The Siege of Istanbul

I’m off to Vienna later this week; it seems timely.

After the Turks were driven back from the heart of Europe, progressive modernism gradually expanded its range. The Sublime Porte’s senescence deepened — the shrinking Ottoman Empire began to be known as “the sick man of Europe” — and finally the unthinkable happened: the last of the Ottoman sultans, Mehmed VI, fled Turkey in 1922, bringing to an end an Islamic imperium that had lasted over six centuries, and that at its height stretched from Algiers to the Persian Gulf, from Budapest to the Horn of Africa, and that girdled most of the Mediterranean and all of the Black Sea. Once, Islam’s scimitars had cut a bloody path all the way to Vienna; now Europe, at least in the form of secular modernization, had taken Byzantium once again.

It was always a fragile conquest, though. Islam, even when it appears subdued, is a sullen and resentful subject that chafes and grumbles under secular rule. The ascendant empire of progressive Westernizing modernity seemed for some time, however, to be consolidating its hold on its newly conquered territory: if you look at pictures from Tehran or Kabul from the 1960’s — particularly photographs with young women in them — you might think you were looking at any European city.

But that veneer of modernity was only held in place by the pressure of power — in Iran, by the power of the U.S.-backed Shah, and in Turkey, by the power of the Kemalist military, who in the second half of the twentieth century staged repeated coups to preserve the artificial secular order against the relentless organic force of Islam.

Now it is universalist Western progressivism that is the “sick man”. It is dying of what I have called ACIDS — Acquired Cultural Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. The disease has rendered it unable to make the necessary discriminations — between food and poison, friend and foe, and Self and Other — that any living system must make in order to survive.

The collapse of empires is centripetal, and so the empire of modernity began to fail at its edges. There could never have been a secular Turkey without a strong secular West to act as the seat of empire, but now progressive Europe itself is dying of its inability to maintain its external membrane — which has led, quite naturally and predictably, to an opportunistic infection by alien pathogens.

As secular universalism dies in Europe and Turkey, it will be replaced — as we see already beginning to happen — by the older, organic order that it, for a time, so successfully overwhelmed. This weekend’s events in Turkey will mark, I think, the end of Europe’s century-long ideological occupation of what was once the heart of the Muslim world. That ideology will not even occupy Europe, I think, for much longer — though whether it will be succeeded there by a resurgent and virile identitarianism, or by exhaustion and dhimmitude, remains to be seen.

Expansion, contraction, rise and fall, back and forth — from Suleiman the Magnificent at the gates of Vienna, to miniskirts in Kabul; from Mehmet to Ataturk to Erdogan — where will the pendulum swing to now?

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  1. JK says

    Many aspects of the story so far make no sense to me — why did the putschists bomb the Turkish Parliament, of all insane things? Why was the coup attempt so incompetently executed? That doesn’t mean there’s no explanation, only that I don’t yet understand it.

    Posted July 17, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm,

    “… — where will the pendulum swing to now?”

    Perhaps the pendulum will now swing towards the Land of King James?


    Posted July 17, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  3. JK says

    Posted July 17, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Thanks for those links, JK. The WOTR piece is very good.

    Do we know with certainty just who attacked the Parliament? Was this inept coup really a false-flag job? Was it instead a panicky move by Gülenists, who saw the window of opportunity closing, both in terms of government repression and popular support? Did Erdogan know it was coming?

    Whatever the truth is, one thing is clear: this was a tremendous victory for Erdogan. Whether he engineered it, or laid a trap for it, or just happened to ride it out successfully, it will give him everything he has ever wanted. It may even give him Gülen.

    Posted July 17, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  5. Whitewall says

    Just now in Commentary Magazine “Turkey’s Real Coup Has Begun”.

    Posted July 17, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
  6. JK says

    I’m guessing Malcolm, you only noted the one article – there are two up currently on WOTR which, my guess is in the following days there’ll be more.

    As for your questions now .. I really haven’t a clue. It’s most confused but;

    There was a crowd of hundreds if not thousands of people still there. Vans were dropping off bottles of water and Turkish flags. Having won the night’s battle, many were resting under the shades of the trees across the street from the police headquarters. Then a group of police special forces arrived, and hundreds streamed up front to greet them. There were designated people to keep the crowd from crushing them. Chants of “polise uzanan eller kırılsın,” (“may the hands seeking to harm the police be broken!”) and “Türkiye sizinle gurur duyuyor!” (“Turkey is proud of you!”) rose from the crowd. The most popular chant by far however, was “Allahu Akbar,” and there was a vindictive feeling in the takbir, as if it that elation had been caged up for too long.

    These people were not from my neighborhood up the hill, but from Ankara’s various poorer districts. An overwhelming majority were male, with lean faces and sunburnt skin. Rather than the urbane “Istanbul Turkish,” they spoke in various Anatolian accents, and a few wore traditional Islamic garb the way Arabs do. Many used hand signs with their slogans, either the sign of takbir, an extended index finger (which in Turkey suggests political Islamism) or the sign of the gray wolf, (which belongs to the nationalist party).

    “I think” somehow what we’ve seen was, an inside job.

    Posted July 17, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    Yes, I was talking about this one.

    Posted July 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink
  8. JK says

    Here in ten or so minutes:

    Posted July 18, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  9. JK says

    I suppose this conforms to expectations …

    Posted July 18, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
  10. Whitewall says

    Malcolm, have a safe trip. I loved Vienna and would like to go back someday if it still exists. If you have a few spare hours, do try to sort out that Muslim invasion business. It would be a public service.

    Posted July 19, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Robert. I’ll do what I can, but I admit I will be distracted – our daughter, who lives in Vienna, is due to deliver our first grandchild on Saturday.

    Posted July 19, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  12. Whitewall says

    Well Malcolm, excellent news and congrats to all! You may dispense with the Muslim thing.

    Posted July 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  13. Kevin Kim says

    Congratulations on becoming a granddad!

    Posted July 19, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says


    Posted July 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  15. JK says

    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink