April 18, 2017

"Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome."

"Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014."

Writes Dan Drezner.

87 comments:

LYNNDH said...

Foreign policy concerns may have driven the message. Don't make out that Trump wants to be a dictator because of his message to Erdogan.

AllenS said...

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer

Matthew Sablan said...

Sometimes silence is better.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

Trump Tower Istanbul.

Sebastian said...

"This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin" It is. Erdogan is an ally in NATO, for better or worse, and we will need to work with him in Syria and elsewhere, for better or worse. Erdogan held an actual contested election and appeared to have won it, though Trump might have held off for a few days to allow for extreme vetting the results. Edogan did not occupy foreign territory, unless you count pieces of Kurdistan. I detest the guy as much as anyone, but a phone call is a small price to pay to gain some leverage.

holdfast said...

We're going to need his help in Syria.

Obama did nothing back when it might have been possible to stop Erdogan. Now we're stuck with him.

Oso Negro said...

Erdogan may or may not be what the good people of Turkey need or desire. But he is what they got. That is not the concern of the President of the United States. But a functional relationship with the leader of Turkey IS a proper concern of the President of the United States. To that end, congratulations are entirely in order.

Balfegor said...

Re: Matthew Sablan:

Sometimes silence is better.

Agreed. It's not the worst thing he could have done (i.e. a smug Obama-style lecture about how terribly wicked it was for the Turkish people to vote for such a thing), but he didn't have to encourage our repulsive ally.

BDNYC said...

This criticism doesn't make sense. If Trump had called to congratulate Assad or Kim Jong-un, that would be one thing, but Turkey is a NATO ally and we have bases there. Not congratulating Erdogan could have been received as a pointed insult. How many times did Obama say nice things about Erdogan while he was dismantling Turkish secular democracy? Many times.

Infinite Monkeys said...

Does saying congratulations carry some promise of action in support of Erdogan? Did he bow to him?

CJ said...

Uhh, how about Obama supporting the regime in Iran and abandoning the (small el) liberal "students" that could have made a huge difference in the Middle East right now.

I'll bet Drezner gives Obama a pass on that one, probably because he thinks Obama had ulterior motives or a grander plan. I wonder why he doesn't afford Trump the same deference?

Michael K said...

" Not congratulating Erdogan could have been received as a pointed insult."

I agree although I have no plans to visit Turkey again.

Known Unknown said...

3D chess again.

Wait and see.

BDNYC said...

If Trump had not called Erdogan, many of his critics would be decrying his inexperience and poor grasp of foreign affairs.

John said...

My understanding is that Ergogan, horrible as he may be, won in a reasonably fair election.

Seems to me to be common sense that we congratulate him, as we would any other leader that won an election.

Re Crimea: What was the problem with that election? Most of Crimea is populated by ethnic Russians 67% according to Wikipedia with ethnic Ukrainians 15%. 77% of Crimeans speak Russians as their "native language"

Why should we be surprised they want to be part of Russia, not Ukraine?

So other countries don't vote the way we like, elect leaders that we approve. Isn't that what democracy looks like? Surely folks would not want us meddling in elections of other countries. That would be just wrong.

They picked, we say good for you, holding our nose if need be. Then we work with them.

John Henry

traditionalguy said...

WaPo thinks he should have condemned Erdogan for not winning by a bigger margin. Apparently WaPo really hates Erdogan, for their secret reasons.

dreams said...

Compare to Obama and Kerry giving Iran billions of US dollars and assuring that they would eventually become nuclear capable, a little perspective.

Sebastian said...

"What was the problem with that election?" Military takeover, limited options, for starters. We don't have problems with "countries" not voting the way we like. We do have problems with gross violations of international law.

John Tuffnell said...

This is the kind of result that Tom Friedman must love. A bare majority of voters fundamentally alters the constitution that retards progress and hopeandchange and getting things done to concentrate power into the hands of a leader. It is better to be more like China, right?

Drago said...

3rdGrader: "Trump Tower Istanbul."

More like the US under Trump continues to expand current bases and build new ones in Kurdish areas north of Kobane in Northern Syria and the Turks don't like it one bit, for obvious reasons.

So Trump continues this activity while offering up a "make nice" phone call...which costs nothing.

3rdgrader might think about checking out a map sometime when he isn't busy buying new handkerchiefs for the next #Resist trashing of some McDonalds, Starbucks or Wells Fargo ATM.

Gahrie said...

Am I the only one who remembers Obama and his administration supporting a military coup against a democratically elected government in Honduras?

Drago said...

traditionalguy: "WaPo thinks he should have condemned Erdogan for not winning by a bigger margin. Apparently WaPo really hates Erdogan, for their secret reasons"

It's perfectly okay to hate Erdogan...just as long as you don't let that get in the way of pursuing US national interests.

