That aim is a central part of the wider war on terrorism, an ideological struggle unfolding everywhere in the Muslim world between modernizers and fundamentalist forces of various sorts. Not all the modernizers are democratic, though most probably are to one degree or another. One thing for sure, scarcely any of the fundamentalist movements are democratic in any meaningful way, the line between so-called moderate and radical Islamists very fuzzy at best . . . save in Turkey, a point we'll return to in a few seconds. As for the masses of Arab populations --- what can we say about them? Where do they stand in this ideological tug-of-war?
Well, in the absence of ongoing systematic survey data in their despotic countries --- a big drawback for scholarly work --- the best we can do is speculate. Most likely, the Arab populations are largely concerned with jobs, income, and law-and-order, plus better social services, and will support any government that helps provide them adequately . . . any whatever its political nature.
Back to Islamist fundamentalists.
With a tiny handful of exceptions --- Turkey the stand-out here --- they and their mass followers and sympathizers actively support Islamist terrorism, including bin Ladenism. That claim isn't speculative. As we'll see in a moment or two, a 2004 Pew Global Attitudes survey provides hard evidence here. Simultaneously, though, the fundamentalist leaders and spokesmen in each of the Arab dictatorships have to be wary of actively promoting any challenge, direct or indirect, to the existing despotic governments themselves. Any such challenge will be ruthlessly quashed by the secret police and other security forces: witness Syria in the 1980s or Egypt and Algeria in the 1990s or Yemen now. Even the more moderate Arab dictators have sought to repress any challenge from home-grown fundamentalist movements . . . all of which, with little variation across the 22 Arab countries, are inspired by some notion of purified Islamist revenge for hundreds of years of Arab decline and humiliation, the root causes of which are always imagined, in paranoid conspiratorial fashion, to lie with foreign devils --- Jews, Israel, and the US above all, plus their dictatorial lackeys within the Arab world itself.
THE CURRENT ARTICLE'S FOCUS AND HOW IT LINKS TO THE PREVIOUS ARGUMENT IN THE SERIES
In the previous two buggy articles, the democratic prospects of the 22 Arab countries were set out and evaluated at length. A small handful --- Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and the tiny Gulf states --- were found to be more promising on this score. In turn, remember, democracy tends to reduce radical fundamentalist appeals. That, to repeat, isn't feckless speculation. Here are the results found in the tantalizing Pew Global Attitudes Survey for 2004.
As you can see, 65% of the people in Pakistan, a struggling country whose leaders are seeking to become more democratic after years of military rule and ethnic conflicts, admire bin Laden. In Jordan, one of the better situated Arab countries as far as democratic prospects go, the figure drops to 55%, still alarming enough; in Morocco, more advanced in its prospects still, it declines to 45%. By the time you reach the much more solidly democratic Turkish Republic, public support plunges to around 7% . . . scarcely higher than the equivalent figures in West Europe. Yet Turkey, recall --- though by far the most promising Islamic electoral democracy in the Middle East, and one of only two or three others (Mali, Senegal, and Indonesia) --- isn't even ranked as a totally free country in Freedom House's annual surveys, generally regarded as the best comparative source for ranking countries across 14 categories --- grouped more generally into three broader classes (free, partly free, not free).
Freedom House's ranking of Turkey, note immediately, is actually encouraging. In effect, it seems to suggest that an Islamic country need not even be a fully free, liberal democracy for the appeal of bin Ladenism to be heavily blunted, even shattered.
All of which prompts a key question, the overarching theme of this article: what explains Turkey's democratic success in fostering democratic development and a clear pro-Western orientation that immunizes its population against radical Islamist fundamentalism?
WHY IS TURKEY SUCH A PROMISING DEMOCRATIC PROSPECT AND
A PRO-WESTERN MEMBER OF NATO?
Turkey --- with 68 million in population (about the size of the largest Arab country, Egypt) and a per capita income of around $7300, roughly two to three times the equivalent for the non-oil rich Arab countries --- has been undergoing a modernizing revolution with ups and downs, including democratic development, under military auspices for almost a century now. Even now, more than 8 decades after the revolution began, the military remains a dominant force in Turkish politics. In this respect, it's not much different from Arab countries. What is different is that the military officer corps is the embodiment of the modernizing revolution, with a strong emphasis on secularism and a pro-western orientation. It has implanted Turkey inside NATO; seeks to enter the EU; and has a military alliance with Israel in all but name. More to the point, it has also shown a much greater willingness than the Arab militaries --- whoever the despot is (a king or a president-for-life) --- to foster democratic development as well.
Off and on, to be more precise, the country has experienced a growing trend of increasingly free elections in the last two decades, and --- a sign of clear progress --- a moderate fundamentalist party won the last parliamentary election in 2002 and now dominates a government that respects fully the secular Constitution of the country. This is a notable achievement. There are other achievements too.
In particular, its current leaders --- the heads of the military behind the scenes and the elected government headed by a moderate fundamentalist party (ATP) and its leader as Prime Minister, Recep Tayip Erdogan and his ATP party in parliament --- studiously avoid what Arab fundamentalist movements constantly drum up support for. Concretely put, Turkish leaders of all sorts . . .
- Shy away from any demands to apply the Shari, Islamic law, in the country.
- Eschew the conspiratorial paranoid fantasies that flourish in the Arab world about Arab despotism (the fault of others), economic and technological backwardness (ditto), and declining power and influence for generations now . . . likewise the fault of others, especially Jews, Israel, the US, and its western lackeys that follow it.
- Renounce any demonization of Israel, an Arab obsession in the popular media everywhere and on the Arab street. On the contrary, Turkey has close military ties with Israel and draws repeatedly on Israeli expertise for its technological and economic development.
- And, finally, avoid any anti-Semitism . . . now a flourishing part of the Arab street almost everywhere, purveyed in virulent, Nazi-like racist ways. Not only does Turkey maintain a semi-military alliance with Israel, there is scarcely any observable animosity toward Jews in public or private life. When, for instance, a synagogue was bombed last year by Islamist terrorists, the lead politicians of the country --- together with the leading Muslim clerics --- all spoke on the same public platform with the chief rabbi of Turkey's tiny Jewish population (about one-fifth of 1.0% of the 68 million Turks) and, without exception, denounced the barbarous attack on a co-religious place of worship.
Vivid Differences with the Arabs Here
The contrasts on these scores with the Arab countries, even the more moderate and politically promising, are graphic, a cause for reflection.
Consider, to take just one example --- a very recent one --- the latest garbled, crazy-house outburst that blames the recent terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia on Jews [click here for MEMRI]. Its demagogic ranter? Believe it or not, none other than Prince Abdullah, the Crown Prince himself . . . widely regarded as the head of the modernizing camp in that Mafioso clan of utterly corrupt, gangster-rulers who control the country and have lavishly used oil-money to spread the hateful racism and other extremism paranoia of Wahhabi Islam around the world.