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Tilting at Windmills

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September 24, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TURKEY....Based on a few recent news reports, Headline Junky gets gloomy:

Iran is a sexy story right now, and rightfully so. But when the dust of history settles on the Iraq War, I'm not sure that the unleashing of Iran will rate as its most significant adverse outcome. That honor might very well go to the deterioration of the American-Turkish strategic alliance. Because unlike Iraq or Iran, which we never really stood a chance of winning over, Turkey was already on our side. And we're in the process of losing it, at the very moment when religious Muslims have begun to dominate the Turkish political scene.

Discuss.

Kevin Drum 3:09 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

Well, this is how WE spiral down into the cesspool of history, I guess. Studiously doing everything we can to alienate what friends we have, hollowing out our economy, destroying the middle class, carelessly arming our enemies . . . . What have I left out?

Posted by: Delia on September 24, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Because unlike Iraq or Iran, which we never really stood a chance of winning over, Turkey was already on our side. And we're in the process of losing it, at the very moment when religious Muslims have begun to dominate the Turkish political scene.

If this is indeed true, then Turkey is the loser, too, as it can kiss goodbye it's application to join the EU, not that they belong in the EU anyway.

Posted by: JeffII on September 24, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

"What have I left out?"

How about subverting our Constitution and needlessly invading other countries?

Posted by: fostert on September 24, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

thanks george for your strategic world vision. thanks everybody who voted for you in 2000, including the five supremes. a fine mess you've gotten us into (or should that be a fine mess into which you've gotten us). as somebody commented last week. elections don't really matter.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on September 24, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Another comment from the blogosphere's regional rebel rouser, Kevin Drum.

So some other two-bit blogger says Turkey's no longer our friend, so must be true. No attempt to validate the assertion. NO attempt at bringing in oppsing viewpoints.

FOr more balanced treatment of this situation, check out Julia Louise Slaughter's website.

Posted by: egbert on September 24, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, "no one could have expected the Iraq War to harm the US-Turkey relationship." [except for all those who did - including, no doubt people in the State Department whose job it was to keep a watch on that relationship.]

Posted by: ggersten on September 24, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Once the seat of the Ottoman Empire that ruled the Middle East and beyond for what? 600 years and prior to that the seat of all of Christianity for 1000 years following the fall of Rome, Turkey has been comfortably asleep for the last 100 years, the consequence of a poor choice of allying itself with the losing side in WW1 (leaving aside its genocide against the Armenians).

Will our invasion of Iraq awaken this once mighty nation? Will this be bad? Or will it be good? Some suspect Turkey may have to step up as the counterpart to Iranian intentions in Iraq and beyond. From my reading of the news, the changes afoot in Turkey seem less a question of secularism vs Islam, although that is feared to be at play, than as a question of national identity. Would be interesting to hear from people who actually have some knowledge of the recent election and the current socio-political forces at play there.

As for the posters above, there is much (let's not even begin) to blame on W and his clownshow Administration. But Turkey is not (yet) a disaster and hopefully a new more astute Administration (how hard could that be after all) will have ample time to navigate whatever changes are afoot there.

Posted by: Martin on September 24, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Discuss

George Bush is the worst President who has ever lived, or who will ever live. We'll be reaping the whirlwind of the 2000 coup for decades.

Posted by: craigie on September 24, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's just the inevitable result of a very long trend of de-secularization and Islamification in Turkey in the context of the total, global Muslim community's atmosphere of anti-Americanism nowadays.

Posted by: Swan on September 24, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Osama Bin Laden is a very crafty enemy.

He's taped his picture to our foot, knowing full well we had access to a handgun and, Terminator-like, would not stop, ever, until that picture was full of holes.

Posted by: kenga on September 24, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I learned about Turkey in a class on the Middle East I had in undergrad. It was around that time that secular supporters and Islamification supporters were around 50/50, with Islamification being the clear, growing trend. I saw this thing coming and feared it from a long way off. I knew it just couldn't be a good thing for us for Turkey to become an overtly Muslim state (it's just such a stern, kickass country, and it has its feet on the ground, too), but hopefully they'll remain a moderate version of that formula.

Posted by: Swan on September 24, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

"If this is indeed true, then Turkey is the loser, too, as it can kiss goodbye it's application to join the EU, not that they belong in the EU anyway."

