I wanted to address another aspect of the comparison between Pakistan and Turkey that the cursed article I talk about in today’s video mentions briefly. The article does concede that Pakistan’s dictator led Islamification under Zia ul-Haq was a completely different example than the attempts at Islamification currently being carried out by Turkey’s elected president Erdogan. As I point out in the video, Pakistan remains desperately poor today and this was even more the case in the 1980’s. Zia was using Islam as tool for nation-building. It remains a key part of Pakistan’s sense of itself as a nation today.
As I laid out in my other two videos on Islam in Turkey, Erdogan does not have the blank slate to work with that Pakistan’s Zia did. Pakistan of course, unlike Saudi Arabia, has an endlessly rich and varied history. But very few among a population that mostly couldn’t read, and was living on the brink of starvation, were able to benefit from that history and culture. Turkey has a very distinct sense of nationalism that is quite separate from Islam, and that is internalized across the population. No matter how powerful Erdogan becomes, he will not be able to eradicate those underpinnings.
Video Transcript after the jump…
So a couple weeks back A publication called Bloomberg view published an article by a guy named Eli Lake.
Hoo boy. This one’s going to be a little angry.
I’ve got a bit of series going, where I have already pointed out why Turkey will never be Saudi Arabia, and why it will never be IRan. With those, the comparison doesn’t seem so crazy. Turkey’s sort of in between the two countries when it comes to wealth, and Washington, DC has been pushing this line that Turkey is turning more Muslim super hard.
Seriously, if you meet a Senator and say you live in Turkey that’s the first thing he’ll say. “Oh I hear they’re getting more Islamic”. True story. Rand Paul is super short BTW.
So these videos made sense. They usefully crushed dumb, commonly held ideas about Turkey and Islam. Laying out the basic truth that not all Muslim countries are the same is a service I’m happy to provide. I never thought I’d have to make a video against an idea this dumb though.
Pakistan is a country that has faced great challenges, and it is very, very poor. It’s in another world from Turkey. Seriously, comparing Turkey to Pakistan makes about as much sense as comparing Nigeria to South Korea. Different worlds. Isn’t Bloomberg supposed to be good with data?
Bloomberg View is a publication I occasionally enjoy, but this article has convinced me that when it comes to Geopolitics they’re basically Rich man’s Breitbart.
The article tells a story about Pakistan that is true. Pakistan loves it some Al Queda. For 15 years they have been pretending to help the United States fight the group in Afghanistan, but they’re more interested in having pet Jihadists to threaten India with, so they’ve been playing a distasteful double game.
We’ve known about this for a while. Rather than stop dealing with Pakistan’s leaders, as we should have done a decade ago, we’ve continued to cooperate with them, while also regularly bombing Pakistan’s territory. It’s a ridiculous dysfunctional mess. The main argument of this terrible article is to argue that Turkey is now betraying the United States in a similar fashion.
This is actually the complete opposite of what’s happening. There is a Pakistan in this relationship, and it’s the United States. Eli Lake bases his argument on the fact that Turkey supported ISIS for 6 to 12 months longer than the US government did. What he of course completely neglects to mention, and his editors let him get away with because Bloomberg View is apparently a garbage publication, is the fact that there is another terrorist organization in play here.
The terrorist organization Turkey is worried about, the PKK, has carried out regular bombings on Turkish territory for decades. As recently as 2015 Turkey fought an urban battle with the PKK that lasted months and destroyed the downtown of Diyarbikir, a Kurdish majority city in Turkey’s southeast. As a Turkish ally the US has long claimed to treat the PKK a terrorist organization as well. ISIS is a nasty little organization, with a great Media wing. ISIS has killed somewhere between two or three to a few dozen Americans and Europeans, depending on how seriously you take the claims of that ISIS media wing. The Islamic State is a largely defeated sideshow. The PKK is an insurgent group that has the potential to seriously destabilize Turkey as a whole, and its allies now control most of the Syrian Turkish border.
The allies of the PKK now have this power because the United States gave it to them to fight ISIS. Like the Pakistanis who screwed us by taking their interests more seriously than 911 we have screwed our Turkish allies by taking our interests more seriously than Turkey’s territorial integrity. It’s the United States that is pulling a Pakistan here.
Now I don’t like Erdogan, in fact I think he’s seriously damaging Turkey, after doing so much to lift it up in the first decade of this century. And I don’t approve of Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria either. It’s a tragic misstep. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore history the way Rich Man’s Breitbart does, or ignore the decisions that brought us to this place.
Turkey signed up to help us kill Assad, not build a Kurdish state on its Southern Border. You can definitely argue that the Kurds deserve a state of their own in the abstract. You cannot however, seriously argue that it was Turkey that screwed up its relationship with the US in Syria. But that’s exactly what this article is trying to say.
Some people might think I’m going overboard making such an angry video about one dumb article. But it’s a dumb article with legs. It has been syndicated in other publications, and it has been retweeted by Senators, and by people with real power like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the war mongering think tank that writes the Trump administration’s worst speeches.
Turkish people are obsessed with conspiracy theories. I regularly get detailed emails about stuff like NATO training accidents from the 1990s. But as I pointed out with my video on 911, the worst conspiracies are always out in the open. This article here is part of a very obvious and concerted campaign to turn Turkey and Erdogan into the new boogie man.
The thing about Erdogan that bugs me the most is the way he makes it so easy for Washington, DC to portray him as the bad guy. Turkey actually has a very legitimate right to be angry about what has happened in Syria. But captain Ottoman slap here would rather play out the Saddam Hussein script that the US warmongers are already writing for him.
It’s a path we went down with Iraq years ago. The US or its allies creates a large military power. That military power invades a neighbor. The US objects after the fact, starts with sanctions and then ends up bombing them. Folks in Washington, DC are already pushing for sanctions against Turkey.
I don’t think we’re going to be bombing Turkey any time soon. But it is horrifying to see a country I love falling into this pattern with the US. The ridiculous effort to compare Turkey to Pakistan is a clear part of this pattern. Pakistan never thought it was going to be bombed by the US either.
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