Turkey’s Complicated Middle East Role

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turkey.jpg
(Photo Credit: mr_smee44’s Photostream)
The International Crisis Group (ICG) published a report earlier this week on “Turkey And The Middle East: Ambitions and Constraints.” The paper is an excellent primer on Turkey’s growing and complicated role in the region.
The report leads to the conclusion that Turkey’s potential to transmit liberal values and economic prosperity can do much more for the region than its high-profile efforts to facilitate dialogue and mediate compromises among its neighbors. The report notes, for example, that Turkey’s economy produces the equivalent of half the entire output of the Middle East and North Africa.
As one Turkish diplomat in the Middle East told the Crisis Group:

The priority is not mediation or conflict resolution per se; we are not really achieving many results and that’s perhaps not the point anyway. The point is to be visible, to look like a power, to make our neighbors like us, to achieve stability which will help economic growth and to increase trade and investments.

But contributing to stability abroad requires consolidating democracy at home. That means first and foremost achieving an equilibrium between the staunchly secular state and the more religiously inclined government, while remaining committed to the European Union accession process and the liberal reforms it requires.
The government’s constitutional amendment proposal presented to Parliament last week is the most recent manifestation of the ongoing struggle for power and ideological preeminence between the state and the government that represents the greatest constraint on Turkey’s regional role.
The report also decisively rejects the common misconception in the United States and Europe that Turkey is “turning away from the West” toward the East. In fact, Turkey’s reengagement is pragmatic rather than ideological and is meant to compliment rather than replace its Western orientation. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that Europe still accounts for half of Turkey’s international trade.
The full report can be read here.
Readers interested in this topic should also read “A Neighborhood Rediscovered,” a recent paper by German Marshall Fund Transatlantic Academy Fellows Kemal Kirisci, Nathalie Tocci, and Joshua Walker.
— Ben Katcher

Comments

64 comments on “Turkey’s Complicated Middle East Role

  1. Pyd Pydper says:

    Despite all the “facts” about Turkey, let’s look at reality. Forget the numbers and take a look as to how poor places like America really are. America looks damn poor because it is poor. Much of Europe is in tremendous debt, like a poor man with a credit card. I would try not to be so jealous of Turkey.

    Reply

  2. questions says:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002529-503544.html
    CBS poll on tea partiers
    “Tea Party supporters are less likely than Americans overall to believe whites have more opportunities to get ahead than blacks.
    Just 16 percent of Tea Party supporters say whites have more opportunities to get ahead, compared to 31 percent of all Americans. Seventy-three percent say both have equal opportunity, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall.
    Fifty-two percent believe too much has been made of the problems facing black people. Far fewer Americans overall — 28 percent — believe as much. Among non-Tea Party whites, the percentage who say too much attention has been paid to the problems of black people is 23 percent.
    A majority of Tea Party suppers believe the Obama administration treats both blacks and whites the same way. But one in four believe the administration favors blacks over whites, an opinion shared by just 11 percent of Americans overall and seven percent of non-Tea Party whites.”
    *****
    They watch a lot of Fox. They generally like Glenn Beck
    “Thirty percent of Tea Party supporters believe Mr. Obama was born in another country, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Another 29 percent say they don’t know. Twenty percent of Americans overall, one in five, believe the president was not born in the United States.”
    And they are birthers!
    Wow. Read the whole poll. It’s really something.

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  3. questions says:

    Nadine, this doesn’t sound like a nationwide movement to discredit the tea partiers. Those I know who are sympathetic to the tea party have, in my view, racialized views I have been known to be pretty uncomfortable with. But this is all anecdotal anyway. 538 is in the middle of a Tom Schaller inspired debate about a U of Washington study on racial attitudes that may or may not suggest questionable attitudes on the part of the partiers. Because I’m not a quant, I have a harder time parsing the arguments, but it would seem to indicate a fairly broad questioning of the basic abilities of blacks on the part of a decent sized chunk of tea party sympathizers. So my guess is that there’s some fire under all the smoke.

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  4. nadine says:

    questions, on the subject of racism in the Tea Party movement: Does this sound like Democrats are confident that a racist movement will discredit itself, or desperate to discredit AS racist a popular movement, which they fear will sweep them out of office?
    “New Hampshire Democrats are engaged in a statewide search for liberal activists willing to attend so-called tea parties on Thursday and carry signs expressing racist or fringe sentiments, a Democratic source with knowledge of the effort tells NowHampshire.com.
    According to the source, who sought anonymity for fear of reprisals, the Dems

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  5. questions says:

    Sweetness,
    I think the Taoist reading is a good one.
    There are some weird moments in the Tao Te Ching, which is overly concerned with political control, but Chuang Tzu’s far more mystical version is really charming (if that’s the word) and I think that it gives acceptance a reasonable space in the universe.
    I really don’t think fatalism is the enemy of all human kind, and I don’t think any one religious outlook or political situation has a lock on it. And I think “fatalism” is, as you note, overly negative given how much power one can summon merely through accepting necessity and, for Kant, willing necessity.
    (Sorry for the long pause in posting. I’ve been on the swamped side lately….)

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  6. Sweetness says:

    Still mulling fatalism.
    It may be related to “fatal”–not sure. But if so, then the negative connotation is clear.
    However, people who believe in, or can bring down, the baraka feel the opposite of death. They feel enormously alive.
    It may be more in line with the Daoist sense of being in tune with the movement of the universe and its rhythms. Having to push the world with all that free will is tiring, and you miss so much of what is happening that you don’t and can’t control with your limited strength and view of things. And you end up creating as many problems as you solve.
    Think of the surfer. The surfer confronts an enormous, even deadly, force he can’t control. The wave is coming toward him and he can’t control it and he can’t stop it. If he resists it, he will get knocked down, crushed, maybe even killed. Not a SMART choice.
    But if he surfs the wave, he can ride the energy for a long way, use the force for “transportation” and a ton of fun. Even self-cultivation (e.g., balance, strength, reflexes, and knowledge of a piece of nature most people have no knowledge of and are often afraid of). He becomes more human because he wakes up parts of his humanity that would otherwise lay dormant and even atrophy.
    Is the surfer a fatalist because he can’t stop the wave? Let’s put him out in the water, too far from shore to run away from the wave and avoid it. Is he then a fatalist?
    This isn’t quite the wisdom to know what we can’t change. The surfer doesn’t think about changing or not changing the wave. He ENGAGES with the wave, which is different from saying, “Nothing I can do about it so I might as well accept it.”
    But if you LABEL his approach “fatalism,” then you overlay negativity onto it. But the surfer isn’t negative at all.

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  7. questions says:

    Here’s a thing from Ezra Klein related to, umm, the tea party?? At any rate, it’s an interesting graph someone made about our spending preferences and spending cut preferences:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/04/cutting_defense_spending_more.html
    Gotta run…long day ahead.

    Reply

  8. Sweetness says:

    Questions…I guess I was saying the whole question depends in
    part on how much room to roam you’re going to give free will.
    Folks who disparage fatalism as an approach to events tend to
    view them as highly determined by free will agents making
    decisions.
    Interestingly, they don’t give much play to “chance.”
    In fact, in blogs like this, the idea that the plane carrying the
    Polish leaders could have crashed by a series of chance
    occurrences–anything other than someone doing something on
    purpose and of their own free will.
    I’d say the Haskalah was more akin to the Enlightenment than to
    the Reformation, which was a profoundly religious movement.
    Luther was only a “free thinker” vis a vis the Church; he wasn’t a
    secularist or a rationalist at all. My two cents.
    The fact that the far right is ascendant may be less to do with
    poor “strategy”–what kind of “strategy” will get folks to stop
    hating Muslims and Jews?–and more to do with an ill wind
    blowing and the irrational forces of hatred on the march.
    In America, many teabaggers are hating the very folks who are
    coming to their rescue…and loving the folks who are
    responsible for the poverty they are falling into. Perhaps the
    same thing is happening in Europe.
    Let’s face it, Taxed Enough Already, taxes are the lowest they
    have EVER been in my life…and yet you’re still holding on by the
    thinnest of economic strings. Why? It ain’t 1.5 years of Obama.

