Monday, November 04, 2002
Barbara Lerner thinks the Turkish military is one key reason why Turkey has remained a relatively stable republic and mostly democratic, as against most other Middle Eastern states which are kleptocratic, theocratic, totalitarian or monarchical dictatorships (or some combination of all four). I think she's 100% right. BUT, she begs the question. How did the Turkish military become so successful, so patriotic, so uncorrupt? Why aren't they comparable to, say, the Brazilian military, or the Chinese, or, more tellingly, the Pakistani or the Indonesian?
In any event, the implication is plain: there is no Turkish "model" to be followed in the Arab world. After the revolution in Iran, there will be four mostly democratic Muslim states in the world: Turkey, Iran, Indonesia and Bangladesh. None of them are Arab. But also, only one of them will have an important place for the military in safeguarding democracy: Turkey. In Iran, the military will have largely stayed on the sidelines; they will not be identified either with the hated mullahs or with the revolution, I suspect, and civilian control of the military will be part of the future Iranian constitution. In Indonesia, the health of the democracy is in direct proportion to the government's success in reigning in the military. If the military intervenes in political matters there, it will mean the beginning of a descent into a Pakistan-style abyss. And Bangladesh's military is nothing to speak of one way or another.
Four models of a predomantly Muslim democracy, three in practice, one hypothetical. Are any of them good models for how to build the first Arab democracy? I'm doubtful.