|I just posted this in my journal, ...
||[Mar. 17th, 2005|03:03 pm]
..., and I thought it might be of interest to some people here.|
In the book Crescent & Star: Turkey, Between Two Worlds, which I just finished this afternoon, I noticed at least two similarities between contemporary Turkish and Japanese history.
First, the Turkish concept of devlet (literally "state") appears to be identical to the pre-World War II Japanese concept of kokutai. The latter concerned itself with the maintenance of the emperor-centered political system, and was used by fascists to silence political opponents. In Turkey, the state being defended is the secular state founded by Atatürk.
No one ever defines what devlet means; everyone is supposed to know. Its guardians are a self-perpetuating elite ... This elite has written many laws to help it do what it perceives as its duty, and when necessary it acts outside the law. (27) In the Japanese context, kokutai served as the rallying point for the attempted coup known as the February 26th Incident. In the US context, could 9/11 be that all powerful term?
Second, in 1923, the Tokyo region suffered from an large-scale earthquake that resulted in a major rebuilding of Tokyo and a population movement toward the Kansai (Kyoto) area. Following the disaster and the fires that enveloped the low city, anti-Korean riots sought out that minority population and punished them for having "started" the fires. In 1999, Turkey experienced a large scale quake of its own and if Kinzer is to be believed, it marked the beginning of a new understanding of the Turkish state - namely, the realization that it was severely flawed. More, it ushered in a new era of Turko-Greek relations. Images of Greeks aiding Turks, reciprocated several weeks later when a smaller earthquake hit Greece, allowed each nation to look at each other with fresh eyes. And this began the process of achieving concrete policy agreements.
What I found most interesting was the portrayal of the Turkish army, which was shown to be the guardian of Turkish secularism and democracy, even at the unintended expensive of those very ideals. No such positive - or at worst, ambivalent - review of the role of the Japanese armed forces during the lead up to war can be seriously made.