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  9. WigWag says:

    For those who might be interested, there is now even more evidence for the stunning collapse of the European left. In today’s national elections in Hungary, the ruling socialists were overwhelmingly defeated by the center-right parties. The socialists only won 28 seats in the 386 seat legislature while the victorious conservatives won 206 seats. More ominously, the far right party won 26 seats, doubling its mandates from the previous election. The far right party platform is anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma. The fact that the far right won almost as many seats as the socialists who previously enjoyed a parliamentary majority is telling.
    This trend seems to be heading inexorably towards its logical conclusion; the extinction of the left in Europe.
    In recent elections, far right political parties in France made gains at the expense of Sarkozy’s center right party and far right candidate Geert Wilder’s party made stunning in-roads in local Dutch elections.
    Unless the left in Europe rethinks its strategy, in a few short years it will cease to exist.
    What’s the relevance of all this to Turkey?
    The only advocates remaining in the EU supporting Turkish membership are leftists; if the left in Europe dies, so do any remaining ambitions that Turkey might still have to become an EU member.

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  10. questions says:

    I’ve come across references to Paul Wittgenstein….
    What I really meant is more like, why oh why does my left hand have to be involved in any musical endeavors whatsoever! I’m so much more fluent with my right hand. Sadly, most music really does sound better with both…. (except when I’m playing!)
    ****
    And Sweetness, I suppose that the definition of fatalism might be part of the issue. I’m perhaps drawing a much wider range of notions under a big tent or an oversized umbrella than JohnH or you are.

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  11. Paul Norheim says:

    I’m glad to here that, Questions. Now, if we could only persuade
    our host to learn to play his Baby Grand (or send it to one of
    us…).
    “And who wrote music for the left hand anyway?”
    Actually, Questions, Paul Hindemith did. Maurice Ravel did too.
    A Piano Concerto for Paul Wittgenstein, the philosopher’s
    wealthy brother, who lost his right arm in WW1.
    “On Nov. 27, 1931, a new concerto by composer Maurice Ravel
    was premiered in Vienna. The work, a blending of traditional
    musical forms and modern jazz, was performed by pianist Paul
    Wittgenstein, whose virtuosity held the audience spellbound.
    Wittgenstein had personally commissioned the concerto, less to
    conform to his tastes than to fit his physique. This world-
    renowned concert pianist had only one arm.
    Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand was intended to express the
    tragedy of wartime sacrifices, something Wittgenstein knew
    well. In August, 1914, less than a year after he had made his
    debut on the concert stage, Wittgenstein was leading a patrol
    near Zamosc, Poland, when a sniper’s bullet shattered his right
    arm. The 26-year-old Austrian officer was taken prisoner by
    the Russians, and in a primitive field hospital his wounded arm
    was amputated. He was eventually sent to a prisoner-of-war
    camp in Omsk, Siberia, where he remained until a Red Cross
    prisoner-exchange program brought about his early release. He
    was back home in Vienna by Christmas, 1915. Despite his
    disability, he served as a general’s aide on the Italian front until
    the end of W.W. I and thus displayed the courage and tenacity
    that would help resurrect his career as a musician.
    (…)
    The Wittgenstein home was a gathering place for noted artists,
    musicians, and intellectuals of the 19th century. Johannes
    Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Clara Schumann were frequent
    guests, and famed violinist Joseph Joachim was Paul’s great-
    uncle. As a boy, Paul would sometimes accompany Uncle Joseph
    on the piano, but at that early stage the boy was not particularly
    accomplished. He had a tendency to pound too hard on the
    keys.
    Karl Wittgenstein pursued the arts as an avocation, but he
    believed that a man should earn a living in the business world.
    So he goaded a reluctant Paul into taking a job in a bank.
    However, Paul soon discovered that he was far better suited to
    the keyboard than to the balance sheet, and he quit the bank
    job to devote all his time to music.”
    http://www.trivia-library.com/c/biography-of-one-armed-
    pianist-paul-wittgenstein-part-1.htm
    I recently stumbled upon a very fascinating review of a
    biography about P.W. – I think it was in the New York Book
    Review. Wittgenstein spent his last years – from 1946 – in New
    York.
    ————-
    And here is how he rehearsed during the war, after he lost his
    arm:
    “After a bullet shattered his right elbow, the arm was amputated
    and he was taken prisoner by the Russians. Yet he was
    determined to stick with his pianistic career. Confined to the
    invalid ward of a Siberian P.O.W. camp under the most
    miserable of conditions, Paul set about solving a puzzle: how
    could a single hand play both melody and accompaniment?
    Obsessively tapping out a memorized Chopin piece with his
    freezing fingers on a wooden box and imagining the music, he
    began to develop an ingenious bag of tricks that would fool
    even the sharpest ear.

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  12. questions says:

    Sweetness, if you’re directing your skepticism at me, here are a few examples of useful fatalism — if you have cancer and you’re dying, at some point you actually need to accept death so that you have some peace in the last unit of time. In fact, death of any sort needs to be accepted as inevitable at some level. Much Chinese philosophy and all Socratic philosophy is aimed at the acceptance of and preparation for death. Chuang Tzu is wonderful on this.
    If you’re missing a limb and you keep waiting for it to grow back, you’re not going to get your wish and you’re not going to have much of a life either. If you accept your fate as missing a limb, you can construct a reasonable life without it.
    If you are never going to be over, say, 6 feet tall, you probably need to accept the non-NBAness of your career.
    Now, of course, these are physical/bodily analogues. Are there others? Well, my vote isn’t going to change the course of human civilization even if I want it to. Do I refuse to vote? Do I get angry? Barack Obama IS the president for now, and the US has no recall system. If I’m a teapartier, do accept his existence as president, or do I continue to push the birther line?
    I have the amount of money I have, it’s not going to get any bigger by prayer, so do I accept it and make do (assuming no ability to get another job, no desire to rob a bank), or do I fantasize endlessly about miraculous sums falling down my chimney, do I nurse resentment over what I have, or do I try for some version of contentment knowing that the control of desire is actually a useful skill? Huge questions to think through, not really clear answers always, but certainly, not proof that fatalism is always bad. One could ask for a pay raise, or try to work harder to get noticed, but then, one is FATED to get that extra money through fairly conventional means, rather than via magic. So there’s some reality-fate.
    Life does hand us some conditions that we’re stuck with. Some are structural, some are time-dependent, some are slow-changing social moments but we’re in too early to benefit from the good we do. One can easily be simultaneously a civil rights activist and a fatalist — that is, though my fate is never to step into the promised land, I will walk us a few inches closer, or at least try to avoid walking us backward. Fatalism and hope can come together.
    If fatalism saves someone from a life of futility in the denial of the actually necessary, then fatalism really is protective. I can accept the stuff I actually have to accept an move on to things that I can have some efficacy in dealing with.
    Of course, there are bad sides as well. Accepting what isn’t necessary, what is the cause of unnecessary suffering — well, this is bad. And as the serenity prayer runs, we should all hope to know the difference between necessity and the voluntary. Acceptance has its place, especially regarding death.
    ***
    Nadine, will do. I quit Hebrew school at a very young age….
    Oh, and Paul, if you’re out there anywhere, thanks hugely for the piano inspiration! I’m sort of back to it with a sight reading breakthrough of epic proportions! (at least for me!) I started reading the intervals between notes instead of F-A-C-E and E-G-B-D-F!!! When you don’t translate visual happenstances into verbal events that then retranslate into finger motions, the world of baby Bach is easier! So I am now THINKING the Minuet in G! (See “Music Man” For the reference.) Perhaps I am not fated to being utterly incompetent at the piano after all! (only mostly incompetent! pesky damned counting! and who wrote music for the left hand anyway?)

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  13. nadine says:

    questions, you ask if there was ever a Jewish Reformation? The answer is yes. Google “haskalah”.

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  14. nadine says:

    “Societies that foster free markets tend to empower individuals, reducing the credibility of predestination. Societies where markets are run by plutocrats, close cronies of the ruling elite, naturally reinforce the sense of helplessness. Again, that includes much of the Islamic and Eastern Orthodox worlds. Religious fatalism and economic cronyism reinforce each other.” (JohnH)
    Thank you for your thoughtful response, JohnH. This implies, would you agree, that in ‘barakah’ societies power will be transferred in three ways only: by inheritance, by agreement among a small ruling elite, or by violence? As has been the case in most times and places in the history of the world.
    “In the US, it disturbs me greatly when the government colludes with industry to allow markets to be widely dominated by shared monopolies, exempt from competition. It also bothers me that elected officials are secretly chosen according to who can attract the most money. …Interestingly, China seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Rice production is entirely in the hands of individuals. The country could not feed itself without motivated individuals trying to maximize their income.”
    It disturbs me too, but so far our prescriptions have been opposite. You want more government to check business; I say, more government = more collusion. Big business loves to set up regulatory systems that prevent competition from arising. It is competition they fear. Reading what you say about China, all I can say is, I wish you wanted for the USA what you admire in China.

