Recep Tyyip Erdogan: President of Turkey
Barack’s Restraint in Syria is the Right Policy
The recent outburst by Recep Erdogan, President of Turkey, accusing the US of supporting terrorists in Syria is a slap in the face of an ally whose military might alone prevented Putin from leveling part of his country, maybe even bombing major cities like Ankara or Istanbul, when he recklessly shot down a Russian fighter Jet that he claims drifted into Turkish air space while flying a combat mission over Syria. If anybody had doubts about the extent of Erdogan’s recklessness that incident should have convinced them. If Putin had not exercised restraint – a decision the Republican controlled Congress would have impeached president Obama over had he shown similar restraint if an American plane had been downed by Iranian fire – the US and Russian would have been at war.
By virtue of our treaty commitments as a member and dominant power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, we would be required to come to the aid of Turkey with military force. In such a state of hostility anything could have happened because Russia cannot successfully wage a conventional war against NATO forces, which could be deployed from the territories of countries surrounding Russia that were a part of the Soviet Union until the break-up of the USSR after the fall of the Russian Communist Party in the last decade of the 20th century. As I have written elsewhere it was extreme folly to expand NATO – a military alliance formed to contain the expansion of the international communist movement in the post-World War II period – into Eastern Europe after the collaspe of communism. As Professor Stephen Cohen, and other serious scholars of US-Russian relations have pointed out: It was a move that violated the spirit of the accommodation Russia made with the West ending the Cold War.
As I write the leaders on NATO are making plans to supply arms to these former Russian republics, which I view as a step towards doomsday because in any military conflict with NATO Russian will quickly introduce the nuclear deterrent by putting their weapons systems on alert. And no knowledgeable observor doubts that the Russian nuclear arsenal is quite capable of obliterating every city in the NATO alliance within an hour! Hence the US is doing a death dance with the devil in forming alliances with little countries whose existence has no real bearing on the national interests of the United States, countries like Turkey. These misguided and dangerous foreign policy decisions are driven by the bogus ideology of “American Exceptionalism,” which underlies the assumption that the US has a divine right, even an obligation, to shape the rest of the world in our superior image.
It is this ideology which keeps the US in a state of perpetual war by promoting the idea that American leadership of the world is essential; it is a refrain that we constantly hear from the Republicans in Congress and is a belief shared by most Americans, who are willing to squander trillions of dollars on foreign military adventures while our roads are barely traversable in many parts of the country, our bridges are falling down, our electric grid is out of date, and the water supply of an entire city is poisoned by lead from antiquated pipes and Republican budget cuts. The belief in American Exceptionalism has led us into otherwise inexplicable military alliances with third rate countries like Turkey.
After only recently taking an action that could have thrown us into a military conflict with Russia, which could plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust, Prime Minister Erdogan – a pugnacious fool who is perhaps the most admired political figure in Turkey if judged by electoral success – has now accused the Obama administration of supporting Terrorism against Turkey. After declaring that the US was responsible for “A sea of blood” in Syria, because of its support of Kurdish forces in the YPG which the US says are the only fighters that have proved effective against ISIS; Erdogan went on the accuse the UN of double crossing them and said to Americans:
“I told you many times: Are you with us or with this terrorist organization? Is there a difference between the PKK and the PYD? Is there a difference with the YPG? We have written proof! We tell the Americans: ‘It’s a terror group.’ But the Americans stand up and say: ‘No, we don’t see them as terror groups.’”
These comments provide irrefutable evidence that further US military involvement in Syria would be a fool’s errand, extreme folly. The Syrian conflict is playing out in a theater built on quicksand, and in the fog of war it is hard to tell who’s who. We have only to carefully consider President Erdogan’s statement to see that this assessment is true. The paramount objective of the US in Syria is to overthrow the regime of Bashar al Assad and destroy the militant jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria: ISIS. And the want to do this without putting American “boots on the ground.” This means the actual fighting must be carried out by surrogate forces. However the problem with US policy is that it is contradictory and therefore they are working at cross purposes.
Fierce Kurdish Forces to the Rescue
PKK Fighters: Reliable Allies against ISIS
To overthrow the Assad regime and defeat ISIS is a paradoxical proposition because the other forces fighting Assad are often indistinguishable from ISIS and thus are only interested in overthrowing the Syrian government and replace it with an Islamic regime. There may be some forces interested in replacing the dictatorial Assad regime with a liberal western style democracy, but the evidence shows that they are few and far between. President Obama understands this; that’s why he has steadfastly refused to arm any of the factions, although there are signs that his resistance is crumbling in the fact of persistent and slanderous Republican criticism. The truth be told, the two most effective military opposition forces to ISIS are the Iranians and the Kurds. Alas, the Iranians are unacceptable to the Republicans and the Kurds are unacceptable to Turkey.
This is because in the swirl of claims, counter-claims, and ancient animosities that fuel the conflicts in the region: one ally’s hero is the other’s villain. Hence while the US views the Kurdish forces as a godsend, the Turks view them as denizens of the devil. This is because the Kurdish militants in the PKK have been fighting the Turks in a protracted struggle for independence and when they take territory they hold it with the intention of making it part of a new Kurdistan. But this is of little concern for the US, whose paramount objective is crushing the ISIS Caliphate ruled by Caliph Ibrahim. In a New York Times article of August 12, 2015 titled “Why Turkey is fighting the Kurds who are Fighting ISIS,” we are told:
“Kurdish fighters have been coordinating with the American military since last October. From cloaked rooms in northern Syria, members of the militia known as the Y.P.G. have relayed intelligence and coordinates for potential airstrike targets to an American operations center hundreds of miles away.The resulting strikes have in turn helped the Kurds seize a broad stretch of territory along the Turkish border from the Islamic State. “The role of the coalition jets has been essential to these victories,” said Idris Nassan, a senior Kurdish official from Kobani.”
Since 1978, when the Kurdish Workers Party – PKK- was founded, the Turkish government has attempted to suppress them by force of arms – much like the American Civil War. According to some estimates thousands of Kurds have been slaughtered by the Turks at a cost of around 450 billion dollars. Not willing to admit the legitimacy of their claims for a national homeland as a human right, the Turks have labeled them “Terrorists.” But since the US was born as a result of a fight with their British colonial masters many Americans, including the Obama administration, view them differently.
Without this historical perspective it is impossible to make sense of Turkish President Erdogan’s hysterical charge. Alas it is an irresolvable contradiction, we view the Kurds as valued allies in the fight to defeat ISIS, and the Turks view them as dangerous “terrorists” who are trying to dismember the unitary Turkish State. Erdogan wants Barack to join him in defeating the nationalist goals of the Kurds, but Barack wants no part of that…and rightly so. The French are also unsatisfied with Barack’s refusal to be drawn into extraneous fights that deter or retard the fight against ISIS, and wants him to commit more American forces to the fight. I say the president should keep his eyes on the prize and to hell with Turkey…France too!