Ruling but Not Governing

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

San Francisco–At the beginning of last month, Steve Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations stopped by San Francisco and Berkeley to promote his latest book (Ruling but not Governing). This speech coincided with the Turkish military’s incursion into Northern Iraq in late February. This piece is an examination of the Turkish military in the context of Cook’s book.

As a backdrop, Steven Cook uses the Egyptian and Algerian military and to a lesser extent the Pakistani martial elites to examine how they create a stable societal system. The martial multi-layered institutions ensure the durability of these authoritarian structures. A strict privileged class can control a relatively open democracy as a strategy to maintain their authority.

With Turkey’s recent reforms, external factors could increase other countries to open up to a more liberal civil society, too.

There has always been conflict between the soldiers and their civilian rulers – also, between Middle East religion and politics. In the past, these regimes and the martial services have prevented Islamists from countrywide dominance – notably at times through undemocratic means.

The State of the present was built upon the Militias of the past. Hence, the stability of these States, also, rests on the backs of their former battles. Further, by this rationale, the officers of today feel they have a Constitutional right to declare direct authoritarian decrees if they feel an emergency has developed.

Turkey’s “Ataturk,” the Algerian Revolution, Egypt and Jinnah’s Pakistan all strived to create governmental reforms dubbed “democratic.” Some of them were veiled authoritarians.

The States that have descended from these people now have the façade of democracy, but comprise a non-democratic inner order. Ultimately, these Generals defend their regimes but do not directly rule. Yet they do monitor groups, and will intervene if they think opposition forces have become too strong.

The Establishment’s interest in membership in the European Union (EU) — as well as attitudes of the Islamists themselves – have influenced Ankara. Cook asks, “What roles do external forces [i.e., the EU] play?” Cook proclaims that the United States never understands what make these regimes tick. Curiously, countries in the Middle East are subsequently settled! “Egypt at the core is the same” as it was in the days of Nasser.

In promoting democracy there, Washington has underrated the influence of their indigenous intelligence agencies. Civil Society cannot disarm prepared fighters, but the Defense Forces must have civilian allies. Consequently, the Generals are constantly looking for citizen collaborators.

Unfortunately, promotion of Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East is a Neo-Conservative principle. Istanbul feels it does not have to cope with the American Neo-Cons because “We can get what we want by going to Brussels.” Unlike America, the EU is not forcing reforms upon Turkey in the same aggressive way, but encouraging the needed changes to swell up from the citizenry.

The Turkish military do care about their image. Consequently, their most recent incursion into Iraq will probably be over by the time you read this, for, if their long-term problems are not solved (here the Kurdish issue), their chances of entering the European Union will be weakened. He suggested that, if the U.S.A. wishes to prop up more democratic allies in the Islamic world, we should offer more incentives to these lands,


0 replies