Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Our Bestest Buddies, The Turks, Or Is It The Kurds?

I guess it was about a week or two ago, I saw a small Yahoo News article headlined "Turkey massing‭ ‬140,000‭ ‬troops." It seems there are Kurds in Turkey who are not happy about being Kurds in Turkey and would have that area of Turkey not be Turkey. Needless to say, the Turks are not in agreement with this idea. They also do not care for the fact that the Kurds who have used certain violent tactics to express their feelings can cross the border into an area of Iraq referred to as Kurdistan and attain effective sanctuary. So, the Ankara government has sent troops ready to cross said border to catch and not release Kurdish proponents of the Not-Turkey Thesis.

This is a bit of a mess for the nation that claims leadership of what is sometimes called the Free World. We have had a longstanding alliance with the Turks going back to the early postwar era when an American fleet called in at Istanbul to signal the Soviets hands off. The Turks reciprocated by sending men to stand with us in Korea.

Our relationship with the Kurds has been a bit different. If I wanted to use a word to describe how we have treated the Kurds, I would not rule out betrayal. Henry Kissinger used them to pressure Iraq in the seventies and dropped them when he had struck the deal he wanted. Now we are friends again with the Kurds and they are building a modern state with a market economy. You only need read the gushing reports from neoconnish reporter Michael Totten, here, here and here. His Middle East Journal articles portray the Kurds admiringly and seem to suggest we plight our troth to them. Of course, Mr. Totten does not paint his picture, warts and all. The Kurds may be closer to modernity than Shia and Sunni, but they still have some bad habits.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the quaint practice of Female Genital Mutilation. It persists in Michael Totten's ultra advanced Kurdistan. To be fair, many Kurds are facing the problem, but the government can be touchy on the subject, "The [Kurdish] Ministry of Human Rights hauled us in for questioning," says Assi Frooz Aziz, coordinator of WADI's Germian medical team. "They accused us of publicizing the country's secrets." Hey, even we can be rather shy about our blemishes, but the Kurds do need a tad of work on that open government thing."

So there we are, the benevolent hegemon, hunkered down in Iraq having to do what all imperiums have to do eventually, decide whom to betray. It's a no brainer. Stratfor has an article in their free service that tells us just how strong, both militarily and economically, th Turks are in the Middle East. Also, it is not in their character to wet their pants when someone, including us, barks at them.*

So according to Robert Novak, we've done a deal with the Turks. In order to forestall the invasion, we'll cooperate in setting up the Kurdish separatists. Well, I for one am not surprised. We have some good experience in Kurd betrayal. It's been done before and will be done now and will probably be done again. After all, the Turks have options. The Kurds have only us.

Just another mess to clean up.

Hat tip to Justin Raimondo at Takimag.

*I don't remember the book's title. It might have been "This Kind of War," Anyway, it describes an engagement in Korea where the Turks were about to be overrun. The officers threw down their caps and said they would not retreat behind them alive and led their men into the Chinese. They were of course destroyed. I think the book continued with a comment about how the PLA did their best to avoid the Turks after that.


Black Sea said...

Fighting terrorism is sho' 'nuf one complicated mutha f*cker.

On one terrorist front, Pervez Musharraf (who spent at least part of his childhood in Turkey) is under increasing heat for tolerating the presence of Al Qaida in Western Pakistan. He says he's doing all he can, but the hard-core neocons aren't buying excuses.

At the same time, nothing is or ever will be said about the Saudi role in funding Al Qaida summer camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

From the Turkish perspective, things look even more skewed. The US, as they see it, has actually created a terrorist safe-haven, similar to Waziristan, along their Eastern Border. Just imagine a foreign power steam-rolling Mexico, then allowing Islamic jihadists free-reign along the mountainous region south of Arizona. Oh, and to complete the analogy, the Southwestern US would have to be populated primarily by Gulf Arabs.

This is the way most Turks see the Kurdish situation, and it explains in large part why Turks have, at 11%, the second lowest percentage of people in the world reporting a favorable impression of the US, a figure exceeded (in the negative sense) only by the Palestinians. But this, no doubt, can all be rectified by a little covert, cross-border, joint US/Turkish action. We'll be blood brothers again.