    Reply

  15. Sweetness says:

    Fatalism? Hmmm. Not sure.
    Maybe only from OUR perspective which, perhaps, puts undue emphasis on free will.
    If free will isn’t all that free–or undetermined– then that leaves more room for other things to have an impact on events, like the barakath.
    IOW, calling X “fatalism” isn’t just calling it by its proper name, it is also interpreting what X is. But that doesn’t mean the interpretation is correct in any sort of objective sense.

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  16. questions says:

    JohnH, interesting, thanks! And with a lot more complexity and nuance about what might be going on than others have on occasion noted. I would still caution resting too much on “fatalism” as it is a fairly universal phenomenon, and can be used in complex ways — being fated in one aspect of life might actually be protective, being fated can get you off the hook of some obligations and free you up for others, being fated can lower interpersonal strife, and given how new age relaxation gurus have taken it up, being fated/accepting your fate can probably be a useful stress-reduction technique.
    As will all social phenomena, probably under the right circumstances and with the right mix of traits, even fatalism is likely useful for survival and social cohesion. And the good Hobbesian in me is reminded that cohesion really really is important! that state of nature is ever lurking and ever giving of a nasty, brutish, and short life.

    Reply

  17. questions says:

    Hey, K,
    I’ve been wondering how to pronounce your name — is it: KOTZ uh Ba sus
    or is it: kotz A bu sus?
    Thanks for letting me know.

    Reply

  18. JohnH says:

    “There’s more to development, by far, than religious belief.” Yes, indeed.
    As one example, I noted the problem of concentration of economic power colluding with government power to stifle competition, innovation and individual effort. In this vein Arab society probably became less dynamic over time as traditional, overland trade routes got cut by Western colonialism and nomadic tribes settled in large oases/cities. Water restricted economies naturally tend to economic/governmental concentration because someone has to decide the distribution of water to keep the peace. Success gets determined by relationships with the ruler, not productive, individual effort. Living under unpredictable weather conditions and unpredictable rulers naturally fosters fatalism.

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  19. kotzabasis says:

    questions
    Your above posts are not a “rant” but a fit of intellectual diarrhoea in a flood that has blocked all sewer systems.

    Reply

  20. questions says:

    And on another, related, note:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/4/11/856094/-School-Reform-Chicago-Style
    Poor schools and shootings in Chicago are not FATE. They are CREATED by really stupid education secretary policies. Really stupid policies.
    Read the piece and weep for the the fate of our schools, our children.
    “The ‘Chief Officer for Turnaround’ in Chicago’s public schools is Donald Fraynd (above left), who has never taught in an inner city high school or served as principal of one. Fraynd came to Chicago from Madison Wisconsin to take a job as Principal of Jones College Prep High School, one of Chicago’s elite high schools. When the Jones LSC reportedly began to have questions about Fraynd’s stewardship, CPS promoted him to the Chief Officer for Turnaround job, newly created. According to Fenger staff, Fraynd and other CPS officials have let the staff know that they will be fired if they tell the truth about the Fenger disaster.”
    *********
    In typical fashion, anyone who has ever gone to a school, or has ever learned something, is suddenly, presto magico, an expert in what the schools need. Forget classroom experience, knowledge of child development, forget having taught people to read or think — since you learned something once, you’re an expert in all learning that has ever happened.
    It’s kind of like Sarah Palin’s claiming that she knows more about Soviet Nuke policy than Obama because as 1/2 term gov of Alaska, she….
    So if Obama can diss Palin on this claim, can he not do the same for Duncan — who went to a private school, who CARES deeply, but doesn’t really know what works? Would it be possible to get actual classroom teachers involved in: class size, curriculum, the amount of time needed for subjects, block scheduling, ending social promotion, pushing reading skills more than anything else for the first few years because if the kids are weak readers they can’t ever deal with the content of their history and science books? Could we understand that having a couple of ADD/ADHD kids, a couple of fidgeters, a couple of giggly or tearful girls, some catfights, a couple of boys with raging testosterone, one ocd kid, 3 kids who are just kind of distractable, a class clown, one kid who is severely bullied, 1 kid whose cat just died, 1 kid whose mom is dying of cancer, 1 homeless kid… all in one classroom is really a lot to deal with and no amount of “best practices” or young, pretty, inexperience babe-teachers is gonna get all the kids in a typical classroom to excel, or even to grasp basic stuff.
    It takes years to develop teaching techniques. Years of expertise. And this admin. wants to hire 22 year old babes to guide 17 year olds. OMFG.
    ********
    “What else but a flippant lack of care stopped the bussing of students from Altgeld Gardens to Fenger and back again only a year after turning Carver into the selective enrollment military academy that it is today?
    The District knew the danger it placed these students in and pacified both communities with that year of bussing and then dropped such a financial burden into our streets, which became a hotbed for fights like the one that caught up Derrion. It was spit upon our faces when Mayor Daley aired his call for an end to violence on TV while failing to provide enough police presence to stop or bring real justice to any of these fights.”
    ***********
    So they close schools, move the kids to other schools, there are gang issues, the kids are bused for a year, the busing (which is a safety issue clearly) is stopped. There are, shock of shocks, fights because the kids are unsupervised and are mixing from neighborhoods.
    ********
    “The social studies department paid an outside vendor to produce four years worth of curriculum and only received the same curriculum for all four years, rearranged to be taught in a different order. To avoid the fact that a portion of our new staff are not certified in the area they are teaching, we have switched to general “Social Studies 1-4″ so that we appear to be NCLB compliant. The first unit was on race, so we had a nearly all white group of inexperienced teachers teaching Fenger students about the mechanics of race with predictable results.
    We have waited months for the vital teaching materials that our students need, but the exterior of the building had thousands poured into it from the first day. New trees were ready for the new year, but we as staff were asked to volunteer to remove lead paint from our classrooms or simply endure it. We received double the English books, but did not have adequate math books for much of the school year.”
    ********
    And it just goes on. One stupid decision after another. Lousy and insufficient texts, little support for the teachers. And now Florida wants to be able to fire anyone who doesn’t keep the kids’ test scores up in a similar atmosphere of urban schools with urban problems. OMFG.
    End of rant, but please follow these stories. These people are the next generation and they are going to be our doctors or our prison inmates. We don’t need to be fatalistic about which category they will fall into. We need good policy.

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  21. questions says:

    Fatalism is all over the place endlessly. “It was meant to be….” “I guess I was never meant to be a ….” Biological determinism (“it’s genetic”) is merely the newest iteration of this basic tendency. Standardized test scores and school tracking also fit in to the whole fatalism scenario.
    Racism is fatalism. Basic class structures are fatalistic at some level. Conspiracy theories take on a slice of fatalism (all these secret societies making and carrying out their secret plans while we sit helpless at home on the internet screaming, but never understood.)
    Cassandra-ism is fatalism.
    New Age acceptance of what must be, the ‘Serenity Prayer,’ Taoism — all fatalistic.
    Even the American Myth that if you work hard enough you’ll get ahead rests on a kind of fatalism because as soon as people see they’re not getting ahead, they can think that they aren’t capable of working hard enough.
    It’s really really really important to avoid locating fatalism OVER THERE and enlightenment OVER HERE.
    In fact, what causes political development is an uncertain recipe that includes some luck, some pluck, resources, people to exploit, a reason to put the work in, social structures that are pliant enough that those on top can beat down those below while still explaining to those below that one day they might end up on top….
    To ascribe lack of development merely to: Islam, lack of enlightenment, lack of reformation (how are the Catholic countries of the world faring?), presence of fatalism… is still to be too non-specific to be explaining anything much at all. All of these characteristics can be found just about everywhere.
    Better to look at economic and political history, resources, trade routes, climate and geography, start up capital, extractive industries and their concomitant corruption…. Plenty of material here to tell a pretty compelling story without the religion/fatalism thing. Once you have the material conditions explained for each national success or failure, and you have the political conditions explained (colonialism history, autocracy history, wars and the like), then a little pseudo-sociological-religion stuff might help deal with the few not-fully-explained failures and successes.
    China’s historical and religious backdrop is very much entangled with Taoism and Confucianism and both of these suggest hierarchy, rule-following, The Heavens above, The Sons of Heaven next, the Sage Kings, the Gentlemen, and on down to regular people all being properly filial and performing their proper duties and staying within boundaries and accepting the fate of death with ease. And China is developing nonetheless.
    Has there ever been a “Jewish Reformation?” (The 95,000 Theses posted on a synagogue somewhere?) Is Islam really a singular phenomenon with no modernizing influences? Are there no semi-secular versions of Islam? Have there never been mildly westernizing sort-of-Islamic non-shariah imposing Islamic regimes that have met with some externally-imposed horrible fate or some internal revolution against a western-imposed government?…. Is shariah really a singular phenomenon, or are there multiple versions including those that don’t chop off hands or veil women? What caused the Protestant Reformation anyway? How much was class-based anger? How much was anger at corruption? How many sects started mostly so that there could be multiple power centers rather than a single power center and how much did that multiplicity merely recreate the corruption that had already been endemic? (I don’t know religious history beyond a couple of conversations with someone who read a book about the reformation… so I’m in the dark about the answers here.)
    And if it’s up to the individual to seek salvation on his own via his own personal relationship with God, then doesn’t he have to spend a whole lot of time doing that rather than, umm, developing economically?
    Look at all the “pray to win” versions of TV evangelism to see if Protestantism has blossomed into something that could continue building the next century’s infrastructure. Is it the Reformation, or is it the availability of resources?
    I don’t think that the categories being used around here are necessarily the best explanatory mechanisms.
    There’s more to development, by far, than religious belief.
    But then, I didn’t attend Texas public schools!

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  22. Paul Norheim says:

    Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire
    before becoming Istanbul and the capital of the Ottoman
    Empire. In Byzantine times the emperors were said to have been
    chosen by God.
    But hundred years ago, even under Stalin, I believe this fatalism
    and lack of a clear distinction between the Ruler and God, was
    even stronger in Russia.
    This religious devotion to the leaders was broken by Kruschev
    in Russia. I don’t know whether it was broken by Ataturk in
    Turkey, since I am not familiar with the cult (or lack thereof) of
    leaders in Turkey in the decades before the fall of the Ottoman
    Empire.
    But the fatalism discussed above on this thread certainly has a
    long history in Turkey. At the same time, Istanbul is in many
    ways a very modern city.

    Reply

  23. JohnH says:

    Nadine, thanks for your thoughtful question. No, I do not think that choosing leaders based on baraka is compatible with democracy precisely because of the fatalism that it implies. And societies where the population believes in the hand of God selecting its leaders are societies where democracy will have extreme difficulty taking root. IMHO that includes much of the world ruled by Islam as well as Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
    That said, religion is not the only factor in determining the power of predestination in a society. Societies that foster free markets tend to empower individuals, reducing the credibility of predestination. Societies where markets are run by plutocrats, close cronies of the ruling elite, naturally reinforce the sense of helplessness. Again, that includes much of the Islamic and Eastern Orthodox worlds. Religious fatalism and economic cronyism reinforce each other.
    In the US, it disturbs me greatly when the government colludes with industry to allow markets to be widely dominated by shared monopolies, exempt from competition. It also bothers me that elected officials are secretly chosen according to who can attract the most money. Both these trends will inevitably increase individuals’ sense of helplessness and cynicism. Once people get resigned to a fate over which they have little influence, their interest in innovating and risk taking will be sapped, and they will begin to accept the presence of mysterious forces that collude to choose leaders, who increasingly portray themselves as regal if not god-like figures.
    Interestingly, China seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Rice production is entirely in the hands of individuals. The country could not feed itself without motivated individuals trying to maximize their income. That individualism now seems to have moved into other sectors of society as well, ultimately providing a dissonance and a challenge to traditional patrimony. As a result, China has become much more vigorous, the US much less.

    Reply

  24. kotzabasis says:

    questions
    One cannot compartmentalize economic opportunity, making money, and economic development from the religious belief systems which play such a pivotal role and are of paramount importance to the existential needs of a major part of mankind. Surely, one cannot seriously argue that Muslims over a span of more that a thousand years never had a break in economic opportunity

    Reply

  25. nadine says:

    JohnH, do you think that a belief in barakah can coexist with democracy? Or does barakah express a fatalism that is incompatible with political self-expression?

    Reply

  26. WigWag says:

    To nycalling:
    It is true that the nations that I mentioned in the Balkans were all formerly communist nations. However, several of them were not part of the “Soviet Empire” for very long. As you know, many of these nations were once part of the former Yugoslavia. Tito broke with the Soviets very early on and introduced market reforms in Yugoslavia decades before Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union itself. Despite this, these nations are still amongst the poorest nations in Europe.
    In addition, these were not the only communist nations. The Northern Slavic countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia were also Soviet vassal states, but they were largely untouched by the Turks (actually they do have an extremely brief history with the Ottomans; the Poles helped keep the Ottoman Turks from further expansion in Europe). Hungary also had a significantly briefer period of Ottoman control than the Balkan nations. Of course the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians all had a long and unhappy relationship with the Hapsburgs. Yet the Hungarians, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks are all far more advanced economically and politically than their South Slavic kinsmen.
    By the very standard you are recommending, it is very tempting to conclude that the critical factor in poverty and backwardness in Southern Europe is the influence of the Ottomans. But I do admit that other factors or co-morbidities might play a role.
    Respectully, your statement about what contemporary historians think about Ottoman tolerance is a caricature of what historians actually think. The Ottoman Empire exited for centuries; there were periods when it was more tolerant and there were periods when it was less tolerant. Some Ottoman vassal nations were granted more privileges while others were granted less autonomy (it depended mostly on whether the citizens of the vassal nation were willing to convert to Islam). So while forced conversions were not required, citizens who refused to convert faced numerous negative consequences; this provided a massive incentive for conversion. It’s the reason the Albanians converted almost in mass; it’s the reason that many of the forebears of today’s Kosovars and Bosnians converted.
    It is also interesting to note that the Ottomans were frequently more tolerant of Orthodox Christians in Anatolia itself than they were in their southern European dominions. The Serbs, Bulgarians, Macedonians and Montenegrins all had a particularly horrible experience with the Turks.
    Not surprisingly, the more resistance that vassal nations displayed, the more brutally the Turks oppressed them by attempting to destroy their economic infrastructure, culture and sense of identity. The idea that this might leave a legacy today, less than two centuries from when this all happened, seems reasonable. After all, in the Untied States today we are still talking about the influence of the “legacy of slavery” on contemporary African Americans.
    Even a cursory comparison of the lands ruled predominantly by the Hapsburgs, Ottomans and British suggests that the nations that once suffered under Ottoman control are doing worse today than the nations once ruled by the other Empires. This appears to be as true outside of Europe as inside of Europe.
    Is it the whole story?
    Probably not. But it is certainly very suggestive.

    Reply

  27. questions says:

    I’m not sure I’d say “relieved” to avoid the duty of self-inquisition as much as never really being pushed too far, never feeling that self-inquiry could lead to anything, never enough carrot compared to stick, and a really deep satisfaction from the current state of being.
    We get a huge amount of pleasure from being able to “predict” the end of a movie or a life or an event, and that ability only works in a situation in which events and behavior are patterned. (I’m borrowing this from an old article of Umberto Eco’s.)
    Social liberation movements, urbanization, enlightenment, education, and the like tend to throw off all that predictability, create generation gaps, cause interpersonal tensions all over the place, disrupt social relations… and so for any of this to be welcome, thar’s got to be gold in them thar hills.
    If you get thwarted every time you try for some curiosity, you stop pretty quickly on the curious looking projects. If your teachers at school keep their jobs only if your test scores are good, they’re not going to give you precious time to be curious, confused, self-inquiring. They’re gonna beat the shit out of you if you cause them to risk their jobs. (This is a note to anyone who deals with Florida education policy or who would adopt any of this shit nationally.)
    We cannot have a system in which those characteristics that encourage underdevelopment are replicated in our system. We already have more than enough of this in the world. (Mild topic shift, but in a connected sort of way!)
    So back to the topic at hand, underdevelopment is likely less religious and more likely opportunity-related. And at the same time, we should also note that “underdevelopment” is a really loaded term that needs lots of unpacking, and “developed” is not necessarily better than “under” or “un-developed.”
    Traffic, global climate change, family disruption, cancer deaths — it’s not all joy at this end of the universe.

