The Real News
Reading Google News, I am struck by the degree to which dramatic stories crowd out arguably more important material. The top of the page is dominated by the current U.S. debt limit crisis. It is an entertaining example of the game of Chicken as played by politicians but of limited importance otherwise, since both sides are focused not on how to deal with the long term debt problem but on the terms on which they will agree to postpone dealing with it.
Meanwhile there are at least two other stories getting considerably less play but arguably of more real importance.
Modern Turkey is the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, one of the more successful polities of the past thousand years or so. It was also, arguably, the first Muslim state to succeed in fitting itself into the modern world, thanks to the system established by Kemal Ataturk after World War I. The central feature of that system was secular democracy guaranteed by the threat of a military coup against any attempt to transform Turkey back into some version of a religious state, a guarantee that has been gradually eroded by the increasing political strength of Islamicist parties.
Recent charges by the government that a considerable number of officers are involved in a conspiracy can be interpreted either as a defense against a real threat or as a preemptive counter coup by the government against its own military. They have now led to the resignation of the four top officers of the Turkish military.
That could mean that Turkey has become a real democracy with no need for a synthetic military backbone. It could mean that Ataturk's experiment is finally collapsing, that in not very long the count of successful Islamic secular states will drop from one to zero. Either way, the outcome is likely to be more important for the rest of the world than whether the U.S. government does or does not find it necessary to pay its employees with IOU's for a week or two, or auction some spectrum, or sell some land, or play short term accounting games, or in any of a variety of other ways buy time while politicians haggle.
On the other side of the world, something else is happening that could be even more important. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the world with two polities still committed, at least in theory, to communism, while Hugo Chavez' rise to power looked very much like the gradual creation of a third.
That experiment may now have been recognized as a failure by its chief supporters. The latest news from Venezuela shows Chavez backing off from socialist rhetoric, saying good things about small business and the middle class, claiming to have an improved vision for his country—possibly inspired by conversations with one or both of the Castros during his cancer treatment in Cuba. It is possible—not perhaps likely, but possible—that the news of how to make a country richer has finally gotten through to the last holdouts.
Or at least, the last but one.