I apologize to the leftists here who, after reading the words "US national interest", tend to lurch into into fits of apoplexy.

Drago said...

Gahrie: "Am I the only one who remembers Obama and his administration supporting a military coup against a democratically elected government in Honduras?"

No, but at this point the hypocrisy is like a tidal wave and not everything gets pointed out every time.

Plus obambi was dreamy and "hope and change-y".

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Drezner also supported the Iran deal.

Sorry, I can't take someone who worshipped an administration with exactly zero foreign policy successes seriously. Just another partisan hack farting in the wind.

Earnest Prole said...

Trump is discovering that our system places political power with the legislature, and that an American President can accomplish virtually nothing without it. Turkey’s new system, president as neo-emperor, is the system Trump thought he had signed up for -- hence his envy.

Thorley Winston said...

It seems to me that the main purpose of the call was to shore up Turkey’s support for US actions in Syria. In which case President Trump could have either (a) been silent and pretend the referendum didn’t happen, (b) condemn the referendum and by extension person whose help we want/need or (c) make some polite “congratulations on your victory.” None of these is going to change the outcome of the referendum but one of these is probably more likely to get the support of Turkey’s government (at least on the margins). It costs nothing to say "congratulations on your victory Mr. President" and if it makes it more likely we'll have Turkish support against Assad and/or ISIS, it was probably the right decision.

John Tuffnell said...

"Re Crimea: What was the problem with that election? Most of Crimea is populated by ethnic Russians 67% according to Wikipedia with ethnic Ukrainians 15%. 77% of Crimeans speak Russians as their "native language"

Are we OK with Mexico calling for a vote in parts of the SW and demanding we recognize the result? The Crimea situation is more ambiguous given the Soviet Union but granting pockets of ethnic voters the right to rejoin the homeland is trouble.

Nonapod said...

From what little I know about Erdogan, he certainly seems like a sack of filth who is trying to accrue power so he can become an absolute autocrat. But American Presidents have behaved cordially towards horrible dictators and tyrants plenty of times before for various foreign policy reasons. It sucks, but it's not unusual. But because it happens to be Trump doing it everyone loses their minds.

Fernandinande said...

Rag Node = anagram(Erdogan);

gspencer said...

Yeah, I too was surprised by that phone call. Congratulating a dictator* on amassing further power to himself reflects poor judgment on yourself. Hilter, who never won an election personally and whose Nazi party never had a majority, did the same. He weaseled his way to being appointed, not elected, as Chancellor. He systematically through threats and force aggregated more offices, such as the Office of President upon the death of Hindenburg, to himself.


*Erdogan fits that description. Look how he behaved in last summer's coup attempt. 000s arrested. And to add even more Nazi imagery to this comment, I question whether this was a genuine coup attempt. More likely it was a staged Reichstag fire event.

rhhardin said...

It'd a trade deal. Ottomans for iphones.

Fernandinande said...

Nonapod said...
But because it happens to be Trump doing it everyone loses their minds.


I'll be clinically insane until I forget about it, which already happened.

Bob Boyd said...

Hillary called to congratulate Trump.

Meade said...

"Hillary called to congratulate Trump."

Literally Trump.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Maybe the NSA or somebody can leak the transcript of the call, so we can fact-check the WaPo and Sean Spicer.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Obama bowed before leaders when there was no reason to, and doing it made him look weak, submissive and ignorant. Is that worse, or better, than Trump phoning a NATO partner?

Seems worse to me, but the larger point is that those who ignored every downside of Obama's Geopolitics Amateur Hour, while jumping at every chance to criticize Trump and his aggressive, America first strategy, tells me that I don't need to listen to another word that person says about politics.

J. Farmer said...

Thanks to our hamfistedness over the past decade and a half, we have helped push Turkey into this orbit.

First, it is utterly common for people to want an authoritarian figure with a popular vision greater power to unilaterally implement his or her vision. The vote definitely looks to be jerry-rigged, but even the "official" result of 51.4% “yes” to 48.59% no (to the constitutional changes) suggest that there is a sizable portion of Turkey that wishes for Erdogan to have these broad powers.

Second, Turkey has been moving towards a more Islamist position for a number of years now. By far the most secular, and pro-western portion of the country has been the military.

Third, US military interventions in the region in recent years have had significant impact on Turkey. Over 2.5 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey, and Erdogan successfully uses these refugees to blackmail the Europeans (i.e. be conciliatory towards me or I'll flood your country with poor Arabs). The Iraq war helped kicked up Kurdish separatist violence, which Erdogan has exploited; he has, for several years already enjoyed similar powers under a so called state of emergency due to the the threat posed by Kurdish terrorists. The Turks are still worried about the prospects of an independent Kurdistan. And compounding the problem, they are also helping fuel the civil war in Syria by funding and supporting certain favored factions in the fight.

