Turkey: Obama’s Latest Gaff

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Son, Keep Your Eye on the Ball
– Fathers to sons everywhere

While the presidential campaign rages on between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and businessman Donald Trump (R), critical focus is off President Barack Obama (D). And yet Mr. Obama continues a nearly unbroken string of international mistakes, misunderstanding and betrayals. The latest comes in the form of Turkey and Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

In a July column immediately following the failed coup d’etat in Turkey, I wrote:

“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.”

The reasons for that warning are growing increasingly self-evident. First, in the immediate aftermath of the coup Mr. Erdogan’s government announced the arrest of nearly 6,000 police and 8,000 military and civilian leaders. Had the coup attempt actually involved 14,000 people it would have succeeded without question. The people arrested were and are primarily Mr. Erdogan’s political opponents or members of groups opposing Mr. Erdogan and his repressive regime.

Then last week, Mr. Erdogan’s government announced that it had freed 38,000 prisoners – not the political prisoners that were previously seized but rather common criminals in order to make room for Mr. Erdogan’s political prisoners. Obviously the recriminations are not over and Mr. Erdogan is intent on punishing anybody and everybody that may have looked cross-eyed at him during his sixty-two years on earth.

All of that makes Mr. Erdogan not the pillar of secular governance in the Muslim Middle East (a view championed by Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton and echoed by their apologists in the mainstream media), but rather just another Middle East despot intent on eliminating dissent. Cruelty, depravation and death await those who disagree with Mr. Erdogan as he transforms a once promising secular democracy into another dictatorship wrapped in a gown of phony elections.

But that isn’t the end of it. In the past several days there have been stories covering a bold “lightening” strike by Turkish forces against ISIS in the area surrounding Manbij in northeast Syria. US forces were supposed to be involved in a joint operation with Turkish forces in this push into Syria but Turkey launched the attack without notice or concurrence while Mr. Obama dithered over the plan. And for good reason. The incursion by Mr. Erdogan’s ground forces was simply a prelude to a pivot against Kurdish forces encamped near the Turkish border.

The Kurdish forces have proven to be the only continuously effective indigenous fighting force against ISIS in the region. Presumably, we are allied with the Kurdish forces albeit the half measures of support by the Obama administration belie that expectation. On the other hand Turkey has been engaged in conflict with Kurdish tribes for decades (if not centuries) regarding tribal autonomy.

Mr. Erdogan was well aware of the feckless nature of Mr. Obama’s resolve on any issue involving conflict and that he could move without fear of retribution against the Kurds. The Kurds likewise are aware of Mr. Obama’s nature and realize that they cannot trust him to intervene. The result will be a heightened state of conflict between Turkey and Kurdish forces that will distract from the attention necessary to combat ISIS. But on a larger scale, it will reinforce for all parties involved in the Middle East that impression that they cannot trust Mr. Obama and need not fear warnings by Mr. Obama.

So disingenuous is Mr. Obama’s response that there is a strong likelihood that he will succumb to pressure from Mr. Erdogan and turn over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric, who has been in self-imposed exile in America since 1999, which will result in his almost certain execution by Mr. Erdogan.

When the history of the Obama years is finally written (by others than sycophants) it will not be kind. It will acknowledge the uniqueness of being the first African American president but will thereafter condemn his “transformational presidency” as resulting only in a willingness to ignore the Constitution and the collaborative system between the President and Congress envisioned by the founders, as well as his degradation of our standing in the international community from leadership to perfidiousness.

In the meantime, there are still five months to go in Mr. Obama’s presidency and someone needs to keep an eye on him.