Turkey’s Islamist President and would-be-dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently ordered Turkish troops to surround the Incirlik Air Base, where the U.S. has air forces currently engaged in operations against the Islamic State, and where NATO (of which Turkey is a member) has nuclear weapons.
This is the second time Turkey, since the attempted coup in July, has interfered with U.S. operations at Incirlik. In response to the involvement in the attempted coup of several Turkish aircraft from Incirlik, the Turks cut off the power supply to the entire base for almost a week. Since the attempted coup only lasted for a few days, the length of time the base went without power here seems excessive.
The Turkish government has also blamed the U.S. for supporting the attempted coup, and even filed a criminal complaint against three senior U.S. military officials for conspiring with the plotters behind it.
Why is President Erdogan behaving so aggressively towards the U.S.? The move is almost certainly motivated by Erdogan’s desire to pressure the U.S. regarding Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish President has demanded that the U.S. extradite Gulen, a Turkish Islamist whose Gulen Movement was originally allied with Erdogan but now is a rival of Erdogan’s party. Erdogan claims that Gulen was behind the attempted coup. Erdogan has also threatened that it would be “big mistake” if the U.S. does not extradite Gulen.
But more importantly, how does a tin-pot dictator such as Erdogan develop the “cojones” to threaten the world’s greatest superpower? Easy – he knows Barack Obama still has half a year as President, and Obama has made a career of bowing and scraping before lesser powers. Both
When a U.S. President shows weakness, as President Obama most prominently did in Syria, other powers inevitably seek to take advantage of it. In 2012, President Obama surprised even members of his own Administration by drawing a “red line” if the Syrian regime moved around or utilized chemical weapons against its own people. When the Syrian dictator used them again, however, President Obama hemmed and hawed before eventually choosing not to punish him. Instead, his Administration agreed to a face saving “agreement” with Russia that would supposedly remove all the chemical weapons from the Assad regime’s hands. It did no such thing, as Syria continued to use chemical weapons. Russia, observing the President’s feebleness, then took advantage of it by sending the Russian military into Syria to directly prop up Assad.
This was a colossal mistake, as even many of the President’s most prominent supporters have agreed. This includes Obama’s three former Secretaries of Defense, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel, his Vice President, Joe Biden, and his former Secretary of State and would be successor, Hillary Clinton.
Of course, President Obama doesn’t see it that way. In his mind, Syria was a great success. Jeffrey Goldberg reports in The Atlantic:
“I’m very proud of this moment,” he told me. “The overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom and the machinery of our national-security apparatus had gone fairly far. The perception was that my credibility was at stake, that America’s credibility was at stake. And so for me to press the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically. And the fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest, not only with respect to Syria but also with respect to our democracy, was as tough a decision as I’ve made—and I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make.”
So, you see, President Obama is actually the brave President who stood up to the Washington foreign policy establishment by saying no to the red line that, he, himself, had drawn! And it was a tough decision, which he knew would cost him politically, because, you know, going to war in the Middle East is always so popular!
This rationalization would be amusing, if it was not so dangerous to the safety and security of the U.S. and its allies.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, many aggressor nations have followed the lead of the Russians. Iran has been particularly hostile, after the President’s “great success” with his “fictional nuclear agreement” with the Iranian regime. Likewise, Turkey has followed suit.
All of this reminds me of a scene from the movie “Back to the Future.” A character in the movie, named George McFly, is walking through the halls of his high school, with a “kick me” sign pasted on his back. George, who is clearly held in low regard by his school mates, is repeatedly kicked in his posterior. His only response – to call them immature. Needless to say, it doesn’t stop the kicks.
In our world today, President Obama, and the U.S., under his leadership, is George McFly. And as demonstrated in “Back to the Future,” President Obama lecturing and/or insulting those kicking our national posterior, be they Turkey, Russia, and Iran, will not stop the kicks. (Then again, it is preferable to paying them ransom.)
The bullies of the world don’t respect or fear the U.S. anymore. These are dangerous times, indeed.