Chuck said...

BDNYC said...
This criticism doesn't make sense. If Trump had called to congratulate Assad or Kim Jong-un, that would be one thing, but Turkey is a NATO ally and we have bases there. Not congratulating Erdogan could have been received as a pointed insult.

But this wasn't the popular election, or re-election, of a new leader, being welcomed to world stage and the community of nations.

This was an internal Turkish constitutional change. A referendum. This would be like Castro calling Obama to congratulate him on passing a national single-payer health plan. It's normal, to call a newly elected leader (in a free and fair election) and congratulate him or her on being elected. It's not normal, to call a leader with "congratulations" on an internal political fight.

I note that the U.S. State Department very carefully steered clear of any notion of any "congratulations" one way or another on this election. Which seems to me instinctively proper and right. Especially so, since there are so many overwhelming concerns about Turkish civil rights these days, and the fundamental propriety of these latest elections.

I presume that the congratulatory call from Trump was a deliberate affront to the judgment of the State Department diplomats. I further presume, that if it is something that Trump does, and if it pisses of Foggy Bottom, it will be something that Trump fans will adore. I know how this game is played, in 2017.

http://washingtonhatti.com/2017/04/17/us-state-dept-issues-statement-on-osce-findings-does-not-congratulate-for-either-side-for-win/

I'm not judging, one way or another. Trump might be right, or he might be wrong in this case. What I do know, is that there is no particular reason for me to presume that Trump is right, based on past pronouncements.


Big Mike said...

Donald Trump will have to deal with Putin and Erdogan for most of the next eight years. Why should he make negotiations with them harder for the sake of a purely symbolic tut-tut? The guy thinks ahead, not like a recent president who is off to Tahiti on a yacht roughly the length of a US destroyer.

khesanh0802 said...

I have to go with Thorley Winston's common sense comment at 10:32. It was a close vote, there were probably some irregularities. (don't we have a Russian Hackers witch hunt going on here?) We need Turkey to be an active participant that will cooperate with us - to a certain degree- in the ME. We should have learned by now that Trump does not try to piss off people he needs to work with - unlike others I might mention.

Drago said...

"lifelong republican" "Tallyrand" Chuck: "I presume that the congratulatory call from Trump was a deliberate affront to the judgment of the State Department diplomats. I further presume, that if it is something that Trump does, and if it pisses of Foggy Bottom, it will be something that Trump fans will adore. I know how this game is played, in 2017."

You clearly do not know how "this game" is played. The fact that you assert boldly that you do only makes it funnier, though in a sad way.

Trump is clearly and unmistakably establishing/maintaining lines of communications with an extraordinarily important player in a key region for US foreign policy at this point. As noted above we continue to expand our bases in Kurdish controlled northern Syria.

What the end game might be we will have to wait and see. But one thing is for sure: some self-styled political "insider" MI lawyer who couldn't even call his own state is in no position to presume anything related to foreign policy.

MayBee said...

Everything with Trump is so over the top awful, I have lost the ability to judge clearly.
I don't know when he's doing something awful and my media cynicism makes me not realize it, or when he's done something normal and the media is just enjoying its own panic.

rcocean said...

I guess Trump is more interested in dealing with reality than in striking poses. The Turkish people have spoken and a majority have supported the current leader.

But of course, Drezner has a problem with that because the Turkish leader is a "populist" (whatever the hell that means) - and Drezner doesn't like "populism". Which is really, really, sad. Really.

Of course, the job of American Foreign policy isn't to run around telling the Turkish people what kind of person to vote as their leader. We support Democracy in general not just Democracy "that we like". Further, the internal affairs of Turkey are the concern of Turkey, not the USA.

rcocean said...

Why is Drezner so worked up about Turkish internal affairs?

Does he live in Turkey? Is he a Turkish Ex-pat?

Is the Turkish leader ...wait for it.... ANOTHER HITLER?

The answer to all of the above is no.

So, as an American, why am I supposed to care?

Bob Boyd said...

"Literally Trump."

It took me a minute.

Chuck said...

No, Drago, that is not the game I am talking about.

It's this game: In 2013, Trump uses his infamous Twitter account to scold the Obama Administration about any notion of a military intervention in Syria. Trump fans love that, because it shows that Trump is for America First and is opposed to foreign military adventures simply because a foreign dictator used poison gas on his own people.

But in 2017, when that same dictator uses the same chemical weapons (weapons that Russia was supposed to police) on his people for a second time, Trump's reaction is a cruise missile attack costing about a hundred million dollars. And now, Trump fans cheer him.

That's the game, Drago. The game of "Whatever Trump Says, Does, or Tweets is Great."

