. . . a differentiation arises between ourselves, the
we-group, or in-group, and everybody else, or the
other-groups, out-groups. . . . The relation of comradeship and peace in the
we-group and that of hostility and war towards
other-groups are correlative to each other. The
exigencies of war with outsiders are what make
peace inside. [Sumner, 1906: 121
Yesterday afternoon and into the night last night, I was kept abreast of the events in Turkey, thanks to a live update feed by The Guardian. I will not provide facts and details, in part because everybody who cares has by now perused the news and knows as much as, if not more than I, but also because there are still more unknowns than there are facts. Typically, I would not write about the attempted military coup that took place until more is known, but I am writing this post because a thought came to me late last night and it planted itself in my mind and is sprouting roots. Either it is a weed that needs to be pulled, or a plant that will grow and eventually bear fruit. I do not know yet, but if you will bear with me for just a few paragraphs, perhaps your opinions will help me to figure it out.
When I was in college, I spent a year working as a research assistant to a professor of political science, Joseph M. Scolnick, whose specialty was international relations. (He was responsible for awakening my fascination with the topic and deserves credit for my ongoing interest). At that time, he was writing about conflict management and the theory that external threats bring about internal cohesion. Put quite simply, the theory is that if the family is fighting amongst themselves, then somebody from the outside comes along and threatens the family, they will set aside their squabbles and pull together to protect the family unit.
So, what does this have to do with yesterday’s attempted coup in Turkey? Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything. In the two years since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became president of Turkey, he has become increasingly authoritarian, greatly diminishing the freedom of press to the point that most news outlets are now under his control. Journalists who spoke out have been arrested, tried, and are now serving prison sentences. He has sought to bring Turkey into the European Union (EU) as a member, however many in the EU believe he is moving away from democratic principles and for the past several months it has become increasingly unlikely that he will achieve this goal. Needless to say, there is much unrest in Turkey.
All of which is an oversimplification of major proportions, but I am not writing an academic paper, merely trying to lay the groundwork for my theory. My theory, more of a question, really, is this: I wonder if Mr. Erdoğan himself might be behind yesterday’s attempted coup? Two simple things set my mind down this path. First, wasn’t it convenient that Erdoğan was not in-country at the time of the coup attempt, but rather was enjoying a vacation, though there are conflicting stories about his exact whereabouts at the time. Second, was this update at 11:39 p.m. EDT, 6:39 a.m. in Turkey: “The crowd, numbering in the thousands, is chanting and singing – one nation, one flag, one motherland – and shouting Erdoğan’s name as he leaves the platform.” A simple thing, really, but the thought that came to mind was: it couldn’t have worked out much better if he had planned it.
Not one given to conspiracy theories or finger-pointing without having facts and information, I tried to put the thought out of my mind and went to sleep. But alas, I found that when I woke up this morning, the thought was still lying there in the webs of my mind, asking to be further explored. Between 160-265 dead, more than 1,000 injured … no way the leader of a democracy would intentionally inflict that upon his own people, right? Unless that leader was more concerned with increasing his power than with the lives of his people. Nearly 3,000 military personnel have been arrested. Are they pawns in a game, and if so … whose game? Whose pawns?
Today, the blame game has begun and there are far more questions than answers. Even the death and injury tolls are far from final. In the coming days and weeks some answers will be forthcoming, others may never be known. It is not my intent to accuse President Erdoğan of plotting to increase his power at the expense of his country’s democracy, but rather simply to pose the question: is it possible? Time may tell. Or not.