Part of Foreign Affairs Report: Morsi and Beyond

Officers and Democrats

Can Egypt Pull Off the Turkey Trick?

Army soldiers take their positions on a bridge which leads to Tahrir square in Cairo July 5, 2013.
Army soldiers take their positions on a bridge which leads to Tahrir square in Cairo July 5, 2013. (Louafi Larbi / Courtesy Reuters)

When a popular military coup dislodged Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi from power earlier this week, it became fashionable once again to speak of the Turkish model -- the country is relatively well functioning, it is Muslim majority but also secular and democratic, and it has a history of military interventions against Islamist-leaning governments that supposedly advanced democracy.

The idea that other countries could learn from the Turkish example has been around since the early days of the Arab Spring. It might be tempting for Egyptians to latch onto it now, hoping that the Egyptian military’s actions over the past few days will lead to a similar outcome. And despite the fact that the coup’s immediate aftermath has brought reprisals against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and armed clashes in the streets between the Brotherhood’s supporters and opponents, there are certainly arguments to be made that this particular coup may have a happy democratic ending. But looking to Turkey as an example badly misreads Turkish history and political development. Turkey did not get where it is today because of the military but, rather, in spite of it.

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