Getting insulted in world affairs may be childish, but sometimes, perceptions really do matter.
With President Trump’s congratulatory message for his very narrow and suspicious referendum victory in his pocket, Erdogan has just finished two straight days of bombing the U.S.’s Kurdish allies in Iraq and Syria. Erdogan’s bombs missed U.S. troops by a full six miles. Now, did the American superpower, with its “America First” leader just shy of 100 days in office, just get slapped down or did it just get slapped down…by the now fully in command “Turkey First” leader?
Of course, in international affairs we should all be cautious and thoughtful; it’s not about pride or other such childish emotions. But a couple serious questions do follow from Erdogan’s behavior, which is considerably more bellicose than “North Korea First” Kim’s remarks (mere remarks; no bombs in the neighborhood) about what he might do to a certain U.S. aircraft carrier.
One question concerns the Islamic State, a terror operation that the U.S. has been trying for a couple years to defeat, going all the way back to the battle of Kobani, when Erdogan gave the very strong public appearance of being an ISIS supporter. (And note that, whether or not Erdogan actually does support ISIS, his attack on U.S. allies within sight of hapless U.S. troops (!) does not exactly enhance the U.S. military position on the battlefield.) But more seriously, if Washington allows Ankara to kill soldiers allied with the U.S. while U.S. soldiers are watching from the sidelines, who in the future is likely to put their lives on the line alongside the U.S.?
A second question concerns Putin, another “My Country First” sorta guy. Will Washington’s humiliation by Ankara make Putin take Trump seriously as a negotiating partner whose voice needs to be listened to concerning world affairs?
A third question gets us back to the young Mr. Kim, whom decision-makers on the Potomac sometimes underestimate. I will just take a stab in the dark and make the assumption that someone has brought Erdogan’s shock and awe to Mr. Kim’s attention. Will Mr. Kim now decide to take Washington more seriously?
No further questions…but would someone please tweet me some answers?