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The Crossroads Conversations:
Daron Acemoglu and Vali Nasr on Turkey

Pedro Szekely / Flickr.comPedro Szekely / Flickr.com

 

“The irony,”  Vali Nasr told me, “is that this is increasingly rehabilitating the military: the more Turkey leans on a military solution to the Kurdish problem, the more it has a national security environment.”

 

On the morning of July 15, I met with Dr. Nasr, a former Senior Advisor at the US Department of State and current Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS, to talk about Turkey at the crossroads. The conversation drifted from Ankara towards the country’s southeast, where Turkey’s military prosecutes a fierce, if unfocused, campaign against Kurdish separatists.

 

A few hours later, I began receiving text messages from +90 numbers—Turkey’s international prefix. “There is a military coup here.” “Jet planes are flying over parliament, no one knows what is happening.” “Tanks on the street in Ankara.” “We think it’s a coup; not sure how much longer internet will work.”

 

Nobody, not even Dr. Nasr, expected this.

 

This is one of the major challenges of projects such as The Crossroads, which takes a long-term perspective on critical issues in emerging markets: The situation has a tendency to rapidly change on the ground.  This occurred during production for The Crossroads Brazil, when it became clear half-way through that President Dilma Rousseff would likely be impeached. During work on The Crossroads Cuba, relations between the US and our subject island seemed to update on a daily basis. Just prior to my interview with President Juan Manuel Santos for the Crossroads Colombia, an international crisis broke out between his country and neighboring Venezuela.

 

In Turkey, the failed coup attempt of July 15 appeared to flip the country on its head, and our months of work on The Crossroads Turkey along with it.

 

However, as the dust settled—and continues to settle—we began reviewing our archived  Turkey conversationsmany of which were held just days prior to the coup—and found that rather than being outdated, these interviews give valuable insight into the rise of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Justice and Development Party (AKP), and some of the critical economic dynamics that have shaped Turkey over the last 15 years.

 

Though these conversations occurred prior to the coup attempt, they can help us understand where the country is now headed given the attempt’s failure.

 

 

As we continue to work on the The Crossroads Turkey, we wanted to share two such interviews in advance that we found particularly insightful. First we publish our conversation with Daron Acemoglu, one of the top economists in the world, and a Turkish national.

 

This interview gives an inside perspective on the rise of the Erdogan Economy, as well as a critical shift from  high-quality, sustainable growth predicated on investment, multifactor and productivity enhancements, to consumption-based growth that favors insiders and could stoke macroeconomic instability.

 

The economic trends discussed by Dr. Acemoglu could ultimately have a greater impact on Turkey’s stability then the failed putsch attempt of July 15.

 

 

The second interview we share in this post is with Dr. Nasr himself, recorded the very morning of the coup. Typically we focus on economic issues, but, as we all know, economic policy does not occur in a vacuum, and it is profoundly influenced by political headwinds. In this conversation, Dr. Nasr goes in-depth on how these trends shaped the rise of President Erdogan, and helps us understand what political direction he might take next.

 

We hope you enjoy these conversations, and keep an eye out for The Crossroads Turkey!