There’s a problem with getting too close to Turkey.
President Trump is right to dismiss the “freedom agenda” in the Middle East. Long experience has disproved that idea that, under the umbrella of U.S. military might and with American encouragement, tribal Muslim societies with medieval and theocratic cultures and institutions will transform themselves into free democratic republics. Instead of an Arab Spring, we got years of jihadi civil war, culminating in the ISIS scourge of violence and terror.
With the ISIS fanatics largely (though not entirely) brought to heel in Syria, and all other reasons for having U.S. troops in the Middle East exhausted, Trump aims to bring the troops home. As Hudson scholar Michael Doran argued in a recent, widely read Mosaic article — with Walter Russell Mead concurring in the Wall Street Journal — this doesn’t mean Trump has no Middle East strategy. Doran notes that Trump is trying to forge a Sunni–Turkish–Israeli coalition as a realpolitikcounterbalance to Iranian power in the region, rather than leaving a vacuum for jihadists to fill, and argues that this is the right strategy.
But there’s a problem with getting too close with Turkey, one that the strategy’s advocates acknowledge but have done too little to address: the country’s treatment of our allies the Kurds. It is a matter of national honor not to abandon our allies to slaughter, as we abandoned the Montagnards after Vietnam and our translators and spies in Iraq. It is disgraceful that, as Henry Kissinger has said, while it is dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, to be its friend is fatal.
Myron Magnet, City Journal’s editor-at-large and its editor from 1994 through 2006, is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and author of Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution, to appear in May.