Recep Tayyip Erdogan
On the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Islamic “Festival of Sacrifice,” Burhan Ghalioun, the de facto leader of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the newly formed opposition group that aims to be internationally recognized as Syria’s government-in-exile, went on international television to deliver an address.
It is not actually his region. Still, with the arrogance that is so characteristic of his behavior in matters he knows little about (which is a lot of matters), he entered the region as if in a triumphal march. But it wasn’t the power and sway of America that he was representing in Turkey and in Egypt. For the fact is that he has not much respect for these representations of the United States. In the mind of President Obama, in fact, these are what have wreaked havoc with our country’s standing in the world.
Almost no one in America cares about foreign affairs, especially not for Barack Obama’s foreign affairs. For he has made of almost his entire conduct of peace and war an amateurish mess, crude, provincial, impetuous, peaceably high-minded but stupid—and full of peril to the world, to its democracies, to the United States itself.
Once the enchantment of living in a foreign country wears off, one begins to notice the small discomforts—for example, that the daily call to prayer can sound absolutely awful. I mean no disrespect; I, like many godless Westerners, quickly fell for its beauty and reliability. But I also noticed—when I could no longer speak on the phone, say—that my Istanbul muezzin had, on occasion, taken to screaming. The voice was so terrible that guests would stare out the window in astonishment, unsure of what to say.
“Fear Stalks the Streets of Gadhafi’s Capital”; “Rebels Plead for Help.” The two quotes above are from headlines over articles on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday and Friday. They tell you as well as anything does of the terror that rules Libya. President Obama had first given a morsel of hope to the popular insurrection in Libya by allowing Hillary Clinton to suggest, although ever so tenuously, that America might impose a "no-fly zone" on Muammar Qaddafi's increasingly brutal attacks on the populace.
The president has found his fall guy, his collective fall guy, for his failure to see that several sort-of U.S. allies were in terrible trouble: The intelligence community, we are now told, was to blame. But the truth is that, if anyone is at fault for misreading the Arab world, it is Barack Obama himself. Not that many other presidents and their administrations have seen these realities clearly. (John Foster Dulles, secretary of state to Dwight Eisenhower, believed he could transform the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser from a Soviet satrap into a pro-Western republic.
The courting was actually of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the personification of the new Turkey. And it wasn't as if Erdogan was an unknown quantity. In this morning's Financial Times, Daniel Dombey and Delphine Strauss report (through the horrible graces of WikiLeaks) that Eric Edelman, former U.S. ambassador in Ankara, had "described Mr.
Turkey is not going to join the European Union. Bald or candid statements are usually unwise, or “impolitic,” which is why politicians tend to avoid them, knowing that they may be falsified by events. But some can be made with absolute confidence, and here is one of them. This question has returned to the news with the recent Turkish visit by David Cameron, during which he said that Turkey should join the E.U. as soon as possible. Whatever my new prime minister may say, it has been clear to me ever since I took any interest in the question that Turkey was not going to join the E.U.
It’s a shock to see one of the pillars of American foreign policy start to disintegrate before our very eyes. That’s what seems to be happening to the relationship between the United States and Turkey, which policymakers in both countries have taken for granted for decades. I know it’s often said that formal alliances are losing their central place in international politics. If so, maybe the bad blood between Ankara and Washington is just part of a trend, something we wearily adjust to.
Sorry for the bad pun. But it's 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. Turkish political culture is now in tatters. Or, rather, its sensible political culture is in tatters. But the sensible Kemalists were no longer so sensible. They were corrupt, they were very authoritarian, they exported what some of them explicitly called their "surplus population" to Europe. These were mostly Kurds with Turkish passports. Now, some of them are called "Germans." But the reality is that many of them are internal Kurdish exiles.