More recently, the strong reaction in Turkey to the Israeli interception of a convoy organized by Turkish groups with aid for Gaza underlines the possibility that Turkey is moving decisively away from its longtime partnership with the United States. ~Walter Russell Mead
It seems fair to say that Mead has completely misread the situation. Why has there been a “strong reaction” to the raid on the aid flotilla? It isn’t because Turkey is “moving decisively away from its longtime partnership with the United States,” and it isn’t even because the AKP government is bent on undermining the relationship with Israel. There has been a strong reaction because eight Turkish citizens were killed on a Turkish-flagged civilian ship in international waters by the armed forces of its ostensible ally while on a basically peaceful aid mission. Name me a government that would not have a strong reaction to such an episode. For that matter, the aid mission was an effort to breach an inhumane blockade that probably cannot be legally justified. If partnering with the U.S. means ignoring gross, violent provocations against its citizens, no democratic government in the world would be able to maintain such a partnership for very long.
The Tehran nuclear deal only runs “counter to U.S. policies” because U.S. policy towards Iran is not aimed at a reasonable compromise on enrichment and nuclear fuel. There is nothing “terrible” about Turkish and Brazilian efforts in attempting to negotiate a compromise. For that matter, we have some reason to believe that Turkey and Brazil crafted the compromise specifically to meet the criteria spelled out by the Obama administration. If the administration later decided to dismiss Turkish and Brazilian efforts to realize a deal that they apparently believed would satisfy Washington, that is not the fault of Erdogan and Lula. If the “American establishment by and large was taken by surprise by the new and more difficult Brazilian and Turkish foreign policies,” that is simply more evidence that this establishment makes a habit of blinding itself to inconvenient truths and realities that it doesn’t like. It was hardly a secret that Turkey and Brazil disapproved of our bankrupt Iran policy and the inevitable march to sanctions and confrontation that it represented. Both governments made this perfectly clear in the months prior to the Tehran deal.
Mead makes more mistakes later in his post:
Both Turkey and Brazil are now more democratic, but that democracy does not translate into pro-American or pro-globalization.
Superficially, this observation is partly correct, but at best it is a half-truth. A more democratic Brazil and Turkey do not translate into “pro-American” governments if “pro-American” means endorsing futile, unwise and destructive policies. Turkey does not share our obsession with Iran’s nuclear program and does not perceive the same threat that Washington does. That ought to count for something and ought to be considered evidence that the Iranian “threat” does not seem so dire to many of Iran’s own neighbors, but instead it is taken as proof of Turkish treachery. Brazil has gained more attention for its involvement in Near Eastern issues lately, but the real problem Washington has with Lula and the new Brazilian assertiveness in international affairs comes from Brazil’s opposition to U.S. power projection in Latin America. Brazil doesn’t much care for a U.S. military presence in Colombia, and it shares with much of the rest of the continent an aversion to the prosecution of our failed, destructive drug war. A truly “pro-American” view is not all that different, but we already know that this doesn’t matter. What makes a government “pro-American” is not whether it supports policies that are actually good for the United States, but whether it falls in line with whatever misguided policy Washington happens to be endorsing at the moment.
Mead’s remark about Turkish and Brazilian democratic governments not being “pro-globalization” is perhaps even more insidious because it is completely false. Under Lula, Brazil has been increasing trade all over the world, and Erdogan’s Turkey has been opening its market for most of the last decade. One of the reasons Turkey and Brazil have become more “difficult” in their foreign policies is that they have been building commercial ties with governments Washington views with suspicion of hostility. In other words, Turkey and Brazil have been so open to globalization that their economic interests now lead them in directions that conflict with (irrational) U.S. policies.
The AKP came to power partly on the promise of pursuing reforms necessary to improve Turkey’s chances of entering the EU. As far as economic reforms are concerned, this is more or less what Erdogan’s government has done. Turkey’s hope of EU membership continues to be stalled for reasons we all understand, and most of them have nothing to do with the policies or attitudes of the government in Ankara. To the extent that Lula and his party represent part of the broader Latin American backlash againsit neoliberalism, it is partly true that there is skepticism of the benefits of globalization in Brazil, but on the whole developing nations are the ones that want to expand free trade even more than the leading industrialized nations do. Both countries have become important emerging markets during a time when Mead wants us to believe their governments are not “pro-globalization.” It takes a certain willful blindness to conclude that the current Turkish political elite sees “the West as a rival and even an oppressor” when it is the current elite that has done more to integrate Turkey into the global economy than the Kemalists who preceded them. So Mead is pretty clearly and thoroughly wrong in his description of these countries.