Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Let's Talk About Turkey

No one is talking much about foreign policy these days. The election campaign is focused on economic issues, to the point that foreign policy issues are being stored in the attic.

Since the mainstream media is biased in favor of Obama one might suggest, cynically, that they are covering up the stories and tamping down debate because none would benefit their favorite candidate.

While one can make a cogent argument in favor of administration policy in Egypt the truth is that Egypt is now being run by Islamists. The Obama-Clinton team is cozying up to the Muslim Brotherhood at a time when the Brothers are getting ready to renounce Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

While Islamists continue to persecute Egyptian Christians and have refused to allow American aid workers to leave the country the crack Obama foreign policy team is planning on sending more foreign aid to Egypt.

From where I sit this does not look like a foreign policy success.

So, it is worth keeping the Middle East in mind as we survey the world in search of the next black swan. We never really know where the next unexpected calamity is going to come from but we know that it always comes from where we least expect it.

Like Turkey, for example.

Yesterday, Caroline Glick wrote a fascinating column about the conventional wisdom of the American foreign policy establishment. In particular, she focused on establishment views of the Middle East.  

After noting that such topics were not being debated by the presidential candidates, she praised Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for speaking truth to the power of the bi-partisan foreign policy consensus.

She admired Gingrich for having the courage to call the  Palestinians an “invented people,” and Perry for declaring that we might need to reconsider Turkey’s membership in NATO. Today’s Turkey, Perry averred, seems to be “ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists."

Both statements were greeted with cries of derision from establishment experts.

For her part Glick argued that Perry was more right than wrong and that it was good that he raised the issue. To her mind, Turkey has been getting far too intimate with Hamas, and this should give us pause to reconsider our relations with the “Islamic democracy.”

Both of the last two administrations have noted that Turkey has become a major supporter of Hamas. It might not be harboring terrorists, but it is certainly providing them with material and diplomatic support.

This has not deterred the Bush or the Obama administrations from cozying up with Turkey.

Glick explains:

After Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January 2006, Turkey was the first country to invite Hamas's terror master Khaled Mashal to Ankara. Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan's move provoked criticism from the Bush administration. But Erdogan just shrugged it off. And he was right to do so. By 2006, then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had come to view Erdogan as the US's indispensable ally in the Muslim world. As she saw it, he was proof that Islamist parties could be democratic and moderate.

The fact that Erdogan embraced Hamas could not get in the way of Rice's optimistic assessment. So, too, the fact that Erdogan embarked on a systematic campaign to stifle press freedom, curb judicial independence and imprison his political critics in the media and the military could not move Rice from her view that Erdogan personified her belief that moderate jihadists exist and ought to be embraced by the US.

Rice's starry-eyed view of Erdogan set the stage of US President Barack Obama's even stronger embrace of the increasingly tyrannical Turkish Islamist. Since Obama took office, not only has Ankara stepped up its support of Hamas, and ended even the pretense of a continued strategic alliance with Israel that it maintained during the Bush years. Turkey began serving as Iran's chief diplomatic protector while vastly expanding its own strategic and economic ties with Tehran.

In the face of Turkey's openly anti-American behavior and actions, Obama clings to Erdogan even more strongly than Rice did. Obama reportedly views Erdogan as his most trusted foreign adviser. According to the media, Obama speaks with Erdogan more often than he speaks to any other foreign leader. In a recent interview with Time magazine, Obama listed Erdogan as one of the key foreign leaders with whom he has formed a friendship based on trust.

Over the past few weeks, Turkey has emerged as Hamas's largest financier. During an official visit in Turkey, Hamas's terror master in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh received a hero's welcome. Erdogan pledged to finance the jihadist movement to the tune of $300 million per year.

Of course, it might all be an exercise in Real Politik. Yet, a pattern does emerge in which American foreign policy seems more and more to be siding with those who support and sustain Hamas and other Islamist groups.

Everyone is ignoring these developments because the foreign policy establishment insists on  tilting at the ultimate windmill: Israeli/Palestinian peace.

Glick explains that the Obama administration, by ineptitude or by its hidden support for the Palestinian cause, has gone its predecessors one better: it has rendered negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians impossible.

It is true that under Obama the US has become far more hostile towards Israel than it was under Bush. The most important distinction between the two is that whereas George W. Bush sought to broker a compromise deal between the two sides, Obama has adopted Fatah's negotiating positions against Israel. As a consequence of Obama's actions, the peace process has been derailed completely. Fatah has no reason to compromise since the US will blame Israel no matter what. And Israel has no reason to make concessions since the US will deem them insufficient.

If Glick is right, then we are not dealing with Real Politik or with balance of power diplomacy or with diplomacy that seeks to advance American interests.

We are watching a stealth effort to support Islamist powers in the region, on the grounds that appeasement deters aggression. Or else, that we will not be attacked by Islamist terrorists if we start being nicer to them. 

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