Summary: Francis Fukuyama predicted the triumph of liberal democracies in The End of History and the Last Man. Some of Turkey’s generals disagree; their coup attempt represents a bold strike for well-intentioned tyranny. Here Stratfor explains what’s happening, and the likely outcome.
Why the Turkish Coup Will Likely Fail
Stratfor, 16 July 2016
Update: Turkey’s PM Binali Yildirim said that the coup attempt was a “black stain on Turkish democracy” — but it failed, and that 2,839 soldiers and officers have been arrested.
Turkey’s coup plotters certainly had the element of surprise working in their favor. The speed in which the military deployed in major cities and took control of critical power nodes showed a high degree of organization and efficiency. However, the coup attempt is already starting to fray, and its chances of failing are high because a polarizing faction is leading it.
What went wrong
The mutineers have yet to accomplish two important components of a successful coup, at least at the time of publication.
(1) Popular Support
The ingredient that will determine who comes out on top in Turkey is popular support. Countercoups in support of Erdogan have already begun, their participants expressing support for the president and his party. The military prepared for resistance by bolstering security in major public areas such as Taksim Square, but now the countercoup presence there is strong. Riot police have joined countercoup protesters, shooting guns in the air and asking the army to leave. Now that there are reports that the military is firing on protesters on the Bosporus Bridge, those who instigated the coup are clearly battling for public support.
(2) Unity of Force
Last, a successful coup needs a critical mass of security forces that acts in support of the cause; remaining forces, especially those that are weak or sidelined, can be managed. In Turkey, it is unclear where everyone’s loyalty stands, but there are signs of conflict among the various branches of the military.
What’s happening. Why it won’t work
There are multiple indications that followers of the Gulen movement embedded within the military are spearheading the coup attempt. The Gulenists are an Islamist movement that has built up significant influence in Turkey since the 1970s. They started with the gendarmerie, where they could take advantage of lax background checks, and gradually worked their way up the military chain of command. When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan felt that the Gulen movement had become too powerful, relations started to fray between the ruling party and the Gulenists. Starting in 2014, massive purges took place to whittle down Gulenist influence in the media and government.
But the Gulenist influence in the military was not fully purged. This may be because of the large amount of blackmail that the Gulenists retained on major military figures to prevent their own dismissals. In essence, an Islamist faction within the military that has deeply alienated the secular strongmen within the armed forces is the one leading the challenge against Erdogan. In other words, it is not a coup backed by Turkey’s secular political, military and civilian opposition. This is already evidenced by signs of a countercoup led by a number of military commanders and the national police, as well as by the main secular opposition Republican People’s Party leader saying it is against the coup.
As we saw in Turkey’s 2015 elections, when the Justice and Development Party won 49.5% of the vote, the country is deeply polarized among secularists, Islamists, Kurds and nationalists. Turkey has a number of fault lines that breed opposition to Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning political agenda and neo-Ottoman foreign policy direction, but on the other side of those splits are a substantial number of supporters who legitimately support the president. Moreover, there are many Turks who are anti-Erdogan yet also anti-coup, and who remember the deep economic and political instability of Turkey’s coup-ridden past. This coup attempt is the product of an Islamist division within the military – and divisions within divisions do not spell success for a coup.
“Why the Turkish Coup Will Likely Fail” is republished with permission of Stratfor.
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For More Information
- Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on the West to win big.
- The hidden origin of the fires burning in the Middle East by Gary Brecher.
Who will win?
As Francis Fukuyama said in his 1989 article…
“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
“This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs’s yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run.”