La Grande Porte in centuries of yore had a certain dignity even as it posed an existential threat to European Christianity. It was only Columbus's fortuitous discovery of the New World and the invention of the printing press and advanced armaments that enabled Christian Europe to ultimately prevail. But it was almost 250 years after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 that the tip of the Ottoman spear was permanently blunted by the Poles outside Vienna in 1687. The Treaty of Prestowicz in 1701 began the slow recessional of the barbarous, yet militarily skillful Turks back onto the Anatolian plateau, where like roaches in a bottle or cancer in an organ , they were hemmed in after the First World War surrender by Western custodial military cordon sanitaire.
But after Kemal Ataturk decided that the mind is a terrible thing to waste and forced westernization took hold after twenty years of military domination with Ataturk's stern custodial glare overseeing the process, the Turks were left in a limbo of uncertainty. The Cold War put them as the eastern right flank opposing their traditional Russian enemy, so for another forty years, the Turks felt at least useful as they worked hard to industrialize and modernize their ancient customs and backward religious practices. No more veils for women or honor killings, but in my dozen or so trips to Turkey during the nineties, I was always shown the police stations or "torture chambers" by my Turkish guides where suspects were treated with medieval "human rights."
Robert Pollock has an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal entitledErdogan and the Decline of the Turks which is a narrative of one country's descent into a psychotic break with reality, or at least the past one hundred years of its history since the "Young Turks" broke the power of the Ottoman caliphate in 1908:
To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.
For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews. The newspaper Yeni Safak, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's daily read, claimed that Americans were tossing so many Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates that local mullahs had issued a fatwa ordering residents not to eat the fish. The same paper repeatedly claimed that the U.S. used chemical weapons in Fallujah. And it reported that Israeli soldiers had been deployed alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and that U.S. forces were harvesting the innards of dead Iraqis for sale on the U.S. "organ market."
Remember that the dimwit Prime Minister is a devout Muslim which already predisposes him to outlandish misconceptions about, well, about just anything rational that the West can convey to a bunch of warrior nomads just half a millenium off the steppes.
The secular Hurriyet newspaper, meanwhile, accused Israeli soldiers of assassinating Turkish security personnel in Mosul and said the U.S. was starting an occupation of (Muslim) Indonesia under the guise of humanitarian assistance. Then U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman actually felt the need to organize a conference call to explain to the Turkish media that secret U.S. nuclear testing did not cause the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. One of the craziest theories circulating in Ankara was that the U.S. was colonizing the Middle East because its scientists were aware of an impending asteroid strike on North America.
The Mosul and organ harvesting stories were soon brought together in a hit Turkish movie called "Valley of the Wolves," which I saw in 2006 at a mall in Ankara. My poor Turkish was little barrier to understanding. The body parts of dead Iraqis could be clearly seen being placed into crates marked New York and Tel Aviv. It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich.
Hitler is probably a couple of notches above the Turkish PM on the scale of civilized notions of interstate relations. Pollock
in an interview asked the devout Muslim about the film:
When I interviewed Prime Minister Erdogan (one of several encounters) in 2006, he was unabashed about the narrative.
Erdogan: "I believe the people who made this movie took media reports as their basis . . . for example, Abu Ghraib prison—we have seen this on TV, and now we are watching Guantanamo Bay in the world media, and of course it could be that this movie was prepared under these influences."
Global View Columnist Bret Stephens explains why Israel's best friend in the Middle East is now an adversary.
Me: "But do you believe that many Turks have such a view of America, that we're the kind of people who'd go to Iraq and kill people to take their organs?"
Erdogan: "These kind of things happen in the world. If it's not happening in Iraq, then its happening in other countries."
Me: "Which kind of things? Killing people to take their organs?"
Erdogan: "I'm not saying they are being killed. . . . There are people in poverty who use this as a means to get money."
Actually, there is a method to Erdogan's "madness" and that is to wean his Turkish myrmidons away from the West and toward an Islamic Republic which Ahmadinejad is the secular leader, because Erdogan would wear both an Ayatollah's and a president's hat were Turkey to lurch eastward:
I was somewhat taken aback that the prime minister could not bring himself to condemn a fictional blood libel. I should not have been. He and his party have traded on America and Israel hatred ever since. There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey's recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.
Sadly, Turkey has had no credible opposition since its corrupt secular parties lost to Mr. Erdogan in 2002. The Ataturk-inspired People's Republican Party has just thrown off one leader who was constantly railing about CIA plots for another who wants to expand state spending as government coffers collapse everywhere else in the word. What's more, Turks remain blind to their manifest hypocrisies. Ask how they would feel if other countries arranged an "aid" convoy (akin to the Gaza flotilla) for their own Kurdish minority and you'll be met with dumb stares.
Turkey's blind spot on the Kurdish issue is especially striking when you recall that Turkey nearly invaded Syria in 1998 for sponsoring Kurdish terrorism. Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan then bounced around the capitals of Europe, only to be captured in Kenya and handed over to the Turks by the CIA. Turkey's antiterror alliance with Israel and the U.S. couldn't have been more natural.
Yet Prime Minister Erdogan was one of the first world leaders to recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government in Gaza. And now he is upping the rhetoric after provoking Israel on Hamas's behalf. It is Israel, he says, that has shocked "the conscience of humanity." Foreign Minister Davutoglu is challenging the U.S: "We expect full solidarity with us. It should not seem like a choice between Turkey and Israel. It should be a choice between right and wrong."
In my visits to Turkey and frequent conversations in Washington and New York, it is chilling when the subjects of the Kurds or the Armenian genocide come up. The moral obtuseness of the Turk is apparently all of a piece, and its many atrocities in the Balkans of the nineteenth century on subject populations bear witness that these creatures are wolves in human form. There is no pity, compassion, or intelligence outside of a cynical "everybody does it" attitude that most Turkish journalists, even the very few sophisticated ones, wear on their sleeve for all to see.
This is religious nationalism which is simply fanaticism at a sort of low-key intensity. The Arabs jump up and down and shout and hold their breath and behave like moronic children who have to repeat a grade because their ADHD is a complete condition. The Turks have a quiet malice and lack of any human values when they are crossed. Simply Mongols in an urban setting. Pollock ends his piece appropriately. The Turks will never understand because a conscience is outside their cultural and religious frames of reference, but Pollock is right:
The obvious answer to the question of "Who lost Turkey?"—the Western-oriented Turkey, that is—is the Turks did. The outstanding question is how much damage they'll do to regional peace going forward.
As for primitive mindsets like those of the Turks and Arabs, any attempt at reconciliation will be regarded as weakness. Sadly, we have a coward and a nitwit in the Oval Office. So damage will continue until a grown-up occupies 1600 PA Avenue.