    Reply

  28. nyccalling says:

    To Nadine:
    They were not ‘false’ coup accusations in Turkey. If you only read pro-Israeli media like Barry Rubin, no wonder you have these one-sided world views. Israel supports the military control of the government in Turkey, as democracy in Turkey wouldn’t work in their favor.
    To WigWag:
    The poorer European countries you listed in your post are not poor because they are most closely associated with the Turks.Let’s read the picture more objectively. These countries were part of the Soviet Union up until 20 years ago and their economies have recently been introduced to capitalism. Why don’t you compare these countries with other former communist countries??
    Also, you said “The next two poorest nations in Europe, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, also happen to be the nations that have the highest percentage of Muslim citizens other than Albania and Kosovo. Who converted those citizens to Islam (mostly against their wills)? The Ottoman Turks of course…”
    Today almost all reputable historians accept Ottoman Empire’s religious toleration. Forced conversions were almost unseen in the empire.
    A little objectivity, please!!!

    Reply

  29. JohnH says:

    Yes, getting to the idea behind “baraka” is an interesting one, which inevitably must raise Pascal’s question of free will vs. predestination.
    Inevitably those who are either lucky or endowed with special skills will see the hand of God in their success. The Christian Right’s belief in the wealthy’s deserving their wealth because they were exercising God’s will is a case in point.
    Much of success is getting others to conform to your vision and following it. It’s easy to see how that can be manipulated into having divine inspiration form part of that vision, particularly is success is ongoing. (I can’t help but think about how much of Bush’s agenda was “faith based.”)
    And the ultimate divine right is getting others to see leaders as divine in and of themselves. It’s a lot easier to get things done if you can just tell people that it’s simply God’s will and dispense with having to convince them of mutual self interest. We see this operating in American life everyday–“God says you shouldn’t have sex until you’re married!” is a lot more powerful than having parents saying the same thing. Also is manifests itself in the notion of American “manifest destiny” and exceptionalism every day…
    Personally, I think that a condition of adulthood should be a questioning mind and a suspicion of others’ motives, especially leaders’ motives. But for many, they are happy to be relieved of all the complexities associated with that…

    Reply

  30. questions says:

    JohnH,
    Your explanation of baraka still doesn’t really answer the question, though, unless no country that has ever had a notion of the deserving few wealthy and the undeserving many poor has gotten over the issue.
    We allow the notion of desert to guide us when we don’t see anything better on the horizon. There are analogues of this in Calvinism, witchcraft, the American Myth that if you work hard enough you’re deserving, and so on. Plato takes it on in the Republic (desert becomes something in the soul that must be managed by the state, and is not in the least arbitrary, and is highly dependent on careful education), and by Aristotle in his discussion of the oligarchs and the democrats and the preference for an aristocracy but the realization that it simply won’t work. Some people are meant to be leaders or rich or better off, and some are not.
    But clearly this notion is put to rest or at least de-emphasized in various places around the world as people start to see something for themselves in challenging it.
    The task, then, is to go “behind” baraka and try to figure out what the patterns are that make people hold on to it, and make people dump it in the river and start a business.
    *****
    On happiness, March 22, 2010 New Yorker has a piece.
    On race and behavior, an interesting review of a Claude Steele book — Whistling Vivaldi — from the American Prospect.
    And on education, it’s possible that Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago could maybe be worth reading.
    (It’s nice to get caught up on dead tree magazines once a year or so….)

    Reply

  31. Sweetness says:

    JohnH, then there’s The Mandate of Heaven in China.
    I’ve experienced the barakath myself.
    Wig, look no further than cold Carlsberg and some really delicious
    thin sausages sold at stands near the Tivoli Gardens.

    Reply

  32. JohnH says:

    Wigwag, thanks for your thoughtful response. The countries I had in mind were Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus. None of them suffered under the Ottoman yoke.
    Your take on religion is interesting. But I suspect that there is something different going on in Eastern Europe and many Muslim countries.
    While living in an Arab country, I talked with locals about democracy. Their take was to shrug their shoulders. I asked how they chose their leaders. The answer was that Allah granted certain individuals with “baraka.” (You have to admit that there is a kernel of truth in this–look at Barak Obama!) They became the leaders. Then I asked how leaders ever got removed. The answer was that someone else was granted “baraka.”
    Years later, reading Dostoevsky, I found a similar infatuation with special people who manifested divine blessing.
    I believe that this belief system is widespread. Political leaders have tried to convince their subjects of their divine characteristics. This includes the divine rights and privileges of European kings. The Pope falls into this category, as well as kings in some Arab countries.
    So the problem is not exactly religion. The problem in my eyes is an acculturation process that has people surrender themselves before divine authority or ruling elites who play the role of divine authority. And these belief systems, once entrenched, are hard to change. As a result, you have secular governments in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. that are free to operate as if they still had divine blessing, though they have none. Leaders are still chosen by some mystical process in which ordinary people play no role.
    Then what happens is that the leaders, being totally human, abuse their powers. They reward their supporters and stifle their foes, resulting in crony “capitalism,” which is of course not real capitalism because there is little competition. Cronies establish monopolies that feed their wealth. Underdevelopment is ensured.
    So my take on the underdevelopment problem relates not so much to religion, but to belief systems to empower elites and make the rest of the people helpless. Of course, religion is often used to reinforce these systems.

    Reply

  33. questions says:

    Singapore:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Singapore
    Ports, education spending, desire to make lots of money, open to investments, manufacturing, financial services — not not without “resources”, even if banyan trees and water seem the main physical features!
    So rewrite my resource thoughts to include “resources” as well. Location, education, and the pressure to make money which can come from the top or the bottom. But then the last 2 of these are really enlightenment values at some level and they come because people have a desire for money. Location helps. Ports are good. Ports near things are better.

    Reply

  34. Sweetness says:

    Well, since no one picked up on my Three Stooges reference, I’ll have go for a serious comment.
    Wig…isn’t “the answer” obvious?
    Ottoman + Soviet + Russian + Islamic + Communist domination = backwardness and unhappiness.
    Who knows? If only we’d had the sense to treat Russia like we did China, these former Islamic Soviet countries would be growing like Asia (see below for more).
    Most of these Asian tigers were dominated by Japan during the War, so maybe that accounts for their rapid growth–that Japanese forced labor work ethic.
    I believe it’s Bhutan, the Kingdom of for all you democracy fans, who’s most concerned with its people’s happiness. But I digress…
    Also, don’t we have an outlier in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country? I know they’ve got some Islamic fundamentalism going on there. How are they doing?
    Whoa! At $2,246, more than twice as better than India on a per capita basis (who has nukes after all)!
    And almost twice as better than the Philippines, who don’t have nukes and who have suffered under US rule and largesse.
    And, if you notice, Indonesia is catching China at $3,315 (who has nukes) who, in turn, is kicking the US to the curb (who has even more nukes).
    http://www.globalpropertyguide.us/Asia/Indonesia/gdp-per-capita
    And check out Malaysia. They are kicking some serious GDP per capita butt, and 60.4% practice Islam. They are hotter than China! But they also don’t have nukes–so who knows.
    And notice this, Singapore–a goddamn island (actually 63 of them, I see) with no resources but banyan trees, water, and no nukes–is only $9,000 behind the US! Jim Rogers has moved there, I think.
    Let’s take a look. Buddhism dominates, but Islam is the second most popular religion! Seems as though they inherited English law, but Freedom House considers them only partly free.
    And I’m chagrined to learn that “Although Singapore’s laws are inherited from English and British Indian laws, and includes many elements of English common law, the government has also chosen not to follow some elements of liberal democratic values. There are no jury trials and there are laws restricting the freedom of speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious society.
    “Criminal activity is often punished with heavy penalties including heavy fines or corporal punishment (caning). The Singapore government argues that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose what it sees as an appropriate punishment, including capital punishment (hanging) for first-degree murder and drug trafficking.”
    Could caning be the key to rapid economic growth? I sense a Phd thesis bubbling up…

    Reply

  35. questions says:

    If the enlightenment issue is significant, then the next question might be what drives enlightenment? Is it possible that what’s really going on during enlightenment is that groups of people see opportunities to make money and find that those institutions that would interfere need to be challenged?
    I’m utterly not a historian, so tracing all of this would simply be painful for me! But it’s possible that the lack of economic development you’re ascribing to religiosity (in the revised edition) might be traced better to, ummm, economics.
    That is, if there’s space for broadening economic well-being, people go for it. Natural resources, non-extractive possibility, room to build, transit, markets, sufficient calories to power people through the day, fertile land, a source of power, and the possibility of exploiting one’s neighbors for one’s own benefit, lack of massive internal conflict that interferes with building — all of this might be the necessary back drop to tossing off the kinds of religiosity that get in the way of economic exploitation, middle-classification, and STUFF!
    If this revised-revised version holds up to any scrutiny at all (and I make no claims for accuracy in this supposition!), then religiosity isn’t really the problem at all. Rather, what you’d find is that when the conditions for economic prosperity exist, money-cravers will challenge the authorities and push for enlightenment. Others, less concerned with money issues but more concerned with free-thinking issues, will join in. Women and students may well join in, and soon you have a very broad movement that overthrows the current order across the span of however many generations it takes to dump restrictive institutions.
    But the driving force may actually be the possibility of making money. Thus, in unresourced lands, you may well get a whole lot less pressure to de-religionize. (And I might hazard a guess, by the way, that the American South has some of these issues as well. It’s hard to make money and so religion takes the place of satisfaction, but religion is less the driver than is lack of some of the basic resources that are needed for development.)
    The Nation Magazine has a fascinating piece on Afghanistan, the lack of resources, the complete decentralization of traditional governing structures — it’s really worth reading.
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100419/polk
    If it’s the case that the possibility of making money is required for there to be a pressure against deep religiosity, then Afghanistan ain’t got it. It’s an idea to follow through.
    The main point here, then, is to dump any concern about Islam specifically — which you’re well on the way to doing — and move past religiosity even, and look at the kinds of economic possibilities that people might have. For people to challenge strong institutions to which they are wedded, they really need a super strong carrot on the other end. The stick works less well because the fear of change and the fear of the stick might stand in balance against each other. Toss in a strong desire for iPods or cable TV and BAM! down goes the interfering institution!
    And once again, note that I am in no way a historian, so dispute away!
    ********
    BONUS LINK!!!
    *******
    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/04/09/republicans_welfare/index.html
    Salon on the Tea Partiers who love themselves some serious government benefits as long as they themselves are receiving the money. What an interesting mix of incoherent non-thinking reactivity is the Tea Party “movement”!

    Reply

  36. WigWag says:

    “FYI: Since Norway is not an EU member, the constant and intense, I would almost say ecstatic feeling of happiness and sheer joy among the majority of Norwegians will not be affected at all by the possible acceptance of the poor and unhappy Turks into the European Union. We’ll keep smiling, whatever the outcome.” (Paul Norheim)
    Who would have guessed that people living in a nation that gets so little sunshine, especially in the winter months, could be so happy?
    But, it’s not just the Norwegians; the Danes are even happier; 82 percent of the Danes self-report as thriving. So do 68 percent of the Swedes and an amazing 75 percent of the Finns. Maybe sunlight isn’t all that good for you after all.
    I’ve been thinking about those preternaturally happy Danes and Norwegians and trying to come up with an explanation for the gushers of joy emanating from their lilting souls. I think I may be onto something.
    What the Danes and Norwegians have in common is that they both have talented cartoonists working for their daily newspapers. These cartoonists create wry and clever cartoons that speed around the world and provoke a great deal of discussion.
    Maybe its looking at all those cartoons that make the Norwegians and Danes so happy.

    Reply

  37. WigWag says:

    “FYI: Since Norway is not an EU member, the constant and intense, I would almost say ecstatic feeling of happiness and sheer joy among the majority of Norwegians will not be affected at all by the possible acceptance of the poor and unhappy Turks into the European Union. We’ll keep smiling, whatever the outcome.” (Paul Norheim)
    Who would have guessed that people living in a nation that gets so little sunshine, especially in the winter months, could be so happy?
    But, it’s not just the Norwegians; the Danes are even happier; 82 percent of the Danes self-report as thriving. So do 68 percent of the Swedes and an amazing 75 percent of the Finns. Maybe sunlight isn’t all that good for you after all.
    I’ve been thinking about those preternaturally happy Danes and Norwegians and trying to come up with an explanation for the gushers of joy emanating from their lilting souls. I think I may be onto something.
    What the Danes and Norwegians have in common is that they both have talented cartoonists working for their daily newspapers. These cartoonists create wry and clever cartoons that speed around the world and provoke a great deal of discussion.
    Maybe its looking at all those cartoons that make the Norwegians and Danes so happy.

    Reply

  38. Paul Norheim says:

    FYI: Since Norway is not an EU member, the constant and intense,
    I would almost say ecstatic feeling of happiness and sheer joy
    among the majority of Norwegians will not be affected at all by
    the possible acceptance of the poor and unhappy Turks into the
    European Union. We’ll keep smiling, whatever the outcome.

    Reply

  39. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Westernization involves adopting Enlightenment values: liberty, inalienable human rights, self-determination, separation of church and state”
    Hmmm, than what the hell is Israel?
    Barry Rubin? Perfect. I can think of no better stable mate for you.

    Reply

  40. nadine says:

    “Nadine – Is Westernization mutually exclusive from Islamism? How would you define each? Any examples?”
    Unless you try to define Westernization in purely material terms, as adopting Western technology, they’re not compatible. Westernization involves adopting Enlightenment values: liberty, inalienable human rights, self-determination, separation of church and state. Islamism is a set of political movements that advocate adopting sharia and the values of Islam, and often includes a strong totalitarian component. Islamism has no separation of church and state and a very different conception of human rights, where rights depend on sharia status: male vs female and Muslim vs. dhimmi vs unbeliever.
    Barry Rubin, who wrote the guide to political Islamist movements (among his many books), discusses the differences between Islam and various forms of Islamism here: http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2010/01/islam-and-islamism-are-extremists.html

    Reply

  41. Dan Kervick says:

    By the way, according to this poll at least, the happiness quotient in Turkey is not good.
    Well, by all means then, let us ridicule and demean those unhappy and underachieving Ottomans.
    And let’s keep the buggers out of the European Union … Europe is only for happy people.

    Reply

  42. WigWag says:

    “And further, it’s always worth asking if “My GDP is bigger than yours” is a really great measurement for human happiness.” (Questions)
    Good question!
    Believe it or not, there is actually some empiracal data on how different nationalities rate their own “happiness.”
    Just two weeks ago, Gallup released a poll measuring self reported “happiness” in 155 nations or areas.
    By the way, according to this poll at least, the happiness quotient in Turkey is not good. Only 13 percent of Turks rate themselves as thriving. Paul Norheim will be happy to know that 69 percent of Norwegians consider themselves to be very happy. For the United States, 57 percent say they are thriving; in Canada its 62 percent. In Mexico, 52 percent self report as thriving.
    Thanks to the Walter Russell Mead blog for uncovering this poll.
    Here’s the data if you would like to take a look.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/126977/Global-WellBeing-Surveys-Find-Nations-Worlds-Apart.aspx

