Think There’s a Deep State? Take a Look at Turkey.

    Dov S. Zakheim

    Security, Middle East

    A security camera is pictured within the monitoring base of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in Bad Aibling, south of Munich, August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

    There is no American equivalent to the Turkish deep state, or even an Israeli one, if it exists in the latter at all.

    IT IS perhaps no great surprise that Donald Trump’s supporters often mention a “deep state” that is determined to undermine the president. After all, Trump has frequently expressed his admiration for a variety of authoritarian leaders, including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the foremost exponent of the concept of a deep state. It was the deep state, he asserted in 2013 when he was under investigation for corruption, in cahoots with the phony media that was behind it all. In the aftermath of the July 2016 abortive military coup he has brandished the term to justify his arrest of over 150,000 military officers, civil servants and journalists.

    Trump’s relationship with the Turkish president has blown hot and cold, but his adoption of Erdoğan’s rhetoric has been a consistent theme of his seemingly never-ending tweets. Similarly, Trump regularly echoes the constant imprecations that his great friend Benjamin Netanyahu hurls at the media and its “fake news” in response to allegations of the growing list of corrupt practices surrounding him and his family—or has Netanyahu been echoing Trump? No matter; the two men, and Erdoğan, all see the same enemies, and for the same reasons.

    Turkey does appear to have had, at least in the past, a true “deep state” consisting primarily of the military and its sympathizers in government, the police and perhaps even the judiciary. The Turkish “deep state” predates Erdoğan, though he has probably acted in response to the term more forcefully than any of his predecessors since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Bülent Ecevit, one of Turkey’s weakest prime ministers, began to employ the phrase in the 1970s, primarily in terms of military opposition to his left-wing rule. He was not entirely wrong. The military under Gen. Kenan Evren launched a coup in 2000 that installed Evren as the country’s strongman and then president—and jailed Ecevit, who had resigned as prime minister the year before.

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