What is your belief that the US/Turkey relationship has any importance in Turkey's application to join the EU based upon?

Turkey will join the EU and it will take about 15 years before they are full members.

Cheers,

Alan Tomlinson

Posted by: Alan Tomlinson on September 24, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

What is your belief that the US/Turkey relationship has any importance in Turkey's application to join the EU based upon? Posted by: Alan Tomlinson

None and I never said it did. The comment, which you took out of context of what I was responding to, was the perception that Turkish society and politics may coming to be more influenced by Islam. If that's the case, Europe's already had enough of the world according to Allah. Turkey can't have it both ways. It needs either to firmly secularize it's society and be done with it, or admit that it really doesn't belong aligning itself, half-heartedly as it is, with the West.

The U.S. relationship to Turkey, like our relationship with Israel, was one born out of a strategic necessity that no longer exists and was never as important as it was made out to be once upon a time.

Posted by: JeffII on September 24, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I once was taught, but it was a public high school so who knows, that 200 years is actually pretty old for any government and any constitution.

So we should be happy, we lasted longer than most.

Posted by: jerry on September 24, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Two points\


  • The peoples of Central Asia are largely Turkic. Turkey therefore has tremendous prestige and influence in those parts. So a weakening of US Turkey ties would have strong ripple effects into Central Asia.
  • Another lost ally: While England obviously shall remain an ally, the Special Relationship is over. It would be political suicide for any British Prime Minister to pull a Tony Blair, regardless of what the underlying issue might be.

Posted by: Duncna Kinder on September 24, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

egbert: "No attempt to validate the assertion. NO attempt at bringing in oppsing viewpoints."

True irony is wasted on the ignorant.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 24, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ugh. Has the news always been this depressing?

Posted by: Caitlin on September 24, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

The Democratic candidates should run with this.

Posted by: Neil B. on September 24, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

amazing how much less sexy a topic this is than that silly speech at Columbia...

Posted by: Diana on September 24, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you realize this guy apparently knows nothing about Turkish politics, right? I thought conservatives were the only ones who went "OMG, Muslims!" and then went crazy.

Posted by: Cain on September 24, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

The peoples of Central Asia are largely Turkic. Turkey therefore has tremendous prestige and influence in those parts. So a weakening of US Turkey ties would have strong ripple effects into Central Asia.

This is a very important point; because at one time (not too long ago) the region was politically unified as the Ottoman Empire, which was centered in Turkey. bin Laden's hyperbolae about "a new caliphate" notwithstanding, a more islamist Turkey is not a good sign of things to come.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 24, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Our brave leadership will free us from our reliance on allies. Let's quit cold (on) Turkey.


.


.

(awful pun - but couldn't resist)

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 24, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Headline Junkie seems to be overreacting to the recent presidential election in Turkey. Turkey is a very secular country (more so than the US), and there is little Abdullah Gul will be able to do about it. His main project seems to be a repeal of laws BANNING the hijab from public buildings. Essentially, he wants to move away from their French-style approach to Islam and toward an American-style approach (American women are allowed to wear the hijab in public schools). But it's not clear if he even has the votes to accomplish even this minor change. And he certainly will go no further than that in reintroducing Islam in the government. The Turks won't stand for it. We need to understand that the AKP wins elections because they have dramatically reduced corruption and have rapidly expanded the economy. The Turks are willing to tolerate Abdullah Gul's Islamist tendencies because they know that he doesn't have the votes to do anything radical. They just don't want to go back to the corruption of the secularists.

As for Turkey's entry into the EU, it will not happen any time soon. Europe is overwhelmingly opposed, and the Turks don't really support it either. Ironically, it is the AKP that backs the EU bid the strongest. But they may not even have the votes to push an EU membership through the legislature.

Posted by: fostert on September 24, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom is on the march.

Posted by: Luther on September 24, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

The silver lining is that we are not "losing" Turkey in the sense that they will become enemies of the United States -- just very cold toward us. Turkey is in the midst of a religious revival, but unlike most of the Middle East, their "religious right" looks roughly like ours -- aggressive and annoying, yes, but not about to start a genocide. In fact, Turkey's religious right might be better than America's, because in Turkey they hate the military (and with good reason -- the military has done some very antidemocratic things in a failed attempt to squelch them).

