I’m as glib as the next clown but this just seems, well, glib and just another opportunistic stick with which to beat the Bush administration.
Mostly, Sullivan’s post seems to be a criticism of European governments rather than Bush. I agree that Sullivan’s claim that Turkey is “[p]erhaps our most important ally” is strange. The British don’t seem to get a lot of credit these days for their solidarity with us. Turkey certainly remains a strategically important ally, but the current stance of its government on a possible U.S. troop withdrawal into Turkey would suggest that it is not our “most important ally.” The worsening of U.S.-Turkish relations is lamentable in some ways, and it will be one of the long-term costs of the invasion of Iraq. Some of the worsening of relations was the fault of our government and entirely avoidable, and some of it comes from internal political changes in Turkey. Turkish opinion of the U.S. is extremely unfavourable right now, and that is going to shape Turkish politics and their regional policy for years to come. Turkish interests will also continue to diverge from our own if we insist on confrontation with Iran while Turkey and Iran pursue bilateral trade and energy cooperation. We can either begin adjusting to such realities of a post-invasion Near East, or we can watch previously solid allies drift away from us. Washington’s enthusiasm for Turkish EU entry, meanwhile, has simply stiffened the spine of the opponents of such a move and associated the issue with the projection of American influence.
However, delaying EU entry for Turkey is hardly “myopic.” It is at the very least an example of prudent caution, especially after member states have been absorbing the costs of the last rounds of expansion. Yes, accession talks have been going on for years, decades even, and they may well continue for years and decades more if all parties still want to pursue it, because there remain many serious problems with the way Turkey is governed that preclude its membership in the EU. I have no affection for the EU, but it does have its standards and it means to keep them–that is the reality of the situation. One also need not subscribe to theories of Muslim takeovers of Europe to recognise what a huge political change in the makeup of the EU it would be to bring in a nation of 60 million people. Extending an even-more expanded Europe’s borders to Iraq and Iran also presents security risks that a great many Europeans reasonably don’t want to take on.
There is some hint of criticism for Bush in Sullivan’s remarks that Turkey has been “left hanging in Iraq,” which is odd since Washington has tried to placate Turkey as much as possible on the question of the PKK. As the article Sullivan links to shows, the AKP government has been gaining in popularity in Kurdish areas and has taken a more conciliatory stance towards expressions of Kurdish identity, which in turn has made the PKK less of a real political threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity. The rise of the AKP has fortunately to some extent blunted the issue of the PKK presence in northern Iraq, and its election victory has chastened the military and undermined the latter’s influence in the country. That may or may not be to Turkey’s ultimate benefit, but it has reduced somewhat the tensions over a possible military incursion.