people should take note of is how very close in power mad megalomania methodology the Leftist alliance and their Islamic slave lord allies really are. They aren’t quite as incompatible as your Democrat friends and friendly social journalist media has led you all to believe.

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Ottoman Empire, I would remind people, was the last Sunni Caliphate.

    Call for Jihad[edit]
    Though the Young Turks had compelled the Sultan in his capacity as the Caliph to declare a jihad urging all Muslims to resist Allied encroachment on their lands, the effort was largely unsuccessful. The Young Turk government resigned en masse and Enver, Talat, and Cemal fled Turkey aboard a German warship. Sultan Mehmed VI, who was proclaimed Sultan after his brother Mehmed V died of a heart attack in July, agreed to an armistice. The Armistice of Mudros formalizing Ottoman surrender was signed aboard a British warship on October 30, 1918. Allied troops arrived in Constantinople and occupied the Sultan’s palace shortly thereafter.

    The “Young Turks”, also known as the youtube channel full of Leftist apparatchiks and propagandists.

    The “Ottomans” require a historical explanation, Osman being one of those raiding steppe warlords that came in and took over some weakened dynasties, at the same time that Byzantine greeks and Armenians had been weakened by centuries of slave raiding from Islam. Can’t reproduce your warriors if all your women virgins get stolen for the sultan’s harem, you know.

    Documentation of the early history of the Ottomans is scarce. According to semilegendary accounts, Estugrul, khan of the Kayi tribe of the Oguz Turks, fled from Persia in the mid-thirteenth century to escape the Mongol hordes and took service with the sultan of Rum at the head of a gazi force numbering “400 tents.” He was granted territory–if he could seize and hold it–in Bithynia, facing the Byzantine strongholds at Bursa, Nicomedia (Izmit), and Nicaea. Leadership subsequently passed to Estugrul’s son, Osman I (reigned ca. 1299-1326), the eponymous founder of the Osmanli dynasty–better known in the West as the Ottomans– that was to endure for 600 years.

    Osman I’s small amirate attracted gazis–who required plunder from new conquests to maintain their way of life–from other amirates, siphoning off their strength while giving the Ottoman state a military stature that was out of proportion to its size.


    All of this was backed by Islam, of course. While steppe tribes always raided, they needed the wisdom of Islamic peace/jihad hybrid stability to become constituted as a state or kingdom.

    The Janissaries were slaves, usually boys from Christian houses that couldn’t pay the Jizya in coin. Lovely thing, that Jizya, from the pov of an Islamic conqueror.

  13. amr Says:

    Too many commenters in the Internet forget that our country has the rule of law to protect their rights under the Constitution as they cry out to punish, in some form, those they disagree with outside of the rule of law. So sad.

  14. Artfldgrs Says:

    the German government had another weakness—under its constitution, it was relatively easy to suspend civil liberties and establish a dictatorship. This did not even require the vote of its people, merely a two-thirds majority of its legislature. – Daniel Pipes

    Well, the US has a similar kind of weakness… Which i have brought up before, and has taken a long while to build brick by brick with Obama adjusting the capstones. / Its also why so many globalists in the know are so afraid of Donald in case he gets to activate what they put together, and not their choice.

    The collection of Executive Orders have been on record for nearly 30 years, with tweaks and such slowly added over time… Like moves on a chess board over time.

    together, in a time of turmoil or financial crisis, the state can convert us into a full born communist system under federal control, with congress neutralized for six months, the department of justice empowered to enforce it, and they go so far as to make a council (a soviet in Russian), to over see everything, and control salaries, work, credit, and on and on…

    the pish tosh basically amounts to the fact that none of them directly create the ability to suspend the constitution (which actually is someplace else not in executive orders) and that these go back before truman, but again, have been slowly updated year by year..

    there are also literally thousands of unconstitutional laws on the books that are not used due to prosecutorial discretion, which kind of hides them. but the minute conditions change, discretion can change, and voila, a whole big set of enforceable laws without any time needed to make or put them in place as they are already there, just kind of turned off. [there is a name for these laws i used once here but cant remember it]

  15. Zodac Says:

    The main difference between democracy and all other forms of government is the inclusion of a legal opposition in the political system. All other forms of government ignore or exclude the minorities with different views. The real essence of democracy is not the rule of the majority, a feature which sometimes even autocracies share, but the legal possibility of a minotity to challenge the rulers in the public sphere.

    Erdogan may be elected by a majority and could possibly even get a higher vote in the next election, but he is no democrat as long as he purges the opposition, the press and other political movements. In no other country are more journalists behind bars than in Turkey.

