Dec. 5, 2019
- Since his party came to dominate Turkish politics in 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has transformed Turkey from a reliable Western partner to a regional adversary. U.S. officials comfort themselves in the belief that Turkey will revert to its previous character after Erdogan dies or is defeated, but this is a dangerous self-delusion.
- Over the past 16 years, the Turkish curriculum and broader education system have changed to promote Erdogan’s religious and foreign policy agendas. He privileged graduates of Imam Hatip schools – Turkey’s system of madrasas – as they sought to enter the state bureaucracy. Within ordinary schools, he forced Sunni theological studies upon non-Sunnis.
- Erdogan has likewise transformed the Turkish military, using a series of coup conspiracies to purge top brass and those deemed too connected with NATO and the West. Whereas the Turkish army once stood as the constitutional guardian of secularism, today it is a driver for Islamism.
- Erdogan’s assault on the free press completed his strategy for national indoctrination. Punitive and politicized audits led most television and newspaper owners either to amplify Erdogan’s positions or to sell their media outlets to him or his immediate family members. Those who did not take the hint found themselves bankrupt, imprisoned, exiled, or dead.
- Erdogan has diverted tremendous resources to promote not only Islam generally, but also a Muslim Brotherhood worldview, which sees only its own strict version of Sunni Islam as legitimate, treating all other forms as deviant. At least 20% of Turks are Alevi, an offshoot of Shia Islam to which Erdogan has long been hostile. He has forced Sunni religious education upon Alevi students in public schools and torn down Alevi prayer halls.
- According to the Pew Global Attitudes surveys, Turkey is among the most anti-American countries on earth. This is the result of more than a decade of anti-American incitement in Turkey’s state-controlled media. Turkey’s recent turn toward Russia is a reflection of Erdogan’s animosity toward America.
- Not only should the U.S. remove its nuclear weapons from Turkish soil at Incirlik air base, it should also consider evacuating Incirlik altogether. It should also quarantine Turkey within NATO, excluding it from meetings and preventing Turkish officers from accessing classified documents. The U.S. should also provide Cyprus with the means to prevent Turkish theft of its maritime resources.
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.