More likely, Turkey is going to end up being like India was for most of the late 20th century, and like France is now -- a nation that is so amazingly similar to the United States that it's a shame that we can't get along, but for that same reason, a nation that we would never find ourselves at war with.

Posted by: Tom Veil on September 24, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert, I could not find "Julia Louise Slaughter" with Google. Who is she, and please put a link to her web site.

Posted by: Neil B. on September 24, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

The PKK has been working out of northern Iraq long before the 2003 invasion, ignored or tolerated by Saddam in the same way Zarqawi's al Qaeda bases in northern Iraq were.

The only difference now is that Turkey can legitimately ask the new Iraq for permission to attack those bases. When Saddam was in charge, no chance.

Look at the news stories:

The yearly fall offensive opens early?

Turkey being urged not to deal with Iran? Like this wouldn't be an issue with Saddam running Iraq? Only difference would be that the U.S. would be trying to convince Turkey not to deal with either nation.

Weapons being smuggled to terror groups? According to Turkish sources, the PKK has been getting weapons (through one channel or another) from Russia (mostly), China, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Iraq, and the U.S.

Important stories, but seriously, which of these stories would have been all that much different if Saddam still ran Iraq? Are we really "pushing" Turkey into our enemy's arms because of Iraq? Or is this just regional politics as usual?

Posted by: harry on September 24, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

I thought conservatives were the only ones who went "OMG, Muslims!" and then went crazy.

Cain, I think there was a stat posted on this website a few days ago that Turks were just over 50% favorable towards the U.S. prior to 9/11, and now most of them by far don't like the U.S. This has happened contemporaneously with the Islamifying/de-secularizing trend.

Posted by: Swan on September 24, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

The question is whether things will get enough worse before January 2009 that even Clinton, Obama, Edwards, or whichever Democrat is in office then can't salvage it. I suspect most of the world knows that the next president will repudiate many of Bush's policies.

Posted by: anandine on September 24, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

This has happened contemporaneously with the Islamifying/de-secularizing trend.

Being pro-U.S. went down (a lot), being pro-Muslim went up (a lot).

Posted by: Swan on September 24, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

harry: The PKK has been working out of northern Iraq long before the 2003 invasion, ignored or tolerated by Saddam in the same way Zarqawi's al Qaeda bases in northern Iraq were.

By "long before the 2003 invasion," you're presumably including the no-fly zone period, when Saddam had no effective control over northern Iraq?

Posted by: JM on September 24, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

"The only difference now is that Turkey can legitimately ask the new Iraq for permission to attack those bases. When Saddam was in charge, no chance."

Umm, since 1990 Saddam has not been in charge of Kurdistan. It was above the no-fly zone. The Turks routinely pursued PKK rebels deep into Kurdish territory during the 1990-2003 period. And they didn't ask anyone first. The difference now is that they must ask permission first, and such permission has not been granted. Their military actions are now limited to within ten miles of the border. These limits placed on the Turkish army have allowed terrorism in Turkey to dramatically increase. And the Turks are very angry about having their hands tied. But the Turks value the relationship with the US, so they have been very patient about the PKK issue. But if the PKK ever seriously threatens Turkey's water projects on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, they will lose that patience.

Posted by: fostert on September 24, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Simply shows how frightened is the Turkish culture that they have to run to religious nuts just because uncle sam is preoccupied. I can understand why, having some understanding of American Jesus freak.

The typical religious Turk looks at himself and says, self, I a a fairly stupid Turk and Uncle Sam is not here to lead me around by the nose. So, perhaps I should do what these sexually repressed Islamic religious psychotics tell me.

Posted by: Matt on September 24, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Yes! who or what is Julia Louise Slaughter? Wasn't she on Seinfeld?

Posted by: bstr on September 24, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I learned about Turkey in a class on the Middle East I had in undergrad

Oh goody. I'll have to let my Turkish friends know so they can log on and maybe learn a thing or two.

Posted by: snicker-snack on September 24, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

[banging head on desk] There is only one idiot here that could have made that pronouncement...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 24, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and a lot of folks with names ending in "ian" learned much about them, also.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 24, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Yes! who or what is Julia Louise Slaughter?

I'm guessing she is the slutty girl from scrambled egbert's youth group who let him touch her naughty places.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 24, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Turkey is just the tip of the iceberg. There is strong Kurdish nationalism alive and well in Syria and Iran too. Northern Iraq has long been a rallying point under partial protection from the US enforced no-fly zone. Now that Kurds have autonomy, in all but name, Iraqi Kurdistan will become the fuse in a regional powderkeg and there is no telling what the eventual outcome will be.