    And the mob in the streets makes Erdogan especially dangerous, because fierce rethorical speeches could be more intimidating than new laws.

  16. blert Says:

    Zodac you are conflating Republic with Democracy.

  17. Eric Says:

    Pipes elides that South Korea’s long, bumpy, post-WW2, post-Japan development has been constantly affected by the sustained and evolving US peace operations with the ROK.

    Religion is an easy answer and significant, but applying it as a ‘unified theory’ is a cop out. The development of liberal democracy there, too, comes down to political science.

  18. Eric Says:

    “Zodac you are conflating Republic with Democracy.”

    You’re both right. There’s the technical distinction. But in policy discussion, “democracy” usually is understood to include the “guarantees of liberty and the rule of a law that protects individual liberty”.

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    Turkish lawmakers set to give Erdogan sweeping new powers

    Turkey to suspend European rights convention

    and so such referencdums and things mean nothing because you can suspend hem when you dont want them, and replace them when you do.

    its like a law saying its illegal to murder, flip a swih calles suspension, kill someone, and turn the switch again.

    As for korea!!!
    Mystery Numbers in North Korea Broadcasts Carry Cold War Echoes

    and i ahve broght this up before here a neoneocons:
    Lee Harris, prognosticator
    I brough up SKYKING, and that one of the most famous of these number stations is the lincolnshire poacher

    On SKYKING (8992 or 11175 kHz USB) a call sign called “COLLAPSE” which has not been heard since 2001 has just broadcasted 4 messages to numbered stations/units in the last few minutes

    “FUXEBOX” and “Reykjavik,” have also broadcast in the last few days and they haven’t been heard since 1991 (collapse of the Soviet Union).

    “COLLAPSE” has sent 3 messages in the last few minutes.


    “Atención” station or the “Russian Man” are two other stations

    the post was to ask because these stations suddenly fired up again, and they are used by all sides to communicate to sleepers/underground in other countries. One of the most famous, thanks to the movie “The Longest Day” was the Radio Londres… [there was also Radio Belgique]

    Shortly before the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944, Radio Londres broadcast the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne” to let the resistance know that the invasion would begin within 24 hours

    “wound my heart with a monotonous languor” was the specific call to action

    the background is to clue you all in on why people might be concerned as to such things, but also note, one can just fire up a radio, and send a stream of nothing to no one and get similar reaction since no one knows the validty of the transmission, or if there is a reciever, etc. But take it seriously as you would a ISIS threat..

    If you want to hear an example of this, you can go to Youtube:
    1_06: The Lincolnshire Poacher

    [by the way, firedepartments use a similar concept with their plectron radios… a series of signals which translate to each station, you get used to listening to the one that is yours to respond, and ignore the others]

  20. Artfldgr Says:

    Eric Says: blert: “Zodac you are conflating Republic with Democracy.”

    You’re both right. There’s the technical distinction. But in policy discussion, “democracy” usually is understood to include the “guarantees of liberty and the rule of a law that protects individual liberty”.

    Democracy has none of that, its mob rule…
    your confused…
    there are no guarantees of liberty in mob rule

    your confusing Democratic, with democracy
    so we are a democratic republic
    ie. mob rules on who runs things temporarily

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Democratic socialism. The Left tends to redefine terms and when you go along with that, you contribute to the decay in this world.

    Same way the Left calls Hussein the Lightbringer and Messiah.

  22. expat Says:

    Claire Berlinski has another post up at Ricochet about events in Turkey. According to the friend she interviewed, a large percentage of Turks are pretty happy with the secular country, but the different parties can’t come together to beat Erdogan.

    Erdogan is also pushing things in Germany. I don’t think Merkel will give too much despite needing his help with the refugees.

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    The refugees were an invasion force Turkey sent along into Europe.

  24. Fred Says:

    How does this apply to the attempts to spread democracy to a country such as Iraq?

    this should to be asked with every US Officials who worked in CPA from Paul Bremer to the rest spaciously Islamic Democracy champion Noah Freeman.

    All the gangs who came were promoted/supported by US from the start same guys still in power and they are most corrupted sick guys on the planet…..US have handed them Iraq why?

    Leav it to you imaginations.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    US have handed them Iraq why?

    Your Democrat friends and boy Hussein handed them Iraq.

    How does this apply to the attempts to spread democracy to a country such as Iraq?

    It doesn’t. Democracy is a poison, and if you spread it to Iraq, they will be weakened, which was part of the point of infecting Islam with democracy.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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