The Middle East
How to Manage Post-Democracy Turkey

The U.S. must be patient but take a firm line to curb Erdogan’s worst impulses.

Appeared in: Volume 13, Number 3 | Published on: September 18, 2017
Henri J. Barkey is the Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
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  • Whatever else you can do about Turkey, support Kurdish independence. With their many well-known shortcomings, the Kurds are one of a tiny handful of demographies you can trust out there. And they deserve it.

  • Paul Lies

    Meh. Democracy is often mediocracy. Many of the top dog states in world history weren’t democratic at all, and even today the second most powerful country in the world is the antithesis of a democracy — China. Let’s see what comes of Turkey.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The trick is to manage the post-democracy United States. Yeah, Turkey is a religious mess. Now, let’s see if we can pull our own butts out of a similar rabbit hole we’re falling into.

  • Fat_Man

    Turkey has no economic or strategic importance to the United States. Turkey has no natural resources of any importance. It has no technology, and limited industrial capacity. No trade routes go through Turkey. It is time to pull out of Turkey and leave the Turks to their fate. If Turkey were destroyed utterly by some natural calamity, the United States and its people would not notice the missing country in any way. And it would have no impact on the world at large. Although the Kurds would be very happy.

    The idea that Turkey has strategic importance is a historical remnant. At the First Millennium of the Christian Era, Constantinople was the largest and richest city in western Eurasia. In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople. They then controlled the trade routes between Europe and East Asia. The Europeans responded by exploring the sea routes to Asia, and in the process discovered the New World. Ocean trade always trumps land routes. Turkey began its long slide into irrelevance. In the 19th Century, control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the trade routes from India to Britain was a vital object of British foreign policy. None of that has any relevance in the 21st century. Turkey is just another dying Islamic country without oil.

    Turkey does control the entrances to the Black Sea. But it is not really a sea or part of the open ocean, it is a lake between Turkey, which is worthless, and Russia which is malignant. The Black Sea is surrounded by countries that are poor and irrelevant to the United States, Sorry Bulgaria, Romania, and Georgia, it sucks to be you. Ukraine — It’s dead, Jim.

    We should never allow an American Naval vessel to go into Black Sea. No reason to give our enemies hostages.

    Turkey is also the key to the Balkans. The Balkans are a miserable and useless part of the world. Strategically, the Balkans are on the way to no place in particular. The Balkan countries: Greece, Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, are irrelevant. They have no natural resources worth mentioning. Their agricultural products have no role in US markets, not even olive oil. The wines are terrible, unless you are a connoisseur of paint thinner. They manufacture nothing.

    It is true that Turkey is a member of NATO, but that just shows how worthless and outdated NATO is. Turkey is, in large part, responsible for the refugee invasion of Western Europe. I would never risk the life of an American serviceman, or a Pomeranian grenadier to defend Turkey. I should add that NATO ally Turkey, positively refused to aid the United States during the Iraq war.

    The US should close the Incirlik base. There is no reason to maintain a base in a country that is of no importance. We should not leave potential hostages so deep in enemy territory. BTW, I pray to God that there are no nuclear weapons in a place that is so vulnerable to enemy attack. It is long past time when we should shut down Incirlik, and get our people away from a situation where they could become the hostages of an Islamist madman. On our way out we should destroy the place and its facilities so that the Russians and the Turks cannot use them. If there are nuclear weapons at Incirlik, we must get them out of there STAT. The danger of the Turks, the Russians, and the Iranians stealing them is far too grave. Incirlik should be replaced by a new base in Jordan that should also house an armored brigade. That would serve to protect Jordan from both ISIS and Iran.

    If Russia wants Turkey, let Russia have Turkey. If the Turks ask for help, tell them to pound sand. The world would be better off if Turkey were cut into three pieces. Turkey in Europe, the suburbs of Constantinople, and the Black Sea littoral should be given to Russia and Christianized. The Eastern third of Turkey should be given to the Kurds, and the remainder should be left to rot. As to seaports for the Kurds, they could take Hatay Province from Turkey. It is the chunk of Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast north of Syria. Its capital is Antakya (Antioch), and its port city is Iskenderun (Alexandretta). The United States should side with Kurds and help them establish an independent Kurdistan in Kurdish areas of Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Levant. It was of the few positive moves the US could make to stabilize the Middle East and limit the expansion of Iranian Power. The other one is building a base in Northeastern Jordan.

    Under Erdogan, the Turks have not been friends of the United States. The United States needs the Turks like it needs boils. And boils is pretty much what the Turks have been to US foreign policy for the past 20 years. It is time to be quit of the Turks.

  • Kevin

    Interesting article. No real good options here, but it seems important not to let fears of Turkey “slipping away” drive our policy too much. If the Turks demonstrate they can be useful to us we should be open to it, otherwise wish them well and depart.

  • Attila_the_hun

    “Turkey does live in an unpleasant if not dangerous neighborhood.”
    And the Turks are belligerent neighbors who wants to confiscate the entire neighborhood . Turkey is a mini Ottoman empire with imperialistic ambitions. Isn’t interesting that the same Islamo Facist Erdo who supports so-called fictional Palestinian nation And denies the existence of 20 million Kurds living within Turkish borders. In this day and age where every ethic group seeking independence there is no way Turks can deny world largest stateless minority a statehood. One way or another Turkey’s borders as the rest of The ME will be redrawn along enthic, religious and geographical boundaries.

  • It’s not like the US hasn’t had experience in the past with leaders like Erdogan of supposedly allied and friendly states. Mubarak, Marcos, Zia, and many others have all pulled this act in their turn. The question with each of them, of course, is the extent to which they actually believe the nonsense.

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