I'm inclined to agree with the 2017 Trump, fwiw. And that is why I always thought the 2013 Trump was foolish, inexperienced, and a lousy judge of foreign policy.

Angel-Dyne said...

Erdogan has been making it clear who and what he is for quite a while now. Very straightforward stuff, no mystery, no surprises. I wonder how many of the people now pearl-clutching about Trump's action have been the same people who were heedlessly cheerleading, all through Erdogan's rise, for admitting an Islamizing Turkey into the EU?

Drago said...

Noted Foreign Policy Expert and Political Insider Chuck: "No, Drago, that is not the game I am talking about."

LOL

You don't know what you are talking about.

Yes, tell us more about what private citizen Trump said many years ago because that's awfully relevant.

About as relevant as you.

Cruising Troll said...

So?

A senior official with the Trump administration said the President did not raise any concerns about the referendum with Erdogan, describing that part of the phone call as a "simple congrats." The call was mainly focused on Syria, the official told CNN.

If we're going to work with Turkey on the Syrian situation, then some simple courtesy is due.

Angel-Dyne said...

Drago: "lifelong republican" "Tallyrand" Chuck:

I think "the Michigan Metternich" would be more nicely alliterative, no?

Drago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drago said...

Angel-Dyne: "I think "the Michigan Metternich" would be more nicely alliterative, no?"

Well, Tallyrand's full name was "Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord".

So we could just call Chuckie "Maurice", but only if he speaks of the pompitous of love

lgv said...

It was a bad analogy because Russia-US relations are not the same as Turkey-US, but Trump should have said nothing. He doesn't need to congratulate Erdogan on the fact that Turkey has just voted for an end to democracy. At the same time, Turkey is an important ally for the time being. It is better to just slow play the eventual end of the alliance.



Owen said...

(1) Meh. Trump says a *lot* of "stuff." Let's see how this evolves.
(2) In particular let's see what Trump asks (and gets) from Erdogan. Deeds, not words.
(3) This indignant critique makes me want to check the history books for the tone of our relationships with Imperial Japan (before it got too feisty in China), that guy in Germany who turned their economy around and built such an impressive infrastructure, that other guy in Italy., ditto.
(4) Trump sends Erdogan a routine congratulation: hysteria ensues. Obama bows to the sheikhs who fund Wahhabi madness, and fist-bumps with Chavez: crickets and even praise.

A nothingburger.

Chuck said...

Drago said...
...
Yes, tell us more about what private citizen Trump said many years ago because that's awfully relevant.


You may be on to something. Private citizen Trump was a profoundly uninformed, unimportant, irrelevant voice in American politics.

Private citizen Trump was the guy who told us that there would be "amazing" things revealed about the Obama birth certificate from Hawaii. Where Trump's supposed private investigators were at work. Private citizen Trump said that the Trump University fraud lawsuit was bogus, and that of course he wouldn't settle it, because it would only invite more lawsuits. Private citizen Trump chastised Obama for not revealing his college records, and said that "absolutely" -- ABSOLUTELY -- he would release his own tax returns if he ever ran for office. Private citizen Trump was pro-choice, before he was pro-life. Private citizen Trump was for an assault weapons ban, before he was against it. Private citizen Trump was for a national health care system and universal coverage under a government-payor plan, before he was against it.

Private citizen Trump was a one-man political disaster area. President Trump, by contrast, might not be completely catastrophic, if he does as his principled Republicans minders tell him.

rhhardin said...

Women have more Erdogan and men have more testosterone.

Yancey Ward said...

The people of Turkey got what they wanted. Sure, it may be one vote, one man, one time- but the Turks have chosen this route for themselves.

Pretty much this entire part of the world has been ruled by despots since the dawn of civilization. I don't think one dollar or drop of blood should ever have been spilled to impose something else. Turkey's past 100 years are just a bit of an aberration (and not much of one at that), so this weekend's result is actually a return to the norm for them.

Given that Turkey is still a key player in the region, I see no reason to actively antagonize them over this since it won't change the result anyway, and can only lead to further and broader civil war.

wwww said...


Trump is the Head of State.

Trump the private citizen didn't congratulate this. The United States of America gave its approval.

Drezner cares deeply about foreign policy. Every morning must be like "what fresh hells" will he see on his news feed.

Gahrie said...

Seriously Chuckles?

Seek help buddy....

Gahrie said...

That's the game, Drago. The game of "Whatever Trump Says, Does, or Tweets is Great."

Wait...I thought you were playing the game of "Whatever Trump Says, Does or tweets is Wrong."

Gahrie said...

I presume that if Trump discovered a cure for cancer, Chuckles would complain about all the doctors being thrown out of work.

If Trump walked on water,, Chuckles would claim it is because Trump thinks he's too good to swim like the rest of us.

John Lynch said...

