All through the Cold War, the Turks were among America’s most reliable allies.
After World War II, when Stalin encroached upon Turkey and Greece, Harry Truman came to the rescue. Turkey reciprocated by sending thousands of troops to fight alongside our GIs in Korea.
Turkey joined NATO and let the U.S. station Jupiter missiles in their country. When JFK secretly traded away the Jupiters for removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, the Turks went along.
Early this century, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey seemed to be emerging as a major power, a land bridge between Europe and the Islamic world, a friend to its neighbors, and future member of the EU.
But, recently, a U.S. diplomat blurted, “The Turks are out of their lane!”
And that describes the situation succinctly and well.
When rebels rose up to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria, and Assad elected to fight not quit, Erdogan turned on him and began to permit jihadists to enter Syria.
When ISIS terrorists seized Raqqa in Syria, and Mosul and Anbar in Iraq, Erdogan refused to let U.S. planes based at Incirlik bomb them.
When America supported Syrian Kurds with air power, enabling them to hold off an ISIS attack on Kobani on the Syria-Turkish border, Erdogan denounced the Kurds as the greater threat.
But 10 days ago came an ISIS atrocity in Suruc, Turkey, just north of Kobani. Thirty-two young Turkish Kurds who were planning to help rebuild Kobani were massacred, and a hundred wounded.
Instantly, Erdogan permitted U.S. planes at Incirlik to attack ISIS targets in Syria and launched air strikes himself. It appeared that, at long last, the U.S. and Turkey were again on the same page, seeing ISIS as the primary enemy, and acting jointly against it.
But the Turkish attacks on ISIS proved to be pinpricks. And the Turks began a major air assault on Kurdish forces in exile in Iraq, the PKK, who had fled Turkey after the recent civil war.
Where does this leave Turkey today?
Erdogan demands that Assad be overthrown. He has declared war on ISIS. He has broken off peace talks with the PKK in Turkey. He is attacking the exiled Kurds in the mountains of Iraq, enraging Baghdad, and his own Kurdish minority of 14 million.
He has been vilifying his former Israeli friends since the Mavi Marmara incident, where eight Turkish aid workers on a relief ship headed for Gaza were killed by Israeli commandos in 2010.
The Washington Times reports that Egypt is charging Turkey with sending agents to work with Islamic State on the Sinai Peninsula, which has been killing Egyptian soldiers and firing rockets into Israel.
There has been bad blood between Cairo and Ankara since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown by the army of Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in 2013. Gen. el-Sissi is now President el-Sissi and President Morsi is now on death row.
What is Erdogan up to? With his attacks on the Kurds and ISIS both, he is inviting blowback in the form of terrorist reprisals from ISIS and the PKK inside his own country, as happened at Suruc.
The speculation is that Erdogan is going to war for political reasons. When a Kurdish Party captured 13 percent of the vote in the June 7 elections, it broke Erdogan’s parliamentary majority, blocking his path to the presidential republic of his dreams and designs.
Critics believe he is provoking conflict with the Kurds before new elections, so he can cast himself as a fearless warrior against Arab terrorists and Kurdish traitors, discredit the small Kurdish party, and capture a sufficient majority to create his all-powerful presidency.
Turkey’s actions demonstrate, as do those of other allies in the region, that their enemies are not always our enemies, and that, as they single-mindedly pursue their national goals, so should we.
The Iraqi Kurds have been friends of the United States since Desert Storm. The Syrian Kurds, the YPG, have provided fighting troops whom we have supported with air power against ISIS. Both are de facto allies, no matter what the Turks say.
As for the PKK, we may have designated them a terrorist organization at the urging of the Turks, but if they are not attacking us, we ought not to be attacking them.
We must stop allowing our friends to choose our enemies in the Middle East. We are fully capable of doing that ourselves, without their assistance.
All our allies in that most war-torn of regions would like us to come fight their battles for them. We should let them fight their wars themselves, for the prospect of peace any time soon in that blood-soaked region is more than remote.
Our enemies are al-Qaida, which slaughtered 3,000 of our people, and its progeny. Our enemies are ISIS, which has beheaded Americans, and threatens us, our allies and friends.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.