The democratic project of the American president continues to undermine the credibility of the American philosophy of government. Benghazi and Egypt: failure and embarrassment.
Compared with Turkish “moderate” Islamism and Chinese autocratic neo-mercantilism, the current American internationalist governing philosophy looks naïve and dangerous. As far as much of the world is concerned, Egypt is another failure of American arrogance and frivolous interventionism.
The overthrow of the democratically elected president of Egypt has neither provoked a counter action by the United States nor the European Union. There seems to be a muted acceptance of the overthrow of a democratically elected leader after barely a year in office.
Not so in Turkey. In Turkey, home of the second most powerful force in NATO, the military coup in Egypt is the top news story. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AK Party is mindful of the development. Turkey is currently experiencing protest, and the Turkish government is determined that it will not share the fate of Morsi and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
However, chaos can present an opportunity. Some have viewed the toppling of the Morsi presidency as a strategic setback for Turkey. But just because both Morsi and Erdogan are Islamists does not mean they are allies. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They are rivals for position of top leader in the Islamic world. Morsi had begun to occupy a competitive position where previously Erdogan had no credible rival. Now the AK Party can claim to sympathize with the downtrodden Muslim democrats of Egypt, whose will has been violated by the army. Keen observers may wonder if their protests are a bit too eager.
Due to proximity and a combination of democratic and Islamist legitimacy, the AK Party may be in a position to use Egypt’s trouble to its advantage. Mr. Erdogan can act as the victim at home in response to protests in Istanbul and elsewhere calling for his ouster, and if the opportunity comes he can be the avenger of the Islamic faithful abroad. A Turkish military response to the Egyptian troubles is not out of the question. It would be hard for the EU or President Obama to criticize the most important Islamic military power and NATO member for fighting the good fight for “democracy.”
Further, Erdogan has neutered the Turkish military’s ability to launch a coup of its own. A campaign for Islam and democracy would give Erdogan the lift he needs to unite the Turkish people around his leadership and make the protesters seem to be tools of the secular West.
Turkey may not go down this road yet. It has time to make its move and bring the most populous Arab country into its orbit.
But this much is true: The real story is in Istanbul and Ankara, not in Cairo.