We need more enemies in the middle east? Pick your fights. Principles must be moderated by outcomes. Turkey can be an undemocratic ally, or an undemocratic enemy. Which is better? If someone has a way to make Turkey friendly and democratic I'd like to see the plan.

We tried congratulating our enemies who were democratically elected. How'd that work out?

Drago said...

"lifelong republican" Chuck: "Private citizen Trump was a profoundly uninformed, unimportant, irrelevant voice in American politics."

What a perfect self-portrait Chuckie paints of himself.

Keep talking about the past Chuck. It's the only environment where you have a ghost of a chance to be "right" about anything, but only well after the fact and after much creative editing of the facts.

Lol

Chuck said...

Gahrie said...
I presume that if Trump discovered a cure for cancer, Chuckles would complain about all the doctors being thrown out of work.

If Trump walked on water,, Chuckles would claim it is because Trump thinks he's too good to swim like the rest of us.


None of those things are a problem. Trump (following instructions from Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society) picked Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, and I congratulated him. I congratulated Trump after the choices of Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo and Scott Gottlieb for their respective cabinet positions. If "personnel is policy" (and when it comes to the Executive Branch, a whole lot of people think so), then Trump has done some good things and I have said so.

Those are all consistent with my principles and positions. I didn't change my views one bit.

Compare TrumpWorld, where they all liked Trump for things like saying that he'd declare China as a "currency manipulator." And then Trump turns around and says he won't do that after all. But the Trumpkins just cheer him all the more, for being a prqagmatic dealmaker.

Trump is like Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles; if you don't like them, I have others."

Ditto his declarations about repealing Obamacare; ordering a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States; NATO being obsolete, and now not so obsolete; being "ashamed" Janet Yellen and now saying that she's doing a very good job; saying that the unemployment numbers under Obama were completely cooked and phony, but the job-growth numbers now are totally legit.

Trump can't even maintain a straight and coherent story on Presidential golf. Trump's playing more golf than Obama did. That wouldn't be so bad, but Trump's problem is twofold; 1) he complained that Obama played too much golf, and wondered if that was all that Obama ever did, and; 2) Trump claimed that if he got to be president, he'd stay in Washington, at the White House, working for the people.

It's complete, utter, 100% bullshit. A used car salesman would be shamed, by the Trump rhetoric.


Drago said...

Poor Chuck. He thinks if he simply adds volume to his meaningless posts no one will notice he is a buffoon.

Oops.

Alas, the best laid plans, eh?

Drago said...

It's not very comfortable watching a fellow poster devolve into a complete psychotic break.

Politeness dictates that we avert our gaze until such time as the episode passes.

Francisco D said...

traditional guy said: "Apparently WaPo really hates Erdogan, for their secret reasons."

That may be true. Erdogan is a despicable character, but a NATO ally.

I think the real issue is that WaPo really hates Trump, for their not-so-secret reasons.

Mike said...

Yes, tell us more about what private citizen Trump said many years ago because that's awfully relevant.

Beautifully rendered sarcasm, Drago. It gives me hope that the genre is not completely dead. This phenomenon, whereby Trump haters purport to read the minds of Trump voters and say what we felt and hoped for in 2013 is a sickness; it further a sign of mental illness to then project upon others how you thinkthey view current events through this half-decade old Twitter prism.

The set of people who care what Trump tweeted or said to others years and tears ago is small, and is itself a subset of people who become obsessed by politics, which is itself a subset of people who give a damn at all about politics, making those who care to compare and contrast citizen Trump to president Trump a astonishingly small sliver of a complex Venn diagram mostly filled with people I never want to hear from. And very much less do I want them to attempt to read my mind because they are invariably wrong about me and any sentient being I have ever met online or IRL.

What is that! The arrogance and hubris of people who cannot even come to grips with their own politics trying to analyze strangers! Thank God irony and sarcasm live on in Althouse Blog!

hombre said...

Of course it was wrong. In the mind of a lefty college professor, the leftmedia and the prog Democrats, the President can do no right and a diplomatic show of courtesy to a powerful world leader is a political statement of monumental proportions.

Ridiculous lefties!

Mike said...

"Maurice", but only if he speaks of the pompitous of love

Steve told us he meant to say "properties" but it came out kinda slurry and sounded good with that take, so....

Drago said...

I've read that Steve was a fan of a British band in the 1950's that used the old English term "pompitous" in one of their songs.

We won't know for sure until Chuck blames Trump for it.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"Women have more Erdogan and men have more testosterone."

But vasopressin makes it work.

Chuck said...

Mike said...
...
What is that! The arrogance and hubris of people who cannot even come to grips with their own politics trying to analyze strangers! Thank God irony and sarcasm live on in Althouse Blog!

Can I please have a nickel, for every time that a Trump supporter has presumed me to be a "lefty," a Hillary supporter, a Democrat, an Obama voter, or a paid operative from the left wing, on the pages of the Althouse comments?

