Last Saturday elements of the Turkish military, intent on removing President Recep Erdogan from power, staged an attempted coup. It failed primarily because, for the first time in a long list of Turkish coups, the military failed to act as a unified body.
President Barack Obama called upon people to resist the attempted coup and to support the “democratically elected” government of Mr. Erdogan. Mr. Obama’s decision will continue an unbroken line of mistakes and missteps on both the foreign and domestic fronts.
First, let’s understand that Turkey is far from a model democratic government. Mr. Erdogan is just the latest in a long line of democratically installed Turkish governments that almost immediately engage in corruption and repression until the military stages a coup and throws them out. While it appears that Mr. Erdogan enjoys popular support in Turkey so did now deceased President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It did not prevent Mr. Chavez from engaging in a systematic repression of dissent – including imprisonment and execution of his opponents – and it has not prevented Mr. Erdogan from doing likewise.
Mr. Erdogan is an Islamist and a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was previously stripped of his office and sentenced to prison for, among other things, promoting religious intolerance – he demanded an Islamic government. Since his return to power in 2003 Mr. Erdogan, like former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, has engaged in a consolidation of power in the executive. Both used the same methods of purging the military of career officers and arresting and prosecuting members of the courts. Mr. Erdogan allied himself with Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and condemned the Egyptian military for ousting Mr. Morsi and banning the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Obama likewise condemned the Egyptian military coup despite the fact that Egypt’s military force under both Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak had resisted Islamic tyranny and provided stability in the Middle East – particularly in relationship to our historic ally Israel.
The ill-fated coup has now given Mr. Erdogan a license to increase the repression and basically emasculate and silence the last secular institution in Turkey – the military – and conclude the conversion of Turkey to an Islamist government. Already the recriminations are under way. Some 6,000 police and civilians have already been detained, nearly 8,000 members of the military are under arrest and most believe that this is just the start and that it will grow to include members of the judiciary and political opponents in the national assembly and local governments. Executions will commence soon.
In response to Mr. Obama’s condemnation of the coup and his demand that people support the Turkish government, Mr. Erdogan has harshly criticized the United States government and demanded that Mr. Obama turn over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric, who has been in self-imposed exile in America since 1999. It is widely assumed that Mr. Gulen will be executed if he is returned to Turkey under Mr. Erdogan’s regime. And Mr. Obama is likely to do so as he seeks to appease yet another Islamist oppressor.
This will end poorly.
On an international basis Mr. Obama (along with Secretary Hillary Clinton) has failed in the “reset” with Russia – even after his elitist dismissal of Gov. Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia was a chief geopolitical threat. He (along with Ms. Clinton) failed in drawing a “red line” against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. He (along with Ms. Clinton) failed in the withdrawal of troops from Iraq resulting in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He (along with Ms. Clinton) failed in supporting the ouster of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi turning Libya into a “hell hole” of violence resulting in the attack by Islamic terrorists on our Benghazi embassy and the loss of four American lives. His vaunted “nuclear deal” with Iran has resulted in one continuous violation by Iran after another including evidence that Iran is still seeking equipment with which to produce weapons grade nuclear material. He has interfered in Israel’s Knesset election in a failed attempt to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He supported Egypt’s Islamist Mohammed Morsi and denounced his successor Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
As a result our friends no longer trust us. At any given moment, Mr. Obama may renege on a commitment, engage an enemy at the expense of a friend, and insult an ally. Conversely, our enemies no longer fear or respect us. Every despot in the world from the marginally insane Kim Jong Un of North Korea to the hate-filled Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran feels free to thumb their noses at Mr. Obama and the United States secure in the knowledge that nothing will happen with the exception of yet another concession by an administration desperate to claim a success – any success. Even at the price of further endangering peace and stability.
Mr. Obama is just another rigid ideologue. He has let ideology trump intelligence and critical thinking. His reaction to every crisis is formulaic: America is too powerful, white people repress people of color; the rich prey on the poor, government is the answer to every problem, government failure is caused by inadequate funding, and guns rather than criminals are responsible for violent crime. Every action and reaction is predictable – not just by us, but by the rest of the world. And while leaders of other nations adopt somber faces when Mr. Obama speaks, privately they laugh aloud behind his back.
Turkey will be yet another failed policy and, unfortunately with six months left in his term, it won’t be his last.