In the immediate aftermath of Turkey’s attempt coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the outstanding journalist and Turkey analyst for the Huffington Post and Al Arabiya, Mahir Zeynalov, expressed this sentiment:
Now things are relatively calm in Turkey, I gotta ask: WHAT THE HELL WAS ALL THAT??
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) July 16, 2016
As Turkey, the region and international community resolves to a state of uneasy entropy after being hurled into an unfamiliar terrain on an exponential landscape, this honest question and self reflection is a breath of fresh air. From the present moment’s place of relative stability (relative, at least, to the last 48 hours), many journalists, analysts, and Turkey/Middle East watchers are attempting to reverse-engineer a narrative of how we got here, and beginning to think about the path forward based on the paradigm of where we just were, as recently as July 14, 2016.
But this is hardly a familiar world, and old paradigms are useless. Long gone are the days where a solution of expanded human rights for Turkey’s Kurdish population could be offered for integration deeper Turkish integration the European Union. Back in the “good old days,” anyone who would have postulated that the UK would abandon the EU, Syria would implode, NATO would square off in a quagmire of proxy armies, and an entity worse than the Taliban would dominate international headlines would have likely received an “F” in an academic setting, or a reassignment of desk duties in the profession of international relations and security.
With a hat tip to Paul Beckwith‘s analogies with our new climate state – when a number is divided by zero, the solution is Empty Set. We have now a Turkey that is emerges from a very complex internal struggle with its ruling authority more firmly in control than ever…or so it would seem. As of July 17, 2016, we also have tensions apparently very high at Incirlik Airforce base, with the arrest of base commander General Bekir Ercan Van. Incirlik is the hub of Turkish-US-NATO operations against Islamic State in Syria and central node of an extraordinarily tenuous patchwork of geopolitical tensions and that tie back ethnic proxies back to nuclear superpowers. Incirlik is a hub that monitors refugee outflows unparalleled in world history. And, of note,…Incirlik Air Force base has US nuclear weapons stored there.
— DEFCONWarningSystem (@DEFCONWS) July 17, 2016
In the hours, days, and weeks ahead, truly making sense of Turkey’s coup requires starting from a place of Empty Set, finding center on a new geopolitical and psychological landscape, and rebuilding our worldviews of “why” and “what now” by trying to avoid simple reductionism about how things were 10 years ago, or 10 days ago.
In Turkey, we begin in a place of Empty Set. Mr. Zeynalov’s question rings true after we careened to a new space less than two days ago. “What the hell was all that?”
Programming Note: I’m very excited to be very shortly interviewing Lisa White for podcast Episode 8. Her perspectives on the psychological and spiritual aspects of what is unfolding rapidly are must reads and must listens. Look forward to sharing that shortly.