Drago said...

"lifelong republican" Chuck retreats to familiar Red Herring territory!

Unexpectedly.

Mike said...

What is that!

Gahrie said...

Can I please have a nickel, for every time that a Trump supporter has presumed me to be a "lefty," a Hillary supporter, a Democrat, an Obama voter, or a paid operative from the left wing, on the pages of the Althouse comments?

If it walks like a duck......


Jack Wayne said...

I ran across Dan Drezner years ago courtesy of a link from Instapundit. After a year I dropped him. He has a rather pedestrian view of history. In common with most American professors of history. Maybe it's all the years spent on a PHd, trampling over the same ground as a thousand others?

Drago said...

Mike: "What is that!"

That is Chuck using some rhetorical sleight of hand to give the impression that you asserted something that you did not.

J. Farmer said...

Daniel Larison's response to Drezner in The American Conservative:

I agree that Trump shouldn’t have congratulated Erdogan. For one thing, the extensive irregularities in the referendum strongly suggest that the outcome was rigged from the start and shouldn’t be treated as a legitimate result. Even if the constitutional changes weren’t a fairly naked power-grab by the president and his party, the irregularities in the voting would merit criticism rather than praise. Having said that, I’m not so sure that this is as much of a break with the last few presidents as Drezner suggests.

Most recently, the Obama administration went out of its way to legitimize the 2013 military coup in Egypt. They refused to call the coup what it was, because acknowledging that it was a coup would oblige them to suspend military aid. Then-Secretary of State Kerry even said that the coup was “restoring democracy.” That was laughable on its face, and it signaled that there would be no serious consequences for overthrowing Egypt’s elected president. If Trump were looking for a model for approving of a power-grab by a strongman, he wouldn’t have to look very far back into the past to find one. When the same coup government brutally put down a protest and killed over a thousand people, the Obama administration briefly froze some aid, but it wasn’t long before that was lifted and things went back to the old status quo.

When Yeltsin tried to consolidate power and even ordered the shelling of his country’s parliament to quash resistance to his rule, he had the full and public backing of the Clinton administration. Clinton justified this by saying, “The US supported Yeltsin because he is Russia’s democratically-elected leader.” This is one of the more egregious examples of how leaders in Washington will get behind a country’s “democratic” leader and then make excuses for whatever he does once in power, but it is hardly the only one. The Bush administration promoted Georgia’s Saakashvili as a reforming democratic leader and would-be client, and they did this despite extensive evidence that Saakashvili and his allies were abusing their power and becoming increasingly authoritarian. Once certain leaders win the confidence of our presidents, they tend to be able to do what they like with Washington’s blessing. These are not the only examples, but these are the ones that most readily come to mind.

The point here is not that the errors of previous presidents excuse Trump’s bad decision, but that other post-Cold War presidents have supported similar or worse power-grabs and abuses by semi-authoritarian and authoritarian leaders. Trump may be more enthusiastic in his embrace of dictators and despots than the average president, but in siding with such leaders against their domestic opposition he is unfortunately not so different from his predecessors.

MaxedOutMama said...

Well, the reality is that the US is more dependent than ever on that NATO airbase at Incirlik. And Erdogan knows it and is holding it as a bargaining point:
http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/01/04/turkey-hints-shuttering-incirlik-us-air-operations.html

So I think a bit of Realpolitik is necessary here, as long as Turkey is not threatening us. It was a democratic referendum. Whether it was totally fair and aboveboard or not is out of our hands, but it appears as if the Turkish courts will endorse it. Trump has two choices - either take the stand that the election was flawed (when it very well may not be), and that the US does not really consider the result legitimate, thus infuriating at least half the Turkish people, or to accept it and move on as long as we have a basis for cooperation.

We used to be less dependent on that base, but now, having lost our bases in Saudi Arabia, we will be up Shit Creek without a paddle if we lose it.

Also, don't forget that Trump just rubbed Erdogan's nose in some unpleasant stuff with the strike in Afghanistan and the Syrian strike.

Turkey (aka Erdogan) badly wants a stretch of northern Syria and a hunk of northern Iraq, including Mosul. The US is standing in the way of that, and apparently Trump intends to continue doing so. He has to give something. He must concede something to Erdogan.

The pie-eyed human-rights-and-flowers Aussenpolitik of the Obama administration mortally hurt our alliances and tactical position around the world. We have to cobble something back together if we really want to knock down ISIS (or at least control the spread) and put out a few global fires.

