After years of a gradual erosion of the secular state, the Turkish government has been sprinting towards Islamist tyranny since the failed coup attempt.
After many years of a gradual erosion of the secular state, the Turkish government has been sprinting towards Islamist tyranny since the failed coup attempt. The response of Donald Trump to this new reality is unsettling, to say the least.
He declined to commit a potential Trump administration to opposing the Erdogan government’s crackdown, using the Islamist line that the U.S. lacks the moral authority to criticize other countries’ human rights abuses.
In an interview with the New York Times after the coup failed, Trump said he “give[s] great credit to him [Erdogan] for being able to turn that around” and marveled at the scenes of protestors stopping the involved military personnel. Hillary Clinton opposed the coup while standing by criticism of the Turkish government.
The reporter pointed out to Trump that Erdogan has used the coup as a pretext for a massive crackdown, arresting 50,000 people, removing major elements of the judiciary and suspending thousands of teachers.
Trump did not speak out against these purges and said that opposing the Islamist tyranny in Turkey would not be a part of his administration’s agenda. He did, however, say there “may be a time when we can get much more aggressive on that subject…We’re not in a position to be more aggressive. We have to fix our own mess.”
He also repeated the reflexive Islamist rebuttal to any U.S. criticism that America has no moral standing, saying,
“I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country … When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger… I don’t know that we have a right to lecture. Just look about what’s happening with our country.”
Both political parties in the U.S. have gotten the Islamist government of Turkey wrong since 2002, as those of us warned about the Erdogan government’s strategy of gradualism — a strategy he was so skilled in implementing that Dr. Daniel Pipes wrote that Erdogan and those like him pose a greater threat to Western civilization than Osama Bin Laden. This author dubbed Erdogan as “the King of the Islamists.”
President Bush praised Erdogan’s Turkey as a model of democracy for the region. President Obama once said Erdogan is one of the world leaders he is closest to (but did condemn the human rights abuses later on as they grew).
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton simultaneously praised the Turkish government while speaking out in opposition to the decline of freedom. In her book, she complimented Erdogan as “forceful” and “effective,” while expressing doubts about his Islamist government’s commitment to democracy.
Her proposed foreign policy strategy includes pressuring Turkey to stop supporting Hamas and to fully commit to fighting Islamist terrorism. But it also includes working with Turkey to vet and support Syrian rebels.
Islamists like Erdogan view themselves as being in a “civilizational jihad” (as the Muslim Brotherhood puts it) with the West. To fight this ideological war with Islamism, we must weaken the Islamist ideology while strengthening our own.
To do that, we must assert the moral superiority of the West and stand with the oppressed against Islamism’s human rights abuses.
Donald Trump’s statement and proposed policy does the opposite of both.