Turkish Delight

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The February 15 Christian Science Monitor describes a situation which, to anyone familiar with American-Turkish relations in the post-World War II period, is almost beyond imagining: an American attack on Turkey. According to the Monitor’s story,

The year is 2007. After a clash with Turkish forces in northern Iraq, US troops stage a surprise attack. Reeling, Turkey turns to Russia and the European Union, who turn back the American onslaught.

This is the plot of "Metal Storm," one of the fastest-selling books in Turkish history. The book is clearly sold as fiction, but its premise has entered Turkey’s public discourse in a way that sometimes seems to blur the line between fantasy and reality.

"The Foreign Ministry and General Staff are reading it keenly," Murat Yetkin, a columnist for the Turkish daily newspaper Radikal, recently wrote. "All cabinet members also have it."

Here we see in dramatic fashion America’s loss of the "Global War on Terrorism" at the moral level. By invading and occupying Iraq, a country that posed no threat to us, and threatening to do the same to other countries around the world, we have made America into a monster — even in Turkey, the country that has been our closest Islamic ally since the onset of the Cold War. So dramatically has America managed to reverse its post-9/11 moral ascendancy that not only can Turks imagine us attacking Turkey, they see Russia coming to their rescue! Russia has been Turkey’s number one enemy for centuries.

It seems America has managed to bring about what historians call a "diplomatic revolution," a fundamental shift in alliances, by encouraging everyone else, ancient enemies included, to ally against herself. The Monitor goes on to report that

Egemen Bagis, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and chairman of the Turkey-US friendship caucus in parliament, says the unpopular war in neighboring Iraq continues to fuel anti-American feelings.

"This public feeling, this public tension, is not any different from what is happening in other European countries or other Middle Eastern countries," Mr. Bagis says.

The Bush administration, one of whose ‘droids reportedly recently said that "we make up our own reality," will take comfort in the fact that Turkey’s government, like governments elsewhere, remains our humble and obliging servant. To observers who seek rather than shun reality, that is cold comfort. In today’s world, public opinion is strategically more important, not less important, than the attitudes of governments. It is one of the many ironies in the jumble of contradictions that make up this administration’s policies that the democracy it promotes would quickly worsen, not better, America’s diplomatic position. We can bully or buy elites much more easily than we can do the same to world opinion.

The Monitor quotes an American diplomat, speaking of the situation in Turkey post-Metal Storm, saying "We’re really pulling our hair out trying to figure how to deal with this." That unhappy diplomat now knows how it felt to work in the German Foreign Office before both World Wars. The task he faces goes beyond what diplomacy can hope to accomplish. So long as a powerful country is on the grand strategic offensive, demanding that everyone else in the world bow to its wishes and adopt its ideology or be subject to attack (Wilhelmine Germany did not actually go that far, though America’s neo-cons now do), it will push everyone else into coalition against it. Just as Bismarck’s successor Holstein could not imagine an alliance between republican France and Tsarist Russia, and watched it happen nonetheless, Metal Storm now portrays an equally unimaginable alliance between Turkey and Russia. Will that too come to pass? An American attack on another Middle Eastern country, which I think likely, may bring about many unimaginable alliances.

Russell Kirk, the grand old man of the post-war American conservative movement, put it best:

There is one sure way of making a deadly enemy, and that is to propose to anybody, "Submit yourself to me, and I will improve your condition by relieving you from the burden of your own image and by reconstituting your substance in my image."

Not only will that make an enemy of anybody, it will make an enemy of everybody.

William Lind [send him mail] is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity.

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