Global Matters Topic On Coups Sparks Debate

The recent coup attempt in Turkey has raised questions on the acceptability of coups.

The recent coup attempt in Turkey has raised questions on the acceptability of coups.

The latest CGP Global Matters topic regarding the acceptability of coups has seen a robust expert response.

News from Aug 01, 2016

Last month’s coup attempt in Turkey, was one of the most important geopolitical events so far this year. While it did not achieve its aims, it nonetheless set in motion a wide-ranging crackdown within Turkey, and led to yet greater doubts about President Erdogan’s long-term commitment to democracy. This in turn led to many questioning if the coup (if successful) would have been the more acceptable option. Within this framework, CGP Program Director Prof. Klaus Segbers posed the following question on our Global Matters discussion site.

World history couldn’t be written, or understood, without the history of coups (real and attempted ones). So last weekend’s events in Turkey fit into a pattern. 25 years before, in the hot summer of 1991, another attempted coup in Moscow was the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire.

It always is difficult to properly assess these extra-constitutional, mostly (but not necessarily) violent moves. The clove revolution in 1974 in Portugal certainly brought a harsh and unpleasant dictatorial regime to an end. It may have been illegal, but was it illegitimate? The attempted coup against Hitler by a group of Wehrmacht officers belongs into the same category. And what about the events on the Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989? In Turkey, the officers trying this not quite professional attempt claimed to serve democracy and human rights, but they opened the doors for a much more autocratic regime than before (which may have materialized anyways).

So this reminds us that history is often written by the victors. But, in addition, many events, like coups, are quite ambivalent. Do we have any clear criteria for sorting out coups, into acceptable ones and clearly bad ones?

Given the controversial subject matter, this question stimulated a robust series of responses from our expert commentators. A wide range of opinions were expressed, looking not just at the coup in Turkey, but also across the world and throughout history. As well, some of the experts presented their own criteria for assessing if a coup is acceptable or legitimate, and drew conclusions from these criteria.

Join the discussion on Global Matters here: http://www.global-matters.org/2016/07/can-coups-ever-be-acceptable/