Trump’s Failed Foreign Policy in Miniature
The BBC reports that Trump’s letter infuriated Erdogan, who chucked it in the trash after reading it:
In response, Turkish presidential sources told BBC Turkish: “President Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it and put it in the bin.”
Ragip Soylu confirmed this in his own report:
Turkish officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Middle East Eye that they responded to Trump’s letter in kind and with stronger language.
“We just dumped his letter into the trash,” one of them said.
“The date on the letter is 9 October, the same day we began Operation Peace Spring. Our president gave the best response by launching the operation on the same day at 4pm,” the official told MEE.
Trump’s letter was embarrassing and bizarre, and the Turkish government took it as an insult. The former Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davotoglu responded to it publicly:
“The Turkish nation and state were offended,” he tweeted.
The president seems to have been the only one who didn’t realize that the letter would be taken as an insult and discarded. The U.S. would have already had a hard time persuading Turkey to agree to a ceasefire if there had been no letter. Now that the letter is public knowledge, Erdogan has another reason to ignore the Trump administration’s demands. The letter is the sort of thing that one would normally expect to be leaked by someone hostile to the president. In this case, the president was eager for people to know about it in the belief that it would make him look good and “tough.” He was passing out copies of it at the same meeting where he blew up at the Democratic leadership:
This account was given to my colleague John Nolen: At one point, Trump handed a bunch of copies of a letter he sent to Erdogan on Oct. 9 to Rep. McCarthy and asked him to pass them around to the other members.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 17, 2019
The Erdogan letter is Trump’s failed foreign policy in miniature: ignorant, blustering, threatening, and ineffectual. Trump’s attempts at diplomacy fail across the board for several reasons, but his basic lack of respect for the other side is an important factor in all of them. Because he knows so little, he doesn’t grasp what the other governments want, and he seems to think that the only thing anyone else cares about is money because that is what matters most to him. He threatens economic ruin of whole countries in the way that he threatens to sue people, because he cannot imagine that there are interests and values more important to others than lucre. His complete lack of empathy means that he cannot understand how others perceive the world, and that means that he frequently misjudges how others will view his reckless and abusive behavior. Just as he thought the summary of the Zelensky call would vindicate him when in fact it confirmed that he had committed a flagrant abuse of power, he thinks that his letter to Erdogan was “very powerful,” as he put it, when it was ridiculous and guaranteed to provoke derision and anger in Ankara. Because he surrounds himself with nothing but yes-men and flatterers, there is no one able to tell him how foolish he is, and so he makes blunder after blunder while patting himself on the back for his ingenuity.