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Archive for May, 2008

Siloviki and Turkish Generals Building a Pan-Turanism ?

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

A recent report from The Jamestown Foundation put a spotlight in the activities of Neo-Eurasian ideologist, the politically connected extremist Aleksandr Dugin, to build bridges with Turkey’s Pan-Turkic movement:

“….On the one hand, attempts are made to turn the two “Eurasias” into allies rather than competitors; on the other hand, there has been a Dugin-style ideologization of the term in response to American ascendancy. The question is whether the concurrence of these two modes of “Russification” of the Turkish Avrasya is incidental, or whether they are two sides of the same coin. In the 1990s, articles on the Turkish variety of Avrasya systematically criticized Russian Eurasianism; in the early 2000s, the tone changed noticeably. Several Turkish advocates of a more militant Eurasianism called upon their fellow citizen to emulate Russia in developing a specifically Turkish interpretation of this concept [6]. In 2002, at the conference “How to Establish a Peace Belt around Turkey” held by the Military Academies Command, the secretary general of the National Security Council, General Tuncer Kilinc singled out Russia as Turkey’s most strategic partner. In 2005, Turkish analyst Anar Somuncuoglu from the Russia-Ukraine Research Department at the National Security Strategies Research Center (TUSAM) published an article in Strateji Dergisi proving the need of rapprochement with Russia [7].

The term Avrasya has also become popular with religious circles that were not previously linked to the pan-Turkic extreme right. Thus the modernizing Islamists around Prime Minister Erdogan have been publishing the newspaper Avrasya kusagi since 2000, and partisans of a Turko-Islamic synthesis edit Yeni Avrasya [8]. Fethullah Gulen’s movement publishes DA Diyalog Avrasya in Russian and Turkish, which has already carried several interviews with Dugin [9]. Other proponents of this movement include the Ahmed Yasawi Foundation and the Marmara Group Foundation, directed by Akkan Suver, which regularly organizes “Eurasian economic summits.” In November 2006, this NGO was the first to be accorded an observer member status by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC). There are also two social-democratic newspapers-Avrasya  Etnografya Vakfi and Avrasya Dergisi-as well as the above-mentioned Zaman [10].

Dugin participated in this reorientation in his own way, managing to have his book on geopolitics translated into Turkish (and Arabic). The translation was published in Ankara in 2003 as Rus Jeopolitigi Avrasyaci Yaklasim, and seems to have gone over well with part of the Turkish military.There have been several conferences on Eurasianism that called for cooperation with Russia, all of which included participants from the military. The first visit of the International Eurasianist Movement took place in December 2003. It received quite widespread media coverage in Turkey, due in particular to the presence of writer and journalist Atilla Ilhan (1925-2005). Over many decades, Ilhan consistently wrote on the subject of the Turkish-Russian alliance, even during the Cold War. Through his books, he popularized the idea of a Turkish-Russian alliance preordained by geopolitics and insisted on “Eurasianist” heroes such as Ismail Gasprinskii, Sultan Galiyev and Mulla Nur Vahidov [11]. This rapprochement between Dugin and Ilhan consequently helped Russian Eurasianism to reach some Turkish political and intellectual elite”

Read the whole thing here.

Of the obscure figures mentioned in the last paragraph, Gasprinskii was a Silver Age “jadid” ( Modernist) who sought an awakening of the Russian Empire’s Tatar-Turkic Muslim peoples; Vahidov and Sultan-Galiev, were Old Bolshevik Tatars who developed a Muslim variation of “national Bolshevism” that challenged Stalin’s ideas on Soviet nationalities ( Sultan-Galiev was ultimately shot during the Great Terror, unsurprisingly). These men represent historical failures whose intriguing ideas were suppressed by Tsarist and Stalinist authorities long before they could acquire political traction. Why is any of this important ?

In a nutshell, both Putin’s siloviki regime and Turkey’s Kemalist establishment are feeling the need for ideological rejuvenation  these days, in the former case to fill a vacuum in the public mind left by the collapse of Soviet Communism and in the latter to fend off a creeping Islamism that is undermining Turkish adherence to hallowed, secular, Kemalist traditions. The Neo-Eurasianism of Dugin is a frankly authoritarian, anti-western and quasi-fascist witch’s brew and synthesizing it with the Pan-Turkism of Turkey’s own nationalist fringe can only be unhelpful to Western interests and the prospects for liberalism and democracy in the region.

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Abu Muqawama “Retires”

Friday, May 30th, 2008

In a bold move, “Abu Muqawama” a.k.a Andrew Exum has announced his departure from blogging in order to devote more time to his academic career and consulting. The good news is that Abu Muqawama, the excellent group COIN blog, will continue on as before under the stewardship of Erin “Charlie” Simpson, Kip, Londonstani, Dr.iRack and others yet to be named.

Best wishes to Mr. Exum in his academic career. Abu Muqawama, which he created, has been a daily “must-read” for me for some time, a smart, fast-paced, very successful blog that manages to regularly demonstrate both analytical depth and irreverent humor about serious foreign policy and defense problems. I look forward to seeing the evolution of Abu Muqawama 2.0 with new personalities and areas of expertise.

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Shades of Nixon: Scott McClellan as George W. Bush’s John Dean

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

A brief comment on the hot political story of the hour.

Former Bush administration Press Secretary Scott McClellan has written, for big bucks, a blistering memoir of his time in the Bush White House that savages many key administration figures and led one of them, former adviser and eminence grise, Karl Rove, to compare McClellan to a “ left-wing blogger“. Regardless of the truth of the memoir, an alleged “loyalist” who writes such a book is truly “disgruntled”. Why might that be ?

The Bush administration, in my mind, was never the second coming of Ronald Reagan but of Richard Nixon Redux. Set aside Watergate ( hard for those on the Left, I realize, but bear with me) for a moment; in Bush II you have a foreign policy presidency, a president with a polarizing personality, more partisan than ideological, an insular White House that shuts out even the GOP bigwigs, a reputation for “hardline” toughness, ruthlessness and secrecy. it is not surprising to me that ex-Bush “loyalists” are proving no more loyal to Bush in their scribblings than were the Nixon men.

I’ve read through every word of all of the memoirs of the Nixon era as well as a boatload of primary source documents. Even before Watergate, the Nixon White House was not a happy place and it showed in the recollections of those who labored for Richard Nixon; the descriptions of his White House are those of a shark tank. Henry Kissinger, despite his frequent brilliance was an insufferable prima donna and bully; Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Mitchell were widely (and justifiably) feared; Laird was an intriguer, Colson a thug, Liddy a fanatic and Dean a sycophantic snake.   Some of these men later changed their views but none painted a flattering picture of the administration in which they served nor felt any obligation to Nixon to do so.

Given that so many senior figures in Bush II were once ” Nixon men” – Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz among many others – it would be a small wonder if some of the dysfunctional, slightly paranoid, corporate macho “pressure cooker” atmosphere of the Nixon era didn’t resurface in the Bush years. Rove complains that McClellan never spoke up at the time and he’s probably right – kissing ass and playing office politics probably was the order of the day moreso than being the bearer of bad tidings.

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Erratic Posting

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

For the next week, due to a heavy schedule, posting will be erratic as I wrap up a number of personal projects and miscellaneous obligations at work.

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In Memoriam

Monday, May 26th, 2008

“But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control, although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple. For, stripped of the temporary associations which gives rise to it, it is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return.

So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiam and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhpas a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  1884

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