Foreign Affairs

In Turkey, it’s all about the palace

Erdoğan's message to Turks: Vote correctly next time!

By Claire Berlinski and Okan Altiparmak

Politco.eu, August 4, 2015

Don’t forget what’s really at stake for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On December 17, 2013, the Financial Crimes and Battle Against Criminal Incomes department of the Istanbul Security Directory detained 47 people, including a number of high-level officials. The sons of the minister of the Interior, the minister of Economy, and the minister of Urban Planning were implicated, as was Erdoğan’s own son, Bilal, with all three ministers handing in resignations.

Erdogan Isn’t Finished

The game isn’t over for Erdoğan and the AKP. Now would be a good time for the West to pay attention to what’s going on in Turkey.

The American Interest
June 22, 2015

The euphoria to which Turkey’s June 7 election results have given rise calls to mind an oncology ward patient learning that an experimental protocol might slow the advance of her tumor. The elation is warranted in rough proportion to the desperation of the situation. In other words, good news is, like most things, relative.

Don’t rejoice yet: Erdoğan could still win

Don’t rejoice yet: Erdoğan could still win

Forming a coalition in Turkey will be a nightmare, and the strongman has the trump cards.

Politico.eu, June 15, 2015

For 13 years, the escape routes from Turkey’s political haunted-house have been shutting one by one. Suffocation seemed inevitable. The June 7 election, which resulted in the first hung parliament since 1999, cracked open a tiny window in the attic. Turkey’s hope is now predicated upon an unlikely scenario: One in which every major political group exits from that window in an orderly fashion, even as the smoke is rising.

The Indian Century?

Education, entrepreneurialism, and democratic institutions bode well for the country’s future—but profound challenges remain.

City Journal

Spring 2015

I attended a dinner in Paris full of tech experts, scientists, and investors, all of whom were gloomy about the West. Progress isn’t progressing, they complained. There are too many impediments to innovation. What on earth has gone wrong with our universities? We once put a man on the moon, and now we can’t even figure out a humane way to fly from Silicon Valley to Paris. Everything’s overregulated. The Scientific Revolution is over; the Industrial Revolution has reached the end of the line. No one understands what made America great anymore. We haven’t conquered death, but taxes have conquered us. We’re doomed.

Enter Nick Booker-Soni, about 30, affable and rumpled, standing at the open window to smoke. I said that I lived in Istanbul. “Really? We visited last year.” The other half of the “we” was his wife, Meetu. “Truth is, we were a bit disappointed.” I expected him to mention the usual disappointments: traffic, perhaps, or tear gas. “Just not that much history there,” he said.

Not what I expected.

The News From Paris: It's Nice

CITY JOURNAL
Winter 2015

On returning to France after spending almost a decade in Turkey (and not long before the terrorist attacks of January), I discovered that the French—Parisians, in particular—have become surprisingly polite.

I now find myself living in a city in which the following things happen. A kindly Parisienne not only notices that I am mildly lost, but offers to help and insists upon walking with me, well out of her way, to be sure that I am on the right path. A Darty washing machine arrives on my doorstep, exactly on time, presented by deliverymen who seem to live for the privilege of service; without so much as a grumble, they whisk away my old and broken one, too, even though I live on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator. In leaving, they express gratitude with the words, “It is thanks to you, Madame, that we work, which we so much appreciate.” Granted, the waiter at my local café knows me, but usually someone so solicitous of my well-being, so radiantly affable, charges a hundred bucks an hour and proposes to talk about my childhood, not sell me a cup of coffee every now and again.

Turkey’s Two Thugs

Erdoğan and Gülen are both dangerous—but only one of them lives in the Poconos.​

City Journal
23 December 2014

Until recently, I lived in Turkey. It seemed to me then unfathomable that most Americans did not recognize the name Fethullah Gülen. Even those vaguely aware of him did not find it perplexing that a Turkish preacher, billionaire, and head of a multinational media and business empire—a man of immense power in Turkey and sinister repute—had set up shop in Pennsylvania and become a big player in the American charter school scene. Now that I’ve been out of Turkey a while, I’ve realized how normal it is that Americans are indifferent to Gülen. America is full of rich, powerful, and sinister weirdoes. What’s one more?

A Frolic with Fethullah Gülen

Ricochet
February 4, 2015

My fellow editors asked me if I’d care to comment on Fethullah Gülen’s op-ed in The New York Times. I was uncertain whether I could do it without violating our Code of Conduct. I considered whether I might be able to get away with a few choice words in Turkish, but thought, “No, the Code of Conduct is sacred in every language.” I decided words like the ones I reckoned this inspired in Turkey really were too trashy. No need for that. So I offer just simple a rejoinder, seeing as the Times didn’t see fit to publish a rebuttal side-by-side–or even a clue who this writer is. Had they done so, I would have considered it perfectly acceptable. As it stands, I can interpret it only one of two ways: Charitably, they’re so stupid they don’t even read their own reporting. Less charitably, they’ve fallen in line with Our Thug, but for reasons so cynical–and stupidly cynical–they don’t even rise to the intellectual respectability of the word Realpolitik.

Erdoğan's Miracle Reprieve

PUBLISHED (IN HIGHLY ABRIDGED FORM) IN US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
July 9, 2013

If you’re reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. On July 6—last Saturday—delivering a stern rebuke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Istanbul 1st Regional Court issued a decision cancelling the controversial Taksim construction and the Artillery Barracks project, thus reopening the park for public use. Happy Istanbullus planned to gather in the park to celebrate this victory at 7:00 p.m. But mere hours before, the Governor of Istanbul, Hüseyin Mutlu, issued a Proclamation by Tweet: “We are holding the much-anticipated opening of Gezi Park tomorrow. The park, which was embellished by the Istanbul Municipality, may bring peace and joy.” That was it.

Puzzled, I wrote back: “Pardon me, Efendim, but I understood that the court had decided the park would be open today. I don’t understand, am I mistaken?”

How Turkey's Leaders Are Exploiting Egypt's Coup

U.S. News & World Report
July 8, 2013

If you're reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stranger still, if you are reading the Turkish press, you might conclude that you are in Egypt, because that seems to be the only topic of conversation.

The Gezi Diaries

Published in abridged form in The Tower
June 2013

Part 1: Laying Pipe

In the sitcom business, they call it “laying pipe.” It means the exposition of the backstory, the quick explanation of the events that set the plot in motion. Sitcom writers admire each other for the economy with which they lay pipe. In writing about Turkey, the hardest part is that before you can even begin to say anything interesting, you need to lay ten miles of pipe, and by that point you’ve lost your audience. Moreover, the names are confusing and unpronounceable, Americans have simply had it with this part of the world; and besides, Turkey’s all so Byzantine—no surprise—that they just can’t keep the plot straight, even if you give them a PowerPoint presentation, Cliff Notes, and an iPhone App that reminds them who the characters are.

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