Image credit: Ed Jones/Pool/EPA-EFE/Getty Images
September 25, 2018
The Myth of Authoritarian Competence
What trouble in Turkey reveals about the perils of strongman rule
For nearly six months, one of the world’s top economies has been gripped by crisis, sparking fears of wider financial contagion. Since the spring, the Turkish currency has cratered while inflation has soared, rattling other emerging markets from Argentina to Indonesia. Yet the most important warning to draw from Turkey’s recent convulsions is less economic than political: namely, the danger of betting on strongman rule.
In truth, worries about Turkey melting down the global economy are misplaced. Unlike during the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, when the collapse of the Thai currency unleashed regional upheaval, Turkey’s problems are less an indicator of systemic weakness across developing economies than the outgrowth of factors that are specific to Ankara. These include a politicized monetary policy, the highest current account deficit among the G20 developing economies, the most foreign-denominated private-sector debt of any emerging market, and a gratuitous fight with Washington that has escalated into sanctions.
Yet while the risk of financial spillover from Turkey has generated a storm of headlines, it is the proliferation of the political model at the root of Ankara’s troubles that is the bigger danger. In fact, in its governance, Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been at the leading edge of a global trend. Just as a wave of democratization swept the planet beginning in the mid-1970s—overturning dictatorships from Portugal to South Korea and, eventually, the Soviet empire—the past 15 years have witnessed a rising tide of strongman regimes worldwide.
In each of these countries, government power has become highly personalized—overwhelmingly concentrated around a single, larger-than-life ruler who attempts to assert direct control across almost every aspect of state and society. Such leaders and their supporters tend to justify the accumulation of such sweeping authority as the only way to catapult the country forward—the path to national strength and renewal.
Read the full article at The Atlantic
More from CNAS
From shock and awe to stability and flaws: Iraq’s post-invasion journey
Twenty years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the country is now run by its eighth government, which took power in October 2022. Despite continuous fears of implosion, the p...
By Hamzeh Hadad
Are U.S. Sanctions Alone Enough to Limit the Effects of the Russian-Iranian Military Partnership?
Jonathan Lord joins Alhurra to discuss the effects of U.S. sanctions on Iran and the growing security ties between Russia, Iran, and the effects on the Middle East. Watch th...
By Jonathan Lord
Congress’ Vital Role in Developing a Lasting, Sustainable, and Bipartisan, U.S. Strategy for Syria
Introductory Remarks Chairman Wilson, Ranking Member Phillips, distinguished members of the subcommittee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. If I may t...
By Jonathan Lord
The Lawfare Podcast: The Saudi-Iran Deal Featuring China
To understand China's attempt to broker a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and what all of this might mean for the region, Lawfare Associate Editor Hyemin Han talked to Law...
By Jonathan Lord