    Reply

  43. WigWag says:

    “Actually, Wigwag is wrong. There are several countries in Europe with lower per capita incomes than Turkey and were not part of the Ottoman Empire. And they are Christian nations.” (JohnH)
    I make mistakes all the time, JohnH, I would be happy to stand corrected. I’m using the 2009 IMF statistics. Exactly which European nations never colonized by the Ottoman Empire have a lower per capita GDP than Turkey?
    Other than the ones I mentioned, I went back and could find only one; Moldova which is technically part of Europe but usually characterized as part of Eurasia. There are a few other Eurasian nations with lower per capita GDPs than Turkey but few people think of them as part of Europe. Some of these Eurasian nations are majority Christian and some are majority Muslim. Interestingly, several of them were colonized by the Ottoman Turks at one time or another.
    If I’m missing something I’d be grateful if you corrected me.
    One more thing, JohnH, this statment while techincally correct, is misleading.
    “And, of all Middle Eastern Arab entities, the Occupied Territories come out at the bottom in
    terms of per capita GDP. But that must be the Turks fault!”
    Actually, according to the CIA World Factbook (2009) both Gaza and the West Bank have a larger per capita GDP than: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Nepal. In fact, Gaza and the West Bank each have a higher per capita GDP than 61 other nations in the world. Gaza has the same per capita GDP as India. So yes, the Ottoman Turks who colonized Palestine for several hundred years probably are responsible, at least in part, for economic conditions (both good and bad) in Palestine.
    Questions, forgive the pun, but you pose a series of excellent “questions.”
    First of all, I’ve pointed out a series of associations; they may be interesting correlations but in and of themselves, they prove nothing. As every high school student knows, correlation doesn’t prove causation. These correlations are provocative though and they do justify further thought and research by those who find them interesting.
    As for the time since colonization, what would your thesis be? Would you suspect that the further in the past a nation was colonized the more likely it is to be backward today or would you hypothecize that the more recently a nation was colonized the more likely it is to be backward? Or perhaps its not how recent or far in the past the colonization experience was; perhaps it was the duration of the colonization or how oppressive the colonizing nation treated the subject nation.
    Several (but not all) of the nations that I mentioned as having been under the yoke of the Ottomans were also oppressed at other periods in their history by the Hapsburgs. Perhaps the Hapsburgs are to blame for their backward status, not the Ottomans. The Hapsburg rulers were certainly vicious, regressive and incompetent.
    But it should be pointed out all of the European nations that were once part of the Hapsburg Empire but not the Ottoman Empire are more advanced economically today than the nations once ruled by the Turks.
    The Hapsburg Empire and the Ottoman Empire both died within a few years of each other at the end of World War I.
    Of course the British Empire lived on. In fact, despite its rapid disintegration after World War II, the British Empire emerged from World War I larger than it had ever been before.
    Nations once part of the British Empire include: India, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
    How are those nations doing today compared to the nations onced ruled by the Ottomans?
    My conjecture (and its only conjecture) is that FrenchConnection is in part, right. I think the failure of the Muslim World to enjoy a recent enlightenment experience has been a disadvantage.
    My suspcion is that there’s nothing about Islam per se that inhibits economic development. Preternturally pious forms of Christianity and Judiasm also look askance at science and prohibit women from playing an active role in economic life.
    My suspicion is that the problem with the Islamic World is not Islam but is religion itself. I believe that if the Christian world were as dominated by its religious kooks as the Islamic world is by its kooks, than the Christian world would be as backwards as the Muslim world. The same is true for Israel (the only majority Jewish nation) and I believe that Israel is in danger of following the example of its Muslim neighbors. The real existential threat to Israel comes not from Palestinian fecundity but from the fecundity of ultra-pious Jews who are as backwards, superstitious and bigoted as ultra pious Muslims.
    My thesis would be that Islam is playing a more critical role in Muslim nations than Christianity is in Christian nations because Islam has become wrapped up in creating identity for an oppressed and impoverished people who have always been taught that Islam is superior to its fellow Abrahamic faiths.
    Simply stated, my thesis would be that the Muslim world is more backward than the Christian, Hindu or Jewish worlds, because at this stage in history, more Muslims tend to be more religious.
    Religion is bad; at least for economic growth.

    Reply

  44. JohnH says:

    I must applaud Wigwag for her touching concern for those who suffered under Ottoman occupation in past centuries. And for those (Kurds) who are mistreated today.
    But it’s a mystery why Wigwag does not express the same concern for those who suffered under brutal, Ottoman occupation and now suffer under brutal, Israeli occupation! And for those who are treated like second class citizens inside Israel–Israeli Palestinians.
    And, of all Middle Eastern Arab entities, the Occupied Territories come out at the bottom in terms of per capita GDP. But that must be the Turks fault!

    Reply

  45. questions says:

    Whoa, Buddhist countries don’t come out so well, either!
    There are some poor Christian countries, too.
    Landlocked countries have a tough time, though Liechtenstein and Luxembourg and Andorra do A-ok.
    Not even speaking English protects…..
    The chart I linked to above has a wide range of sorts built into it. Of course, this chart is all correlation, and not a lot of causal explanation, so it’s worth taking care.
    But click away for the evening!

    Reply

  46. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its historic watching Israel step on its own balls.
    Key allies are abandoning Israel. How does it react? With venom and spit. Rather than working to lessen the impact of international spats, Israel acts like the spoiled and misunderstood brat who makes matters worse by throwing tantrums and sneering with disrespect.
    This batshit crazy swarm of zionists running the show over there is self destructive. Israel is committing suicide right before our eyes. One hopes we won’t share in the inevitable fall, but frankly, I’m not optimistic. Its not smart to allow a drowner to pull you down. Sometimes, you gotta smack them hard to allay the panic. Obama doesn’t have the balls to do it, and Hillary doesn’t have the desire.

    Reply

  47. questions says:

    http://snippets.com/what-is-the-gdp-per-capita-for-every-country.htm
    Here’s a fun version of per capita GDP around the world.
    Wiki has charts, too. The numbers don’t all match what you have, so I’m guessing dates and varying estimates. All of this has to be mapped on to the political history and prevalence of resources and religious history.
    And probably we should think about looking at the localized per capita wealth in sections of the US where Christianity is the norm, but maldistribution and downright deep poverty are the norm. There, you wouldn’t get the religion part, but you’d get the lack of wealth, lack of investment, lack of resources and infrastructure — all with Christianity.

    Reply

  48. WigWag says:

    “Wigwag and Nadine are back to arguing for military dominated governments in Turkey…” (JohnH)
    I’m not arguing for a militarily dominated government in Turkey, JohnH. Nadine may or may not be right that Erdogan and colleagues represent the true threat to Turkish democracy; time will if that turns out to be true. But I’m all for Turkish elections and I believe that Turkey still operates according to the rule of law.
    What I have pointed out is that when it comes to policy, especially domestic policy, (which the EU is particularly concerned with) the differences between the secularists and the religious oriented leaders may be less than meets the eye.
    In response to Katcher’s post, I’ve also pointed out that given how poor and backwards Turkey is, anyone wanting to hold it up as a role model should think twice.
    In fairness to Turkey, when it comes to the Muslim world, it is near the top of a pathetic lot. The per capita GDP of the entire world is $10,348. Of the 49 majority Muslim nations that exist in the world only 13 have a per capita GDP that exceeds the world average. But upon closer inspection, 10 of the 13 derive the vast portion of their wealth from oil and gas resources. Only three majority Muslim nations without oil wealth have a per capita GDP that exceeds the world average. Turkey is one of those nations; the other two are Lebanon ($11,270) and Malaysia ($13,315).
    It’s actually quite startling to look at the statistics. 28 of the 49 majority Muslim nations have a per capita GDP under $5,000; 22 of these nations have a per capita GDP of under $2,500.
    Of the 49 majority Muslim nations, 7 have per capita GDPs in excess of $20,000 but of course the number of majority Muslim nations without oil wealth that have a per capita GDP in excess of $20,000 is zero.
    Compared to their brethren, the Turks look pretty good. Compared to the rest of the world, the Turks don’t look good at all.
    One thing that is important to remember is that the Ottoman Turks were not only responsible for impoverishing the nations that became the poorest nations in Europe. The Ottoman Turks also colonized most of the Arab world and a significant portion of North Africa. Given how poorly those parts of the world are doing, it looks like the Turks devastated the Arab and North African regions as thoroughly as they devastated Europe.

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  49. JohnH says:

    Give me a break, Nadine, you ARE arguing for the Turkish military to have its traditional role, which is to either rule directly or have veto power. Without civilian control of the military, you cannot have a democratic state. Period.
    The constitutional changes put Turkey more in conformance with Western European democratic principles and institutions.
    Fact is, neither Nadine nor Wigwag can tolerate the prospect of a large, democratic, Islamic nation that might reflect the views of its people when it comes to Israel’s bad behavior.

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  50. Maw of America says:

    Nadine – Is Westernization mutually exclusive from Islamism? How would you define each? Any examples?
    Thanks!

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  51. JohnH says:

    Actually, Wigwag is wrong. There are several countries in Europe with lower per capita incomes than Turkey and were not part of the Ottoman Empire. And they are Christian nations.
    Wigwag and Nadine, in their hatred for anything Islamic, want us to believe that either Islam or Turkey is to blame for the economic woes of the underdeveloped world.
    I suppose Turkish domination of Africa and Latin America and East Asia would explain their relatively low per capita incomes, too!

