When democracy goes bad

Steven Cook on the parallels and inconsistencies of democracy promotion and its outcomes in Turkey and Egypt:

‘Anyway, it seems we may now have a country that can teach us something about transitions in the Middle East—Turkey.  Ankara has been giving Washington fits on the Balkans, Arab-Israeli conflict, and Iran among other issues precisely because it is more democratic than ever before.  To be sure, there are loads of problems in Turkey ranging from the conspiracy within a conspiracy that is the Ergenekon investigation, the punitive tax levy on the Dogan media group, and the constitutional changes that pave the way for court packing to name just a few. My neo-conservative friends argue that Turkey needs more democracy.  I agree, though I do not believe that Turkey needs more democracy because Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is either in the thrall of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  Rather, Turkey is in the intermediate stage of a transition to democracy, which means that it will more often than not manifest both democratic and authoritarian tendencies. As an aside, the irony of the neoconservative argument is stunning:  The neoconservatives were, after all, in the thrall of Ankara when Turkey was decidedly not democratic and firmly under military tutelage.  Also, it strikes me as odd that when a democracy does begin to emerge in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, they don’t like it.  I smell a logical flaw. [Word…]

In the end, Egypt is vastly different from Turkey.  Ankara is of far greater strategic importance than Cairo, making a Turkish transition potentially costly to the United States.  So it may very well be that pushing President Hosni Mubarak on democracy is relatively cost free .  I hope so, but I get nervous when people tell me I can have something, especially something as hard as promoting democracy, without gaining a good understanding of what might go wrong.  There’s been too much of that in Washington over the last decade.’


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