"Democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination."
— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Can we trust Turkey? That is the question NATO should be asking itself. There are reasons the West should be suspicious of the former Ottoman Empire. The Erdogan administration of Turkey is surely not acting like a democratic ally.
First of all, the government has slowly and successfully rolled back freedoms Western democracies cherish, such as freedom of the people to assemble and peacefully protest.
Recently, May Day protests in Istanbul turned violent as the government used water cannon and other non-lethal force to dispel thousands of protesters intending to gather in large numbers and demonstrate against the regime; over 100 protesters were arrested. This was the first use of a new law giving the government the ability to crack down on demonstrations “creating chaos.”
President Erdogan has increasingly been acting like a dictator consolidating power. He has for years been carefully cultivating his base and his ability to stamp out the opposition. The press is no longer free in Turkey. Erdogan now frequently arrests journalists he doesn’t like.
Erdogan has been playing the long game and now the Turkish people wake up to an authoritarian strongman in power. Democracy in Turkey no longer exists.
In addition to not holding Western democratic values in high esteem, Erdogan is an Islamist, with all the negative baggage that term brings. In fact, Turkey has refused to aggressively fight the Islamic State in Iraq, alongside the United States and its other NATO allies. It seems that the Turkish government prefers to allow ISIS to destroy the Kurdish population in Iraq and Syria, rather than reign in the Sunni terrorist group.
The fact that Turkey sees the Kurds as much more of a threat than ISIS practicing genocide is an especially troubling development. There are also reports of Turkey turning a blind eye to terrorists entering Syria through the Turkish border. It seems Islamic State fighters have also been treated in Turkish hospitals, only later to return to the battlefield.
Under Erdogan, Islamic education has made a significant comeback in Turkey as the government converts many secular schools, even in the face of strong public opposition. There have long been accusations that Erdogan’s government harbored a secret desire to bring Shariah law to Turkey. Now that this is happening, Europeans no longer see this as “chicken little” crying the sky is falling.
So the question remains, Why is Turkey still a part of NATO? Can NATO trust a dictatorial government with its secrets? Its strategy? Can NATO trust Turkey to defend the alliance against attacks from other Islamic entities such as Iran, a future Islamic hegemon in the Middle East?
Turkey guards NATO’s southern flank. I am sure there are all kinds of calculations among the allies regarding holding their nose at Turkey’s authoritarian and theological tendencies. Perhaps the Western powers think that it is worth ignoring Turkey’s indiscretions in order to keep Turkey’s formidable military close to the vest.
The problem is that this tactic undermines the moral authority of the West against ISIS and other “bad guys.” Being a friend to an expedient dictator is one thing, such as Egypt. However, having an Islamic strongman inside NATO’s secret corridors is quite another.
L. Todd Wood is a former USAF special operations helicopter pilot. He flew for the 20th Special Operations Squadron and supported SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force in counterterrorism missions. His first novel, “Currency," deals with the geopolitical consequences of overwhelming sovereign debt. Wood writes for The New York Post, Fox Business, The Moscow Times, Breitbart, National Review, the Washington Times, and Zero Hedge. He splits his time between New York and Moscow. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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