Dang: Turkey arrests almost 3,000 of its own military in connection with coup attempt

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday July 18th, 2016

Erdogan returns, but to what end?

Things are not OK in Turkey. The coup has been put down, and President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has returned to power. But the coup that nearly toppled him was not a matter of a few generals getting uppity and thinking they could wrestle control away. It was, shall we say, a tiny bit bigger than that:

More than 100 coup plotters are now dead, the acting military chief, Gen. Umit Dundar, said on live TV, while an additional 161 people — including civilians and police officers — were killed as ordinary Turks poured into the streets to confront tanks amid pitched battles in urban areas. At least 1,440 were wounded, officials said.

“The situation is completely under control,” Prime Minister Benali Yildirim announced early Saturday afternoon, adding that more than 2,800 members of the military have been arrested and calling the attempt “a dark stain for Turkish democracy.”

The move by rogue officers and their supporters was the most significant challenge to the country’s stability in decades, and it raised fears that a close U.S. ally could be destined for a prolonged period of civil strife.

You don't see a coup involving nearly 3,000 members of your own military when you've got any sort of consensus support for the government. Imagine the sheer logistics of organizing such a thing. How do you get that many people to play ball and not have anyone blab before it's time to execute the plan? Granted, there were apparently enough forces loyal to Erdogan - or just not convinced a coup was the right way to go - that they were able to put it down. But that is still one hell of a large faction prepared to rise up against a president who clearly has issues among his own people.

The media are portraying this as scary instability besetting a major U.S. ally. It certainly is unstable, but Turkey has not been quite as reliable a U.S. ally in recent years as it was in the past. Erdogan has either become more sympathetic to radical Islam or more intimidated by factions of it within his own country.

But who was really behind it? Erdogan apparently believes it was one Fethullah Gullen, who lives in Pennsylvania of all places:

Erdogan believes a Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania named Fethullah Gullen was behind the coup. Gulen, 75, promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education and science. In a televised speech Saturday night, Erdogan called on the U.S. to extradite Gulen.

Sounds like Oprah Winfrey. Maybe we should send him back. Then again, if Kerry's willing to do it, I'm automaticaly suspicious that it can't possibly be a good idea.

But despite some reports that the coup has made Erdogan more popular, he clearly has major problems within the Turkish structures of power. If the U.S. ever gets serious again about fighting ISIS and other sources of radical Islamic terrorism, Turkey could be a useful ally - as it was in the past. But this situation is also an important reminder of how dicey a strategy it is to count on majority Islamic nations to help you fight Islamic terrorism. They can't keep things stable in their own houses much of the time, unless they do it via strongmen, princes and emirs.

George W. Bush believed you could greatly lessen the impact of terrorism by introducing real democracy into the Middle East. It's kind of funny now to remember that many liberals argued Islamic nations were simply not cut out for democracy - the very same people who now recoil at any criticism whatsoever of Muslims.

It seems to me that either Bush was right or Muslims nations really can't handle democracy. The left is pretty well screwed either way.

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