J. Farmer said...

@MaxedOutMama:

Well, the reality is that the US is more dependent than ever on that NATO airbase at Incirlik. And Erdogan knows it and is holding it as a bargaining point:

I don't think that is "the reality" at all, and in fact I think it is one of the all too many unquestioned assumptions that go into discussions of American military projection. We are not in any significant way "dependent" on any bases in Turkey. The US could end all military operations in the greater middle east, from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to Libya, and the US would suffer no appreciable change in security. If anything, it'd probably be a net security benefit.

The US has become totally obsessed with "terrorism" in the post-9/11 world and ever since has devoted way too much strategic and tactical energy towards that problem. Terrorism is a weapon of the weak. The Taliban, ISIS, Hezbollah, etc. are bush league, little gnats that pose next to no serious threat to a continental superpower like the United States. Turkey, on the other hand, is a major regional power. Turkey is much more active and instrumental in the region than, say, Iran, another country whose threat is hysterically overhyped.

Turkey is the classic fulcrum between the occident and the orient. It is a country caught at the crossroads of Latin Christendom, Orthodoxy, and Islam. Internally it reflects these same divisions, between a populace centered in big urban areas like Ankara, Izmir, and Istanbul that is largely secular and pro-western and that part of the population that sees western liberal values as incompatible with Islam and thus prefer an Islamist state.

Turkey is also have extreme strategic importance to Russia. The Turkish Straits are the only means Russia has of moving its fleet from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Turkey loves tense relations between the US and Russia, because it knows it can play one against the other. And Turkey is probably the single most significant outside agitator to the Syrian Civil War. They have supported rebel forces from the very start, and the Free Syrian Army was essentially trained and created by Turkish intelligence on Turkish soil. There are probably something like 10,000 Turkish soldiers in Syria right now.

It's actually pretty laughable when you compare the relative coverage Turkey has gotten compared to Iran. To listen to the US punditry, you'd think Iran was something dangerous power on the verge of plunging us into global chaos. When in reality, it's a poor weak country with an underfunded and under equipped military not capable of significant power projection outside its borders. It is surrounded by adversarial powers with much more powerful militaries. It's only significant allies in the region are Assad, president of a fractured failed state, and Hezbollah and Hamas, two organizations whose activities are almost exclusively confined to a few dozen miles of the levant.

Meanwhile, Turkey, a NATO ally and potential EU member, and Saudi Arabia, our bosom body and regional hegemony, are stoking violence and war in Syrian and training and arming radical salafist jihadis, are carrying out a brutal useless war in Yemen, and are coopting forces like ISIL and Al Qaeda (remember them?) to attack their enemies abroad.

What the US should do is work with Russia to help support Syrian state forces, and we should put pressure on Turkey and the GCC to stop supporting the rebels. But let me repeat: we can shut down every military installation we have in the middle east and bring every troop home, and America's global strategic position would not be shifted one iota. Tightening our border and beefing up domestic security is more than sufficient to protect ourselves from another 9/11 attack.

Michael K said...

The US could end all military operations in the greater middle east, from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to Libya, and the US would suffer no appreciable change in security. If anything, it'd probably be a net security benefit.

That certainly is one theory, seen most at "The American Conservative."

I'm open to consider it. Being wrong, as Clinton was in the 1990s, is expensive.

I would prefer that we had left Afghanistan as a Special Forces theater where they could keep an overwatch and call in B 52s when the bad guys got too cocky.

It is going to be hellish when we have to evacuate Afghanistan now that Obama has filled it with US troops, killing three times the total under Bush. He changed the ROE to emphasize global warming or something.

Iraq, once invaded and surged, could have been kept on the rails with a smaller US force. Obama chose to abandon it creating a number of crises, including the Iran gambit.

Leaving the entire Middle East would be a gamble. Not unthinkable but a gamble.

I would actually prefer to turn Pakistan into a radioactive parking lot but that is just me.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

I'm open to consider it. Being wrong, as Clinton was in the 1990s, is expensive.

Clinton did fail, but he actually began the sledgehammer approach that the United States has been using to address this problem for nearly 30 years. In response to the embassy attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the Clinton administration relied on bombing a useless factory in Sudan. He also implemented the targeted assassination campaign against bin Laden. But even if Clinton had killed bin Laden in the late 1990s, that does not mean 9/11 would not have happened. People like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who thought up the plan in the first place, were much more responsible for its actual implementation. Bin Laden did give some operational direction, but that's because he was mostly the money man.

I would prefer that we had left Afghanistan as a Special Forces theater where they could keep an overwatch and call in B 52s when the bad guys got too cocky.

Bush's global war on terror campaign went off the rails the moment he decided to destroy the Taliban. In the wake of 9/11, the US could have easily launched punitive military strikes against the Afghan government while still concentrating its efforts against the Al Qaeda fighters in the eastern portion of the country. The so called "training camps" in Afghanistan were never of much significant value. Within just a few weeks, the US went from fighting Al Qaeda, a small radical group with perhaps a few dozen figures, to fighting "the Taliban." Nation-building in Afghanistan does not protect us from 9/11-style terror attacks, and attempting to do so is a stupid waste of resources.

