Erdogan’s Empire | Soner Çağaptay

Summary of: Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East
By: Soner Çağaptay


Embark on a journey into the world of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the leader of Turkey, as ‘Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East’ by Soner Çağaptay dissects the political landscape of modern-day Turkey. This summary provides valuable insights into Erdoğan’s policies and his approach towards democracy, while also shedding light on Turkey’s historical context, its rapid economic progress, and the challenges posed by international counterparts such as the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Learn about how Erdoğan has navigated complex geopolitical situations, including the Syrian conflict and Russian relations, along with the impact of his policy decisions on Turkey’s quest for international power.

Understanding Erdogan

Political scientist Soner Cagaptay sheds light on Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies. While Erdogan appeals to populist prejudices and restricts religious freedoms, he hasn’t fully dismantled Turkey’s democracy. Cagaptay also showcases Erdogan’s achievements in boosting the country’s economy and opposing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Cagaptay’s comprehensive approach to explaining Turkey earned accolades for its insight and accessibility. “Erdogan may be ruthless,” writes The Washington Post, “but after reading Cagaptay’s book, readers will understand him.” This book is a must-read for anyone looking to understand Erdogan’s leadership in Turkey.

Erdogan’s Turkey

Cagaptay’s book delves into the transformation of Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership, from a secular democracy to a socially conservative Islamic republic. The author presents an argument about Erdogan’s grip on power, silencing opponents through arrests and tax audits while portraying Turkey as still democratic, despite the reality being far from it. Erdogan’s supporters hail him as a restorer of religious pride among Turkey’s Muslims, standing up to Western forces that would marginalize and humiliate them. However, his actions have created antagonism with the West and Israel. Cagaptay contextualizes Erdogan’s leadership by highlighting Turkey’s history, including the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the modern Turkish state by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. While Turkey’s populace is divided, Erdogan’s grip on power remains firm through media control and suppression of critics. Cagaptay argues that as long as Turkey remains a true democracy, Erdogan’s revolution cannot be complete.

Turkey’s Economic Rise and Political Influence

Turkey’s emergence as one of the largest economies in Europe and its location necessitates its quest for political power in the region. Its economic prosperity also makes it an EU candidate, but Cagaptay suggests that Turkey’s religious affiliation isn’t the reason for the EU’s pushback. The author recalls the 2010 Israel-Turkey altercation, which had negative ramifications on Turkey-US relations. Despite President Erdoğan’s preference for stable dictatorships, Obama promoted Turkey’s model during the Arab Spring. Turkey now seeks to wield influence over its former Ottoman subjects but faces challenges both domestically and on the global stage.

Erdogan’s Changing Alliances

The book reveals Erdogan’s shift from supporting Assad to becoming his fierce enemy, leading to tensions with Russia and closer ties with Putin. Erdogan’s authoritarian style finds a match in Putin, but they differ in their views of their respective nations’ global standing. The book sheds light on Erdogan’s negotiation with Putin after he found himself isolated from the West due to his stance on Syria.

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