I hope the article by a Georgetown University doctoral candidate published in the European edition of Politico does not reflect on the academic level of the University, or on the editorial quality of Politico. For the author who seems to aspire to achieve the highest educational level is an obvious example of writing without sufficient knowledge and research. The faculty members who are guiding him towards his aspired degree may take note of his shoddiness. The author did not follow extensive media reports about Erdogan’s Islamist, Ottomanist, and contemptuous rhetoric on Western policies, some of which appeared even in the same publication as his was published, Politico (e.g. several Steven Cook articles).
The similarities alleged in the article to exist between the two Turkish presidents are “populist nationalism and aggrieved egalitarianism”. Since the author did not define these terms, we have to follow facts. There was no question of nationhood in the Ottoman “ummet” system of religious classification during the khalifate period from 1517 onwards. Atatürk had to revive Turkishness of the earlier Ottoman period in order to found a republic based on “nation-state”, the social cohesion for most states of that time. In other words, Atatürk did not need nationalism for being popular in a democratic competition; he simply introduced a national identity for a new Republic. It is true, however, that Erdogan exploits populist nationalism for his political ends; to fight against Kurds, and to attract votes which otherwise go to the extra-nationalist party (MHP).
As to “aggrieved egalitarianism”, again since the author did not provide his understanding from this term, we will proceed with facts. Atatürk did not have grievances against anything or anybody except against the disappearance of his country from the map due to the incompetence of the Ottoman rule and to the colonial invasion by world powers. He was a popular war hero and a popular reformer president. He tried to elevate the social status of the people, but never mentioned egalitarianism. Whereas, Erdogan is surely aggrieved, an angry, a jealous, a scornful, a vengeful, a half-educated man, who came out of nowhere. He exploits egalitarianism, like he does nationalism, for political means; and, he enriched himself and his cronies through illegal means, built for himself the biggest palace, while mistreating the underprivileged (slapping, degrading, kicking people).
The author’s claim that Erdoğan inherited these traits from Atatürk must be taken as a joke. It is known by the well-read world that Erdogan is the complete opposite of Atatürk. He clearly and loudly repeated, in words and in actions, that he is set out to undo the reforms introduced by Atatürk.
The comparison of “Erdoğan’s attacks on Ataturk’s regime bear an uncanny resemblance to Ataturk’s own attacks on the Ottoman sultans” is also ludicrous. Atatürk’s attacks were for saving the country. Erdogan’s attacks are for demolishing the country.
The statement, “the villagers were still waiting to become masters of their country, and they expected Erdoğan to deliver where Ataturk had failed” shows an obvious malevolence on the part of the author. Atatürk was president only fifteen years, yet his accomplishments from nought during a recession-filled inter-war years have been noted by numerous world leaders and thinkers. There were, no doubt, many failures in Turkey’s administration, but they must be attributed to the incompetent leaders that ruled for 64 years after Atatürk. Nevertheless, villagers became masters of their country in the course of that period, not because of Erdogan. Those “masters” elected and keep electing Erdogan to lead them.
The author’s last statement, “Ataturk’s elite ….. the unmistakable Hitler mustaches that many proudly wore as well. Now, as Erdoğan becomes increasingly autocratic, ….. Ataturk’s sins somehow excuse jailing journalists”, is proof of his real motive for writing the article. Because, the mustaches of some of Atatürk’s entourage have nothing to do with the author’s attempt to prove the similarities between the two men as regards “populist nationalism and aggrieved egalitarianism”. This must be a stretch of imagination in desperation to find an explanation for Erdogan’s autocratic rule, which even suggests that the article may have been written under contract, not on facts.
January 2016, sociopoliticalviews.blogspot.com (with permission)