October 25, 2007
By Tony Blankley
With the steady decline of our selected ally Gen. Pervez
Musharraf's ability to govern Pakistan, and the growing alienation
of the Turkish people and government from their longtime ally, the
United States, it is fair to say that from the Bosporus to the
Himalayas, American interests continue to decline, while American
policy drifts. It is ironic, if not mordant, to observe that in
that zone, our policy in Iraq stands out as holding more promise
for success than most of the other policies we are attempting. This
week, let me consider why we are losing Turkey.
The unfolding estrangement of the Turkish people (and derivatively
the Turkish governments) has been both predicted and virtually
unnoticed by Washington until last week. This tragic event needs to
be thoroughly understood by the United States and the West, because
it goes to the core of our theory of how to defeat radical
About three years ago, as then-editorial page editor of The
Washington Times, I hired as a weekly correspondent a leading
Turkish correspondent in Washington, Tulin Daloglu. She was and is
a superb student of Turkish culture and politics, a secularist, a
friend and admirer of America and a Turkish patriot. I asked her to
describe each week in her column what the Turkish people and
government were thinking, particularly about American policy and
actions. I thought more attention both in Congress and the
administration was needed on Turkish attitudes and American-Turkish
I was deeply concerned that Turkish attitudes were slipping
dangerously away from us, despite Turkey being our strongest Muslim
ally in the Middle East, and the model for how Israel and the West
could establish a modus vivendi with a major Muslim-peopled
country. Turkey has been both taken for granted and ignored by
Washington for years.
In Congress, the well-organized Greek and Armenian American
communities had a stronger voice than the Turkish American. And, of
course, for historic reasons Greek Americans and Armenian Americans
usually oppose various Turkish policies. In the administration,
their peevement with Turkey not permitting our 4th Armored Division
entry through Turkey into Iraq in 2003 led to a failure to attend
carefully to a decaying relationship with our great ally. For about
two years, the State Department barely communicated in a
significant way - on a policy basis with Turkey. To read Miss
Daloglu's columns in The Washington Times these last years is to
read, week by week, the sad, objective, chronicle of the loss of a
In the past week, the Turks' reaction to the congressional
Armenian genocide resolution and their threat of serious military
action against our allies the Iraqi Kurds has finally - too late -
gotten Washington's attention. But beyond the appalling mess we
have if Turkey invades Iraq (under the U.N. resolutions we are,
arguably, obliged to defend the Kurds from the Turks - militarily),
there is a larger and still ignored lesson to be learned by the
melt down in support we have experienced from the Turkish
If there is one idea that Democrats and Republicans, conservatives
and liberals, share on how to fight the war on terror, it is that
we need to reach out to and win the hearts and minds of the
"moderate," modern, peaceable more secularist Muslims - and empower
them to defeat by both persuasion and other methods the radical,
violent fundamentalists in their religion.
That would be a very, very good idea. But consider the Turkish
experience in the last six years. The Turks are the "Moderate,
modern, peaceable more secularist Muslims." Moreover our countries
have been close allies for a half a century. And Turkey has had
extensive friendly commercial relations with Israel. They are
Turks, not Arabs, and are therefore less susceptible to the
emotional plight of the West Bank Arabs under Israeli
And yet, we have lost the Turks almost as badly as we have lost
the most angry religious, fundamentalist Arab, Muslims. If we can't
keep a fair share of their friendly attitude, how do we expect to
win the much-vaunted and -awaited hearts and mind campaign?
While I hardly have the answers to that question, one lesson can
be learned from the Turkish debacle (or near debacle): While we
cozied up to their arch threat - the Iraqi Kurds - we kept telling
them not to worry and trust us. We did little to allay their fears
that the Iraqi Kurds were giving the PKK terrorists succor and
sanctuary in Iraq. We didn't pressure our allies the Iraqi Kurds to
pressure the PKK.
In the future, we are going to have to earn each ounce of friendly
relations based on what we actually do for the object of our
desire. Good intentions and common visions of the future are not
likely to be readily available.
Tony Blankley is executive vice president for global public
affairs at Edelman International. He is also a visiting senior
fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Washington Times
With the steady decline of our selected ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf's ability to govern Pakistan, and the growing alienation of the Turkish people and government from their longtime ally, the United States, it is fair to say that from the Bosporus to the Himalayas, American interests continue to decline, while American policy drifts. It is ironic, if not mordant, to observe that in that zone, our policy in Iraq stands out as holding more promise for success than most of the other policies we are attempting. This week, let me consider why we are losing Turkey.
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