Merkel fill­ing U.S. void in Tur­key

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - His­tory Lessons Guest colum­nist

Late last month, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel of Ger­many and Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan of Tur­key held dis­cus­sions in Ber­lin.

Com­mand of two of the most ef­fec­tive mil­i­taries in Europe and the world is one rea­son this mini-sum­mit has max­i­mum im­por­tance. The two na­tions were al­lies un­til af­ter World War I.

Skill­ful non-mil­i­tary Merkel dis­played courage and ef­fec­tive­ness in the dis­cus­sions, un­in­ten­tion­ally aided by au­to­crat Er­do­gan. She re­minded him pub­licly of hu­man rights abuses in Tur­key, the proper stance.

Tur­key re­mains an im­por­tant mil­i­tary ally. Ear­lier this year, the United States mil­i­tary put com­bat op­er­a­tions in east­ern Syria di­rected against ISIS (the Is­lamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) on hold. This was in re­sponse to Tur­key mov­ing di­rectly against Kurd sep­a­ratists op­er­at­ing in the same area.

Tur­key sev­eral years ago shifted to par­tic­i­pate much more ag­gres­sively in the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion fight­ing ISIS. Their mil­i­tary be­gan to strike the en­emy di­rectly and per­mit the U.S.-led coali­tion to use air bases in Tur­key.

In July 2015, an emer­gency North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NATO) meet­ing con­vened in Brus­sels, at Tur­key’s re­quest. The gov­ern­ment in Ankara was con­cerned about ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents in­volv­ing ISIS and Turk­ish sep­a­ratists.

Al­lies have urged res­traint in Tur­key’s at­tacks on the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK). His­tor­i­cally, the Turk­ish Kurd pop­u­la­tion has con­tained strong sep­a­ratist el­e­ments. The banned PKK is an ex­treme fac­tion.

The Brus­sels meet­ing con­firmed NATO sol­i­dar­ity and Tur­key’s im­por­tant role. This mil­i­tary di­men­sion should be paramount re­gard­ing this al­liance’s part­ners.

Within Tur­key, since the turn of the cen­tury, the Is­lamist Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP), an Is­lam based re­li­gious party, gen­er­ally has been dom­i­nant. This com­pli­cates re­la­tions with the U.S. and other na­tions. How­ever, de­spite strains al­liance with Tur­key has essen­tially sur­vived.

Turk­ish de­vel­op­ments are both en­cour­ag­ing and chal­leng­ing. Ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the coun­try have boomeranged, with con­sid­er­able hos­til­ity to­ward per­pe­tra­tors of the crim­i­nal acts.

Er­do­gan’s dra­matic di­rect pub­lic ap­peal un­der­cut an at­tempted mil­i­tary coup in 2016. Emer­gency mea­sures since are dic­ta­to­rial, and hu­man rights abuses in­de­fen­si­ble, but elec­tions con­tinue.

Af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion in the 1920’s led by Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk, Tur­key be­came con­sti­tu­tion­ally strictly sec­u­lar. The army served as watch­dog.

Four times in the past half cen­tury, the gen­er­als acted. At times, mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion was bloody. Fail­ure of the 2016 coup at­tempt in Tur­key shows po­lit­i­cal progress.

Tur­key’s geostrate­gic im­por­tance is un­de­ni­able for Ger­many and other na­tions. Tur­key com­mands sea and land ship­ping routes, in­clud­ing the Strait of Bosporus. Gov­ern­ments in Ankara have in the past worked ef­fec­tively with Is­rael, and cur­rent com­plex strains com­bine with some hope­ful de­vel­op­ments.

Ankara-Wash­ing­ton co­op­er­a­tion is strongly rooted, though ne­glected by the cur­rent U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion. Tur­key has been ac­tively en­gaged in Afghanistan, in­clud­ing ma­jor mil­i­tary and diplo­matic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Dur­ing the first Per­sian Gulf War, U.S. B-52 bombers de­ployed on Turk­ish soil, a po­ten­tially risky move by Ankara. Tur­key played a vi­tal Al­lied role dur­ing the Korean War; the UN mil­i­tary ceme­tery at Pu­san con­tains a large num­ber of Turk­ish graves.

Ger­man and Turk­ish his­tory of mil­i­tary al­liance should be a foun­da­tion for pos­i­tive new diplo­matic and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.

Un­der Er­do­gan’s er­ratic and flawed lead­er­ship, Tur­key’s econ­omy is in trou­ble. Cap­i­tal is flee­ing and unem­ploy­ment is ris­ing.

Ger­many has the largest and strong­est econ­omy in Europe, a con­trast in par­tic­u­lar to Rus­sia’s weak­ness. Ger­many’s lead­er­ship is cru­cial to the Euro­pean Union, and in­flu­ence steadily grows else­where.

We should ap­plaud Chan­cel­lor Merkel’s lead­er­ship. She is hard­work­ing, dis­ci­plined, re­spon­si­ble – and suc­cess­ful.

Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor at Carthage Col­lege and au­thor of “Af­ter the Cold War” (NYU Press and Pal­grave/Macmil­lan). Con­tact acyr@carthage.edu.

POOL, GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Trump and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel at­tend a G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg.

Arthur Cyr

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