Posted by: majun on September 24, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

From a story Headline junkie linked to:

http://www.thenewanatolian.com/tna-28888.html

FBI probes whether Blackwater USA smuggled arms to PKK in Iraq; company denies allegations

"Officials in Washington said the smuggling investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq. Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, militants."

------

I find this quite interesting. Especially the timing. It seems that Blackwater has either been known (by us) to be a loose cannon for a long time and we looked the other way or we've just found out the depth of their involvement in corrupt and illegal practices. I think it's the former-we've known pretty much what they've been up to most of the time.

The real question is... did we *sanction* their activity as a proxy policy tool? Or more importantly, whether we actively used Blackwater to arm the PKK or not, DO THE TURKS THINK SO? Even the Turks being suspicious of that, and perhaps even very angry with us for not PREVENTING this from happening is something to be looking into in the weeks ahead.

There could definitely be a connection between Maliki's feud with Blackwater/Bush Administration lately with this complaint from Turkey in July. Is the administration going to use the PKK connection to "de-certify" Blackwater's operations in Iraq? That would make it look like WE made the decision-not Maliki forcing us to. There's a lot of shit mixed up with this that's going to be coming to light soon.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 24, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

To some extent this was probably inevitable. The US-Turkish alliance was based on a joint need to face the threat posed by the Soviet Union. That's over.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on September 24, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it's worse that the quote describes. The US is losing Muslim moderates throughout the world over. Eg, Indonesia used to be a hotbed of Muslims who loved the US -- it is now a hotbed of Muslims who love OBL. Pakistan, for all its entanglements from some sectors with extremism, used to have a large pro-western middle class -- no longer. Iran, of all places, had pro-US demonstrations after 9/11. Now? Don't make me laugh.

The GWB admin has accomplished its primary objective -- endless war.

Posted by: Disputo on September 24, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please delete the trolls. I hope you are keeping a list of the IPs and handles so when you attain the resolve to do so you will start banning and deleting them. You seem to take a Piglet-like pleasure in letting middle-school-esque commenters swoop in and do some verbal violence to legitimate posters whenever they want, in between their credibility-building comments. You should work up some nerve, because you're basically a Zell Miller enabler at this point.

You got beat up every day of grade school, didn't you?

Nickels worth of free advice, sportsfan: When you have a problem with virtually everyone, chances are that you are the problem.

If you actually were half as smart as you think you are, we would all be just utterly blown away by your double-digit IQ.

Posted by: Volatile Compound on September 25, 2007 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

snick amusingly opined: Oh goody. I'll have to let my Turkish friends know so they can log on and maybe learn a thing or two.

and Swan lashed back: Snicker-snack, this is a rude and pointless comment.

Kevin, please delete the trolls. I hope you are keeping a list of the IPs and handles so when you attain the resolve to do so you will start banning and deleting them. You seem to take a Piglet-like pleasure in letting middle-school-esque commenters swoop in and do some verbal violence to legitimate posters whenever they want, in between their credibility-building comments. You should work up some nerve, because you're basically a Zell Miller enabler at this point.

1. The comment wasn't pointless except to the one person apparently incapable of understanding how embarrassing his original post was.

2. "Verbal violence"? "Legitimate posters"? Drama queen much? If you can't take the back-and-forth of a political blog's comment section--snicker's comment was rather mild--you may be happier at a knitting blog. snicker-snack has been a respected poster here for years, BTW, not that you've interrupted your verbal masturbation sessions long enough to notice something like that. Your rather odd little test of legitimacy seems to be "hasn't yet told me I'm being an idiot." Which brings me to...

3. If lots of people are giving you the same feedback, take it.

Posted by: shortstop on September 25, 2007 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, it looks like the mods took Swan's advice and did some deleting...of his bleating. Ironic.

Posted by: shortstop on September 25, 2007 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

That's my girl! (And I was about to comment on your amazing show of restraint.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 25, 2007 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff, the EU doesn't care whether Turkey has good relations with us or not. Now, a non-secular government in Turkey, yes, the EU cares, but for its own reasons.

Disputo, not sure I'd call all of Pakistan's professional class "middle class"; I think a fair amount qualify as "klepto class."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 25, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

"The people of Central Asia are Turkic."