It is going to be hellish when we have to evacuate Afghanistan now that Obama has filled it with US troops, killing three times the total under Bush. He changed the ROE to emphasize global warming or something.

Obama did escalate the war to its height of around 100,000 troops. There are still about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a bilateral security agreement the US signed with Afghanistan, which is also why the ROE changed. NATO also has a separate SOFA. This is the so called "residual force" everyone thought would keep Iraq together. The Afghan government wants foreign military assistance because it knows it has tenuous power over the country and is threatened by taliban insurgents, who still control sizable portions of the country. In fact, in places like Helmut province, the Taliban's position has been strengthen post-2001.

J. Farmer said...

Iraq, once invaded and surged, could have been kept on the rails with a smaller US force. Obama chose to abandon it creating a number of crises, including the Iran gambit.

No need to rehash this argument, but as you know I consider it a fiction. "Bush won the war with the surge, and then Obama threw it all away because he hates America." Or something like that. In fact, the surge was effective because it was able to co-opt important changes on the ground. For one, most of the ethnically mixed neighborhoods of central Baghdad had been ethnically cleansed, and sectarian tensions were eased. Second, and most importantly, the Sunni Iraqs in the western provinces turned against the insurgency and opted instead to seek a political solution. That the insurgency lost popular support is what doomed it, not the addition of a few thousand more troops. When political reconciliation failed, and the Sunni Iraqis realized that the Shia had no real interest in giving them a voice in governance, grievances grew and tensions simmered. Once Syria fell apart, with the acquiescence and support of the US and our Gulf Arab allies, western Iraq again became a breeding ground for violent jihadis. Plus, unlike Afghanistan, the Iraqi government did not see foreign forces as a means of self-preservation but rather has an obstacle towards achieving their ends. The Bush administration could not negotiate a successful SOFA with the Iraqi government, because the Iraqis insisted on having Americans soldiers accused of crimes in Iraq tried by the Iraqi judicial system. There was broad opposition among the Iraqi public to granting immunity to US soldiers, as is often customary in many SOFAs. And even if the Obama administration had managed to negotiate a successful SOFA, a few thousand residual troops in Iraq would not have been able to prevent the Syrian Civil War, which is the most proximate cause for the rise of ISIS.

Leaving the entire Middle East would be a gamble. Not unthinkable but a gamble.

Removing troops and military bases is not "leaving the entire Middle East." And our navy would still give us a relatively rapid way of projecting force if the situation needed it. Western powers have been attempting to underwrite the political legitimacy of middle eastern borders for nearly a hundred years. The strategy has been a total failure. Sayyid Qutb, the founder of modern political Islamism, was absolutely correct in his assessment of the problem (though I think he was totally wrong on the remedies). But Qutb correctly recognized that the elites of the middle east were in cahoots with western powers in a kind of corrupt bargain. Our entire strategic posture in the region for the past century has been built on supporting autocratic leaders who will keep a lid on populist sentiments.

I would actually prefer to turn Pakistan into a radioactive parking lot but that is just me.

Just out of curiosity, do you consider yourself "pro-life?" Pakistan has nearly 200 million people. Now, I'm an atheist, and I think when you die you become worm food, and yet I'm taken aback at how casually you can wish for mass death of people whose lives you know nothing about.

John said...

John Tufnel said:

Are we OK with Mexico calling for a vote in parts of the SW and demanding we recognize the result? The Crimea situation is more ambiguous given the Soviet Union but granting pockets of ethnic voters the right to rejoin the homeland is trouble.

If the people of California decide to secede, it seems that most people are OK with that. It was not OK in the 1860s and we fought a massive war between our states to prevent secession but I hear very few people taking exception to talk of California seceding.

What say you, John? Are you OK with CA seceding?

If they secede, they will be independent and if they want to give up their independence to become part of Mexico, it is up to them.

Would it much matter where the impetus for secession came from? Internal CA politics or Mexico whispering sweet nothings into Californian ears?

Nope. As far as I am concerned both California and Crimea have the right to democratic self-determination.

John Henry

John Henry

Jon Burack said...

I notice this: "I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated. . ."

This is why I read no further. I find Erdogan repulsive and the vote tragic - the end of the one Muslim land that for a time held democratic promise. But this line makes me ask of the writer, you want me to believe this congratulations is a big deal but you really have no idea whether it is or not. Scraping the bottom of the barrel to find reasons to say Trump is different.

Jon Burack said...

J. Farmer. I don't agree with everything you say, but I do agree re Pakistan. As an aside, however, I am fascinated that you felt it added to the point to tell us all you are atheist. Be interesting to dig into that.