Well, it's bound to go over better than the incident, a couple of years ago, when US soldiers captured and detained Turkish special operations troops who were roaming around in Iraq. They put the Abu Ghraib hoods on them and everything. Not so good for inter-cultural bridge building.

You would thus think that Bush might thus have some real sympathy for Mushaarraf's Waziranstan dilemma, but perhaps not. I looked at the Novak article you linked to, and it would appear that Bush's iron-clad faith in his ability to straighten out other people's bloody grievances remains undaunted.

Good news for us all.

tvoh said...

Musharraf's problem does point up the insanity of our foreign policy more than any other situation. Here is a man with an internal situation that requires more fancy footwork than Fred Astaire. Then you throw nukes into the mix. The question for us is who would you rather have running that place? Do any of the neocon stalwarts or Obama have an idea of what you get if he goes. It won't be a member of the Unitarian Universalist parish in Islamabad.

At heart, I am a secessionist. If "a people" (loaded phrase) want to separate, they should have that right. That is not the currently the way of the world. As an American, it should not be my problem.

Do not expect the empire to sympathize with the problems of provincials like Musharraf.

You looked at Novak's article. I am wondering if, considering your recent sojurn, you agree with Stratfor's assessment?

Black Sea said...

Do I agree with the Stratfor assessment? Yeah, I suppose, though this is purely an amateur opinion. Turkish foreign policy, or anybody's foreign policy, is something I just pretend to have an informed opinion about. I have, however, had some pretty interesting conversations with people who spend more time on these issues.

Anyway, the Stratfor article seems to make a lot of sense. Turkey has done a much better job than any other Middle Eastern state of developing a varied and dynamic economy. Despite resentment over the Kurdish situation, Turkish and American interests in the region overlap to a considerable extent. America would like to see someone other than Iran calling the shots in the region, and I'm sure the Turks would be keen to play that role.

One factor, however, not much considered in all of this is the legacy of empire. I don't mean the British, French, or for that matter, even the American Empire. I'm talking of course about the Ottomans, whom we almost never give a thought to here, but who remain a recent and enormously important reality there.

Before the Middle East was carved up by the West, it were ruled from Istanbul. Arab states aren't, I think, going to welcome increased Turkish influence just because they're local to the region and Muslims. I suppose it goes without saying, but in the M E people cling to their grudges for a long time. The Arabs have their complaints about the Turks (godless, Westernized, Raki-swilling infidels who ride American coattails to power), while the Turk are none too fond of the Arabs, deceitful backstabbers who helped steal their empire.

To go back to the Kurdish thing, I wonder if the joint operation Novak reports is exactly a "betrayal" of the Kurds. I suppose the question revolves around what exactly has been promised by the US to the Kurds, who are themselves palying a very risky game by revivng PKK activity in Turkey when their own security situation remains awfully uncertain. I think they'd be wiser to consolidate their gains inside of Iraq. Maybe, like Bush himself, Talibani has far less control over what goes on there than he's willing to admit. One of those interesting questions.

Finally, I have to ammend my previous comment slightly. Iraq is on the Southeastern, rather than the Eastern, border of Turkey. I couldn't leave that one uncorrected.

tvoh said...

Thanks for your thoughts. Thanks for your thoughts. Your comments on the Ottoman legacy are interesting.

When I was about a eleven or so, I read a biography of Attaturk. It was more than a child's level, but hardly exhaustive academic stuff. Toward the end, it began a chapter with the comment that Attaturk was trying to make Turkey smaller. At that age, I had only heard of political entities wanting to get bigger or not lose territory (manifest destiny). Of course it would be a sagacious leader who wanted to get his nation the right size with the correct ethnic mix and defensible borders (got a few too many Kurds, though). If the Turks want to recreate the empire, here is one neutralist who wants to say good luck and good bye.

It would be interesting to see a DNA study of Turkey like that found the Irish and British are mostly the same with Basque genetics instead of German and Celt. My guess would be that the Turanian genes are not many and prior populations persist. Thus, their resentment, as imperialists, is at the loss of the Byzantine hegemony or even maybe the Hittite:)