Erdogan’s New Year resolution: Be more like Hitler

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan © Kayhan Ozer
On New Year’s Eve, the Turkish president described Adolf Hitler’s Germany as an example of an effective presidential system. While reprehensible and terribly stupid, it actually explains a lot.

While most of us were enjoying the holiday festivities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed a couple of improbable firsts on Thursday night. He achieved the heretofore seemingly impossible task of Godwining himself. At the same time, he pioneered another unlikely feat by becoming surely the first major world politician to cite Hitler as a positive role model. Either the Turkish president was partying hard in Ankara on New Year’s Eve or he’s entirely lost the plot. Or both.

Somewhere the spirit of Ataturk is weeping. For just as Mustafa Kemal, a giant of history, nimbly dragged post-Ottoman Turkey toward the light, Erdogan is reversing almost a century of progress and hauling the country in the direction of the darkness. Just as the “father of the Turks” espoused obsessively secularist, modernizing policies, Erdogan advocates revanchist nationalism and actively attempts to restore long-forgotten Ottoman symbols.

Now, he’s outed himself as an admirer of Hitler, the 20th century’s most monstrous figure. A few months ago, Erdogan sued Bilgin Ciftci, a doctor who shared an internet meme comparing the president to Gollum, an aesthetically-challenged character from Lord Of The Rings. Given that he’s made himself look stupid this time, will Erdogan thus proceed to litigate against himself now?

Inspiration from Hitler

The president hopes to change Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential-led system. Of course, the prize is the dream of greatly enhanced powers for Erdogan’s own office. Ankara’s opposition parties claim that the governing structure can’t flourish inside a “unitary state.” Incredibly, Erdogan told reporters late Thursday that Hitler’s Germany was one example in history where the presidential system had functioned. Erdogan explained: “When you look at Hitler’s Germany, you’ll see it there.”

Analysts were aghast. Prominent American-Muslim academic Reza Aslan tweeted sarcastically: “You know that Hitler guy sure had some good ideas.”

Pando’s Mark Ames pointed out Turkey’s defense arrangements with America, saying Erdogan was “our Hitler-loving NATO ally.”

The writer Tarek Fatah explained that “In killing Kurds, he's following in [his] hero’s footsteps.”

Others attempted to say Erdogan that had been misquoted, as if it were a slip of the tongue. Yet the president knew what he was doing. Prior to his accession to office, Turkey had strong relations with both Russia and Israel, the modern states which represent Hitler’s biggest victims, Soviet citizens and Jews. Erdogan’s brand of Ottoman-inspired nationalism is incompatible with friendship toward Moscow and Tel Aviv. The latter is a Middle Eastern rival to Turkish expansionism and Russia performs the same role in the Black Sea region and, recently, in Syria too. Furthermore, Israel’s Jewish identity is a challenge to Erdogan’s Islamist revival and dreams of bigger Turkish influence in Eurasia.

What better way to troll both Moscow and Tel Aviv than by lauding their greatest mutual bête noire? Especially when connections with Moscow have collapsed and, after huge initial optimism, December’s attempts to secure a rapprochement with Israel seem to have stalled in the past two weeks? After all, it was years of anti-Israeli rhetoric which initially heralded Erdogan’s shift from Turkey’s historic secular-oriented foreign policy to the Islamist pro-Arab stance of today.

Washington's two faces

Assured of backing from Washington, which believes it needs Turkey in NATO, Erdogan knows he can essentially do and say what he likes. It’s akin to a Jack Russell barking at two Labradors while knowing he has a Rottweiler standing by to protect him. As long as Uncle Sam refuses to censure Turkey, you can expect Erdogan’s outrageous behavior to continue. He’s learned from the ruling Saudi dictators that America only objects when its own interests are threatened.

For an example of how Erdogan’s love of Hitler manifests itself in his policies, look at the president’s treatment of the Kurds. Last June, when the pro-Kurdish HDP party prevented his AKP from securing a majority in Ankara’s parliament, Erdogan ignored the results and called a second vote in November, amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud. In the autumn, a military crackdown began. Government forces besieged Cizre, a town of 100,000 people and a Kurdish heartland, targeting its citizens with tanks, helicopters, artillery and snipers.

According to the New York Times, for Erdogan, “Kurdish militants in Turkey are now the most important enemy.” Those are the same Kurds who are fighting ISIS, an organization Erdogan doesn’t seem to be unduly troubled about, and may even be secretly assisting. “You [the Kurds] will be annihilated in those houses, those buildings, those ditches which you have dug,” he said late last year, speaking to a crowd of his supporters in the city of Konya. “Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed and a peaceful atmosphere established.

All carrot, no stick

Incredibly, the west seems to be rewarding Erdogan’s outrageous behavior. In November, the EU gave him €3 billion to buy his cooperation in controlling the flow of migrants into Europe. As Politico reported: “In addition, the leaders sweetened the pot with a new fast-track visa system for Turks traveling to Europe and agreeing to postpone publishing a progress report on Turkey’s human rights record that is part of ongoing talks on EU accession.”

After Brussels basically gave him the green light to operate as he pleases, Erdogan ordered the shooting down of a Russian plane and sent troops into Iraq. Of course, he didn't ask for Baghdad's permission first, meaning it was essentially an illegal invasion. Iraq claims that, despite assurances, Ankara still hasn't removed the soldiers. Later, Moscow produced evidence of Turkey's apparent involvement in ISIS oil-smuggling efforts, which seems to have been ignored in the west. The fear now is that tensions between the NATO member and Russia could escalate in the coming months.

Most people start the New Year with a few resolutions. Perhaps they will make an effort to attend a gym, or eat better food or give up bad habits like cigarettes or excessive alcohol consumption. Erdogan seems determined to become more like Hitler in 2016. Perhaps, he'd be better advised to take up smoking, it will be safer in the long run. For both himself and his country.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.