A Tear for Turkey

A Tear for Turkey January 14, 2019


Constantinople, as it looks today
A view of the oldest part of Istanbul (Wikimedia Commons)


Jay Nordlinger has an appalling but hugely important piece (for those who care about Turkey, and for those who care about human rights) in National Review:


“Whisked Away: The Turkish government and its program of kidnappings”


Some here may have noticed that I’m not a fan of Mr. Donald J. Trump, though there are a number of things that the Trump administration has done of which I strongly approve.  (Should Ruth Bader Ginsburg exit the Supreme Court within the next twelve to eighteen months, there will likely be another.)  But, although I understand that Turkey is an important NATO ally and a significant regional military and economic power that we should not needlessly or lightly alienate, Mr. Trump and certain others in his administration have been far too accommodating to the wishes of the ever more brazen Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  (The article to which I link above provides some illustrations of that; moreover, Mr. Trump’s recent announcement of a sudden, precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria apparently came after a phone conversation with Mr. Erdoğan and at the Turkish leader’s urging.)  And Mr. Trump’s apparent attitude toward Mr. Erdoğan is consistent with his general fondness for strongmen, which has been noted many times.


“Erdogan says he will meet with Putin over US withdrawal from Syria”


“Trump’s Syria withdrawal strengthens Erdogan, Putin and Assad while abandoning US allies: The only thing that can deter strongmen like Assad, Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s mullahs is a robust US presence; Syria’s Kurds will be among the first to bear the brunt as Erdogan moves against them


“US Syria pullout draws Kurdish condemnation and Putin’s praise: ‘Donald is right,’ says Russian president, as US-backed Kurdish-led force warns fight against Islamic State not over”


And, more generally:


“Trump’s ‘Great Chemistry’ With Murderous Strongmen: The United States diminished itself by electing a man who so often winds up needlessly praising dictators.”


“6 Strongmen Trump Has Praised — And The Conflicts It Presents”


“Trump prefers strongmen. But democracy is not weakness: The US president praises Xi and Kim and disparages western politicians. But I’d far rather live in a nation where leaders are held to account”


“Trump’s fondness for dictators and strongmen is more than just unsettling”


“Donald Trump befriended these strongmen in 2017”


(I could go on providing such links indefinitely, but those are enough to make my point.)


Ardent supporters of Mr. Trump like to point out — to me and to others — that we “didn’t elect a choir boy.”  In so doing, they ask us to overlook his personal character flaws (i.e., to ignore his manifest inadequacies as a symbolic head of state, one of the two principal roles of the American presidency) and to focus on his specific performance in terms of policy and execution (i.e., to concentrate on what he does as a practical head of government, the other role of the American presidency).


I’ve been asked repeatedly for examples of actual policies and appointments and government actions that I cannot endorse.


Well, for one thing among many, I don’t like what I see in the Trump administration as regards Turkey — and Syria, and the Kurds.


Issues in the Middle East may seem distant and abstract to most Americans.  They don’t to me.  I travel there often.  I know and like people in the area.  And I love Turkey.  It deserves better.  I once thought of it as a beacon of hope for the region.  No longer.  And the United States of America ought not in any way be complicit in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitions for regional and Islamic leadership and in his destruction of Turkish freedom and democracy.



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