While, apropos of nothing, the Turks themselves are not.

Posted by: MikeN on September 25, 2007 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

I might have mentioned before that I was in Turkey for five weeks this summer, reading the Turkish papers nearly every day. That is where I found out that the PEW survey had rated Turkey the most anti-American country in the world.

Hard to say that they don't have good reasons for this, ranging from the cruise missiles dropped on Turkey in the war against Saddam to the "Valley of the Wolves" incident. In particular they are angry at the perceived US support for or acquiesence to the PKK.

In addition to the reports of a Billion-dollar bribe from the US to Turkey to keep the army from a cross-border operation, there are the eye-witness reports of US ARMY trucks delivering arms to the PKK. (I neither believe nor disbelieve this last; however, it is what the news in Turkey is reporting.)

Posted by: mcdruid on September 25, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

First of all Turkey's "islamist party" is more western-oriented and democratic than its secular parties. Secondly, AKP, which is indisputably islamic, has more concrete economic and political accomplishments than any other political party. It has reformed the judiciary, boosted economic growth and focused locally on doing things people actually care about (cleaning up parks, putting in garbage bins)-- exactly what democratic parties are supposed to do. Turkey's secular parties are throwbacks to the bad old days of governmental control of the economy and xenophobia. It's no surprise AKP got 47% of the vote (notably, the harshly Islamic party's support was in the low single digits.)

Islam is a legitimate political force Turkey and for the last 50 years, it has been repressed by an elite minority. Now, it's asserting itself and is a force that needs to be accommodated. So far, its primary representative (AKP) has used the democratic process to do so. The secular minority is howling in protest as it loses the economic and political privileges it has enjoyed for 50 years.

Turkey is the only moderate Muslim democracy with a real economy in that part of the world. Why the US isn't bending over backwards to support it is beyond me. The Turks have legitimate beefs with US policy in the region.

I'm willing to have my mind changed if AKP turns out to be the Islamic wolf in democrats' clothing, but the sclerotic, corrupt, incompetent alternative would be just as bad.

Posted by: Christine Quirk on September 25, 2007 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

When G.W. Bush finally leaves the White House, the smoking wreckage of America's international relations that he leaves behind will truly be wondrous to behold. Turkey's ranking on the list of erstwhile allies is difficult to establish precisely, but it will certainly be in distinguished company.
. . . jim strain in san diego.

Posted by: Jim Strain on September 25, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Bush and the neocons have been failures at every other foreign policy initiative, even by their own (prior) standards, so why would we expect anything less with Turkey?

Bush and the GOP have sunk trillions of dollars into Iraq for essentially no national security return, not to mention that needless deaths of thousands of American soldiers and civilians, tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, and the destruction of critical alliances.

Bush and the GOP have diverted so many resources to that ill-advised war that they've allowed the more advised war in Afghanistan falter and Pakistan to verge to the brink of putting ACTUAL REAL CURRENTLY-EXISTING nuclear weapons into the hands of terror-loving radical Muslims.

Bush and the GOP have ignored a return of the soviet system in Russia in every way but name, potentially reigniting the cold war.

Bush and the GOP have allowed communist China to undermine our economy.

Bush and the GOP have allowed North Korea to develop nuclear weapons and export their technology.

Bush and the GOP have, again, diverted so many resources to bogus foreign policy initiatives that they have left the country utterly vulnerable to terrorism at home, both domestic and international.

Bush and the GOP have in every way imaginable put this country in greater danger and destabilized the world.

Bush and the GOP have ignored every major problem facing the nation and the world (real terrorism, global warming, economic deterioration, to name a few), while devoting a vast amount of time to absolutely trivial matters such as MoveOn ads that only ran a few days, phantom WMDs, Chavez, Castro, alleged voter fraud, and so on.

You'd almost think this is exactly what they intended . . .

Hitler knew well that chaos breeds opportunity for authoritarian control and he created and used chaos masterfully.

Our current group of fascists, the Bushistas and neocons, have learned Hitler's lessons well.

Posted by: anonymous on September 25, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Much of the drop in Turkish support for the US may possibly be laid at the door of the Iraqi Occupation. The Turks live next door to this hellish cauldron that WE have made. If I was Turkish that might piss me off too.

Posted by: Doug on September 25, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK
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