I hate conspiracy theories; they are not only an expression of narrow-mindedness, but also block common sense and chart a path toward the dangerous waters of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and paranoia.
Unfortunately, they are very popular nowadays, especially in Muslim countries, and it fans the flames of anti-Westernism while fostering nationalist authoritarian politics. That is why I have been a long-time critic of the conspiratorial mind in Turkey and have written extensively on that false mindedness.
Nevertheless, I must admit that even I have started to view the recent suspicions about “U.S. or Western backing for the coup attempt” as not entirely groundless. It is not to say that I am one among those who directly accuse the U.S. of plotting against Turkey, but I find the U.S. and Western reaction toward the coup attempt in Turkey as utterly problematic.
First of all, Western governments and media outlets, from the very beginning, did not decisively denounce the coup attempt. On the contrary, international channels broke the news in an almost apologetic way on behalf of the coup plotters. Moreover, some almost legitimized the move as they claimed that the army could have been reacting against “the inefficiency of the government in the fight against ISIL.” Then, some started to imply that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
might have staged the whole thing in order to use the pretext to extend his power. Finally, some started to express their skepticism concerning the role of Gülenists in the coup. Even if there are still dark aspects of the whole affair that deserve skepticism and the possibility that the coup will be abused to attempt a severe purge, it is not sensible to focus more on the unconvincing story that Erdoğan himself staged the whole thing, than the more convincing story that it was an attempt against him and that the coup plotters were most probably Gülenists, since the struggle between them and Erdoğan has been getting very nasty.
After all, the U.S. may not approve the government’s request for Gülen’s extradition to Turkey without any legal process to prove his role in the coup, but it’s another to portray Gülen as a pious individual who lives peacefully in the U.S., or as a Sufi who has nothing to do with Turkish politics.
Finally, we know the U.S./Western obsession of acting against authoritarian nationalist leaders in other countries, either by direct intervention or by informal and murky meddling. I hope no such circle in a Western government, and especially in intelligence agencies, found an opportunity to try to do something similar for Erdoğan by meddling in the Erdoğan-Gülen rift. I am an arch critic of Erdoğan, his party and their politics, and I was the lonely first person among democrats to express concern about the authoritarian swing in Turkey as early as the end of 2009. I am someone who paid a price for being an opponent of authoritarian politics and of Kurdish politics, but it never occurred to me to change my ways when I encountered all sorts of intimidation. That is why I have no concerns about being labelled as an Erdoğan apologist, as I not only support his civilian government against any coup or plot, but also feel revolted by the Western media, which is more focused on portraying him as a mere monster behind all manner of evil than anything else. Moreover, the recent coverage of Turkish affairs does injustice to the civil society and the opposition in Turkey and tends to underestimate the democratic dynamism in the country. I think it is worthy of praise that the majority of the people and all the opposition united to react against the undemocratic attempt despite the country’s political polarization.
If our Western allies and friends want to support democracy in Turkey, they should have been supporting the general anti-coup mood and the recent reconciliatory attitude of Erdoğan and his party rather than spoiling the opportunity by pushing Turkey into an anti-Western, nationalistic and authoritarian mood.
Of course I am very concerned by the possibility of a further authoritarian swing. Of course I know that the future is still uncertain and gloomy. Of course I am not convinced that Erdoğan and his party did not and will not respond in the most democratic way. And of course I am very disturbed by the witch hunt, as I have friends and acquaintances among the arrested journalists; in short, I am not very optimistic at all. Still, I am more scared by the possibility of Western policy being shaped by the obsession with Erdoğan than anything else.
We know what happens if Western policy is shaped by the determination to get rid of nationalist/authoritarian leaders in other countries. They are all war-trodden people who are at each other’s throat, God forbid!