No Comment — June 8, 2010, 7:03 pm

Turkey Basting

In a piece up at the American Interest, “Terrible Twins: Turkey, Brazil and the Future of American Foreign Policy,” Walter Russell Mead takes aim at the government of Recep Erdo?an in Turkey. Here’s a key passage:

the strong reaction in Turkey to the Israeli interception of a convoy organized by Turkish groups with aid for Gaza underlines the possibility that Turkey is moving decisively away from its longtime partnership with the United States.

As it happens, I was in Turkey the day of the flotilla events and was able to take some measure of the local reaction, discussing it with a number of local observers whose opinions I value. There is good reason to be concerned about relations between Turkey and the United States. At one point, Turkey was the essential NATO ally of the United States for Middle East issues. The U.S. Air Force base at ?ncerlik has been a key national-security asset, and there are few armed forces in the world with which the U.S. has had deeper and more stable relations than those of Turkey—though that very fact may be an irritant in the current environment. There is a problem in U.S.-Turkish relations; it requires serious study and consideration. But Mead’s analysis is simply obtuse. Successful military alliances are built on the basis of shared interests and generally shared perceptions of threat. During the Cold War, those interests and threats could be easily defined. After the Cold War, the United States has looked to a number of different ties for a redefinition of the relationship, none of them particularly successful.

I still remember being in Istanbul during the OSCE summit in 1999. Bill Clinton was in town, mobbed everywhere and viewed as a rock star. I walked through bazaars and found stalls in which his picture was displayed. He was, a friend assured me, far more popular with the people than any senior Turkish politician. In the commercial world, American icons were everywhere. This was a golden era in U.S.-Turkish relations. Then George W. Bush arrived on the scene, touting policies uncritically embraced by Mead, with Kriegslust directed against Iraq at the top of the agenda. Turkish leaders counseled aggressively against this war and warned about negative consequences sure to flow from it. Turkey also expressed deeply held reservations about the creation of a Kurdish state and the empowerment of Kurdish nationalist groups that had long presented a painful terrorist threat to Turkey. These concerns fell on deaf ears with the Bush team. So the pushback started with U.S. indifference towards Turkey’s own perceived national-security interests. Looking back on the situation now, Turkey’s warnings were largely well taken, and their concern about a revitalization of Kurdish terrorism also proved to be well founded. So which partner bears primary responsibility for damage to the relationship?

Mead’s writing reveals his chronic inability to differentiate between United States and Israeli security concerns. Writing in the American Conservative, the ever astute Daniel Larison calls Mead on his intellectual sloppiness:

It seems fair to say that Mead has completely misread the situation. Why has there been a “strong reaction” to the raid on the aid flotilla? It isn’t because Turkey is “moving decisively away from its longtime partnership with the United States,” and it isn’t even because the AKP government is bent on undermining the relationship with Israel. There has been a strong reaction because eight Turkish citizens were killed on a Turkish-flagged civilian ship in international waters by the armed forces of its ostensible ally while on a basically peaceful aid mission. Name me a government that would not have a strong reaction to such an episode. For that matter, the aid mission was an effort to breach an inhumane blockade that probably cannot be legally justified. If partnering with the U.S. means ignoring gross, violent provocations against its citizens, no democratic government in the world would be able to maintain such a partnership for very long.

Andrew Sullivan drives this same point home:

why is Israel the same as the US? It is only if one assumes that the US supports everything and anything Israel does that you can make this kind of leap. And the Obama promise – which Netanyahu has done his damnedest to destroy – was precisely to re-establish the US as some kind of honest broker in the Mideast.

There are plenty of complex and difficult issues between the United States and Turkey now. Our military relationship needs a rethink in light of the obvious transformation of the Turkish state into a new model of democracy in which the military’s role of suretyship has been brought to a close. Friction has arisen with respect to Iran, particularly on nuclear power issues—although the Turkish position is at least rhetorically capable of being harmonized with the American one. But Mead’s views are dangerously facile and do not present an adequate basis for assessment of the relationship. Repairing the current damaged relationship has to start with identifying shared national-security interests. This is not an impossible task, but it needs to start with healthy respect for Turkish democracy and the choices of the Turkish people. That element has been missing for too long.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2016

Trump’s People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Old Man

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Long Rescue

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

New Television

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Improbability Party

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump's supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man's search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

Photograph (detail) © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
Article
Trump’s People·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"All our friends are saying, load up with plenty of ammunition, because after the stores don’t have no food they’re gonna be hitting houses. They’re going to take over America, put their flag on the Capitol.” “Who?” I asked. “ISIS. Oh yeah.”
Photograph by Mark Abramson for Harper's Magazine (detail)
Article
The Long Rescue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

He made them groom and feed the half-dozen horses used to transport the raw bricks to the furnace. Like the horses, the children were beaten with whips.
Photograph (detail) © Narendra Shrestha/EPA/Newscom
Article
The Old Man·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

Illustration (detail) by Jen Renninger
Article
New Television·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With its lens shifting from the courtroom to the newsroom to people’s back yards, the series evokes the way in which, for a brief, delusory moment, the O. J. verdict seemed to deliver justice for all black men.
Still from The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story © FX Networks

Amount an auditor estimated last year that Oregon could save each year by feeding prisoners less food:

$62,000

Kentucky is the saddest state.

An Italian economist was questioned on suspicion of terrorism after a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight witnessed him writing differential equations on a pad of paper.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today