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  52. nadine says:

    JohnH, we are not arguing FOR military dominated government, we are simply referring to the function the military has traditionally performed in Turkey. YOUR attitude seems to be that if you declare it impossible, it never happened.
    Turkey is not becoming more Westernized under Erdogan, it is becoming less Westernized and more Islamist. Islamists regard democracy as a bus: you take it to where you want to go, then you get off.

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  53. questions says:

    WigWag, you are amazing at assembling charts and graphs — any chance of finding data on post-colonial nations and GDP? Is there a standard time lag between time since liberation and the beginnings of a rise in GDP? Are there certain colonizers whose effects on the “host” nation are worse? Are there distinctions to be made in kinds of colonization? Availability of natural resources? Nearness of transit? Constant low level war?
    In short, the goal would be not so much to hint at a connection between religion and underdevelopment, but rather to clean up the data and find all possible correlates and come up with a decent explanation for each correlate, and then toss the ones that don’t have decent explanations.
    After all of that NateSilverian work, you might end up with your original thesis, but this time around with some evidence beyond mere correlation — OR you might end up with an entirely new thesis that relates GDP to length of time since colonization ended, kind of colonization (brutality levels and the like — look how many generations after US slavery and still there are socio-economic effects), level of available natural resources, presence of local but non-religious-related corruption….
    There are so many phenomena that impact GDP that settling on one is likely to be a weaker account rather than a stronger one.
    And further, it’s always worth asking if “My GDP is bigger than yours” is a really great measurement for human happiness. Islam has restrictions on usury and so acceptable Islamic funding systems are very different from, I don’t know, credit default swaps which of course make Americans very happy and fortunate….
    In short, this is all really complex and should be treated with nuance (wait, haven’t I written that before?!)
    *****
    And by the way, OT, Rian Fike is reporting that Arne Duncan might actually be listening to Florida teachers. Don’t underestimate the power of teachers!
    And though I still have HUGE problems with Race to the Top (strike that — to the BOTTOM), at least the idea that teacher evaluation based on kid test scores SUCKS might actually be presented to Duncan.
    ******
    And one more thing — HEY NADINE — how come no response regarding the ACORN extravaganza?!

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  54. JohnH says:

    Wigwag and Nadine are back to arguing for military dominated governments in Turkey. As Ben noted on March 30, “Reforming Turkey’s anachronistic 1982 constitution – which was written in the aftermath of a military coup – is a key prerequisite for Turkey’s admission to the European Union.”
    Why are Wigwag and Nadine so opposed to Turkey’s becoming more Westernized by institutionalizing democracy? And is it democracy or the possibility of Turkish membership in the EU that they find so troubling? Could it be that having democracies in the neighborhood poses an existential threat to Israel? Or is there something about the prospect of a prosperous Turkey that troubles them? Or is the possibility of having a strong Islamic voice in the EU so troubling to Israel-firsters?
    Other than a knee-jerk reaction to Turkey’s criticisms of Israel’s behavior, I see no reason for Israel-firsters to be concerned.

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  55. The Pessimist says:

    The main reason why Turkey’s role in its own neighborhood is “complicated.”
    Because American and European capitalists

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  56. WigWag says:

    “And, Turkey’s per capita income is right at the world’s average, not that different from many countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.” (JohnH)
    Turkey has a per capita GDP of $12,339.
    The following is a list of every European nation that has a smaller per capita GDP than Turkey:
    Bulgaria ($11,760)
    Romania ($11,755)
    Montenegro ($10,833)
    Serbia ($10,540)
    Macedonia ($9,047)
    Bosnia-Herzegovina ($7,490)
    Albania ($7,019)
    Kosovo (2,300)
    What does every single one of these European nations have in common?
    Each of them was, at least for some period of time, brutally colonized by the Ottoman Turks.
    What else can we glean from examining the list of European nations that have a smaller per capita GDP than Turkey?
    The two poorest nations in Europe, Kosovo and Albania, are majority Muslim nations; 80 percent of Albanians are Muslim and 88 percent of Kosovars are Muslim.
    The next two poorest nations in Europe, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, also happen to be the nations that have the highest percentage of Muslim citizens other than Albania and Kosovo. Who converted those citizens to Islam (mostly against their wills)? The Ottoman Turks of course.
    Perhaps FrenchConnection is right and it has to do with the fact that the Islamic Enlightenment (in which the Turks played a prominent role) was centuries ago not merely two centuries ago. Perhaps something else accounts for it.
    But one thing is plain; not only are Turkey and the rest of the Muslim Middle East poor and backwards, so are the nations in Europe who were most closely associated with the Turks.
    It’s unclear what the explanation for this phenomenon is; but pretending it doesn’t exist, doesn’t change anything.

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  57. nadine says:

    The previous government didn’t trump up false coup charges against the military in order to preempt them from from removing an unconstitutional government, which has been the traditional function of the Turkish military since Attaturk. That strikes me as a major difference, Wigwag, one that implies that Erdogan doesn’t intend to be voted out, ever.

    Reply

  58. WigWag says:

    “The government’s constitutional amendment proposal presented to Parliament last week is the most recent manifestation of the ongoing struggle for power and ideological preeminence between the state and the government that represents the greatest constraint on Turkey’s regional role.” (Ben Katcher)
    Actually what I think is interesting is not the competition between the secular state and the religiously oriented government in Turkey. What I find striking is the continuity and similarities between the previous secular government and the current more pious AKP.
    The secular government was hostile to the Kurds and the religous Sunni who vote predominantly for the AKP have a history of bigotry and hatred for the Kurds. The secular government was suspicious of the Alevi and the religous Sunni Turks have a problemmatic relationship with the Alevi.
    The secular government denies the Armenian Genocide, so does the current more religious governmet.
    Turkey’s attitude towards Cyprus and towards the Orthodox Patriarchy was very similar when secular Turks ran the show as it is now that religious Turks run the nation.
    While there may be a ferocious competition between secular and religious Turks, when it comes to domestic policies, while they differ on headscarves, they have more in common than either Turkish faction might like to admit.

    Reply

  59. JohnH says:

    Wow! Are we getting racist or what? Imagine if someone asked why Israelis and their coreligionists are so…whatever?
    Fact is, there’s something wrong with the figures that the report cited. According to the CIA, Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s combined GDP is equal to Turkey’s. Maybe the report meant industrial production or some other type of production.
    And, Turkey’s per capita income is right at the world’s average, not that different from many countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
    Another way to look at it: Israel’s per capita income is only $17K more than Turkey’s. Meanwhile, US per capital income is $18K more than Israel’s. So why don’t Nadine and frenchconnection wonder, why is Israel so underdeveloped, particularly when they have been the recipients of so much welfare from the US?

    Reply

  60. frenchconnection says:

    “The inevitable question is why are the Turks and their coreligionists so backwards, so poor and so far behind much of the rest of the world?”
    because they never separated Church from State and never had an Enlightment liberal capitalism.
    Applies even to the Turks even if they did try.

    Reply

  61. Sweetness says:

    Ah yes…Turkey!
    Slowly I turned…step by step!

    Reply

  62. nadine says:

    “Pragmatic, not ideological” Oh really?
    Steve, care to comment on this Foreign Policy
    article?
    How Turkey Manufactured a Coup Plot
    The case of

    Reply

  63. WigWag says:

    “The report notes, for example, that Turkey’s economy produces the equivalent of half the entire output of the Middle East and North Africa.” (Ben Katcher)
    Of course, this is just further evidence of how profoundly backwards and poor the Muslim world is, including Turkey.
    Turkey may produce half the output of the entire Middle East and North Africa, but Turkey’s nominal GDP (730 billion) is less than the nominal GDP of Los Angeles (792 billion); 72.6 million people live in Turkey while only 3.8 million live in Los Angeles.
    If the ICG is correct and Turkey does indeed produce half the economic output of the Middle East and North Africa than it means that the Middle East and North Africa, including Turkey, enjoy a GDP (approximately 1.46 trillion) that is around the same as the economic output of New York City or Tokyo. In other words, it takes hundreds of millions of people in the Muslim world to achieve the same economic output as several million Americans or Japanese.
    It’s hard to imagine a clearer illustration of the profound dysfunctionality of the majority Muslim nations. It demonstrates that Turkey, for all of its secular history and its supposed progressive stance, is really not that far ahead of the rest of the Muslim world. If North Africa and the rest of the Middle Eastern nations are really relying on the Turks to mentor them economically, socially or otherwise, all we can do is wish them good luck; they

    Reply

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