Mustafa Kemal Atatnrk (1881-1938) was an authoritarian ruler, but unlike some, his record was unstained by personal corruption. There seems little doubt that he was motivated by great ideals in the national interest of Turkey and not merely by a desire for personal power. We will examine four ideals toward which he altruistically strove, while at the same time paying heed to the contention that sometimes the end justifies the means: a corrupt self-seeking elite may have to be overthrown by violent, authoritarian means.
The ideals toward which Atatnrk strove were: (1) the creation of a national political state in full possession of its sovereign powers; (2) the development of some element of national power and international stature so that Turkey might have a chance to live; (3) a steady advance to a western standard of living by marshalling the physical and human resources of the country; and (4) a slow but continued movement toward more liberal political and economic institutions.
Atatnrk's ideals were bolstered by his belief that authoritarian devices must be employed in order that an evolution toward a greater recognition of human dignity be set in motion. Certainly not an idealist, but rather an intensely practical leader, Atatnrk's policies show him to be a pragmatist, one who chose solutions which provided useful, practical results, without regard to reactionary thought and tradition. We will first show Atatnrk's autocratic use of authority as a pragmatic means of modernizing and westernizing Turkey; subsequently, we will show the side of "The Father of the Turks" concerned with human dignity and progressive thought. Finally, we will examine the four ideals for which the great leader devoted his life after he had attained the necessary power to do so.
In his excellent biography, Atatnrk: The Rebirth of a Nation, Lord Kinross tells us that Kemal's mind worked in a practical way. To bring his country into line wit...