Wow, on the heels of another terror attack in France, a coup starts in Turkey. By the way, there is no negotiating with the likes of ISIS. The only way to win is kill them all. Distasteful for a civilization that values human life, but a bitter pill we have to swallow.
I was in Turkey back in December of 2014. My whole limited time there I felt entirely safe. Our guide, Rashid, took us through the entire city of Istanbul over a few days. If you go, I highly recommend him. He understands the political and religious history of Turkey. He is also trained in the classics, so I find walking the streets of Istanbul with him highly educational.
No doubt, when we were there you noticed instability bubbling underneath the surface. Mosques that were radical sects were being tolerated where they were never tolerated before. Syrian refugees and Egyptian refugees were coming to Turkey. 500,000 Syrians entered Istanbul last year alone. That massive amount of immigration will bring unintended stresses.
The West cannot afford to lose or ignore Turkey. Strategically it is militarily important. Culturally, it is probably more important.
One thing we know for sure, when America pulls back a vacuum is created. Someone will fill the vacuum. For the last 8 years, America’s foreign policy has been to pull back. It was the exact wrong move at the exact wrong time. Starting a war in 2002 wasn’t a bright idea either, but putting gasoline on the fire wasn’t brilliant.
It turns out, my very good friend happened to be in town so we had dinner last night. He lives in Istanbul. He has done a lot of research and work with think tanks and western governments. He has an MBA from Chicago Booth. His specialty is terrorism. He works to change the conversation inside groups and countries. Ironically, often times he uses ideas and concepts that come out of Western Civilization. It turns out that the ideas of Thomas Payne, Ben Franklin, Adam Smith and John Adams are incredibly powerful. They transcend civilizations because they are core to human existence.
There are no black and white answers surrounding Turkey. Yes, the President is a strongman. There will be a lot more bloodshed in Turkey. Erdogan isn’t a prime example of a tolerant leader. But, last night on Twitter even the Kurds who he is bitter enemies with were speaking up for democracy. The Kurds didn’t support the coup. Erdogan’s political opponents didn’t support the coup. That tells you something I think. The Turks do value democracy. Democracy is messy sometimes.
Another very interesting thing that happened last night. The military took over broadcasters. Erdogan, who has tried to severely restrict Twitter and Facebook, took to Facebook Live to communicate to his supporters.
Again, it just makes me think the best way to fight and win against radical terrorists is through a powerful network, not hierarchy. The way we are fighting today via vertical silos that have trouble communicating is not a way to win. The next 15-20 years are going to be tumultuous in the Middle East.