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With Friends Like These

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In yet another clear signal about the consequences of embracing strongmen: violence erupted at the Turkish embassy in DC yesterday, just after Turkish President Erdogan enjoyed his cozy White House visit.

The clash involved pro- and anti-Erdogan groups. Turkish state media identified members of Erdogan’s own security team in the fighting. The videos and images are chilling.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration seems perfectly happy to ignore this blatant disregard for basic rights of speech and assembly. This comes in the wake of Trump’s congratulations for the April referendum that considerably strengthened Erdogan’s constitutional powers (despite observers’ concerns about the campaign’s fairness).

Canaries, coalmines, 1930s parallels… you know the refrain by now. The regular blows to democracy, civil society, and foundational rights risk numbing us. So keep your eye on this one, as we learn who was actually involved. This may be a case of riled-up opponents crossing lines—but it may also be that the security forces of foreign autocrat just directly attacked US residents and citizens on US soil with impunity.

Trump’s own history suggests he might even applaud such a move.

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  • tsam

    Trump’s slobbery praise for autocratic shitheads is disgusting.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I remember when Obama was damned for supposedly giving our allies (meaning, pretty much, Israel) the back of his hand while cozying up to autocratic regimes.

    Of all the ridiculous, absurd criticisms that Republicans flung at Obama, is there a single one that doesn’t apply in reality to Trump? Other than “he was elected just because he’s black”?

    • CP

      Of all the ridiculous, absurd criticisms that Republicans flung at Obama, is there a single one that doesn’t apply in reality to Trump? Other than “he was elected just because he’s black”?

      The NeverTrumpists have pretty much turned this into their thing, actually: the response to every criticism of Trump is “yeah, that’s bad, but Obama did it first, so you liberals caused this and also are hypocrites because you didn’t care when it was your politician.” The fact that “Obama did it first” is rarely if ever actually true goes uncommented on.

      • bizarroMike

        Obama’s strategy of engagement had more subtlety than those reports could possibly convey. And by “subtlety” I mean engagement wasn’t totalizing make-friends-above-all-else or grrr-drop-the-bombs. Engagement with Iran on its nuclear program made sense: the government has been in place since 1979, the terms of the engagement was a negotiation, not a bunch of smiles and pictures like with Trump and Erdogan. If Clinton were president, I think much the same would still occur here. The US would condemn the anti-democratic features of the Erdogan government, but still engage with it because there are benefits to doing so.

    • Other than “he was elected just because he’s black”?

      That too: orange is the new black.

      • rea

        Let us not descend to chrysophobia; orange people have the same human rights as everyone else.

  • mongolia

    remember that the same shit happened when rte visited brookings in 2016: http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/01/politics/turkey-erdogan-brookings-journalists-protesters/ and a small taste of what any organized group trying to criticize the ruling party/ideology gets – for the well documented attacks, see gezi, or for the horrifying spectacle away from the cameras, the entire mess going on in the southeastern region of the country

    trump and the right really wish they could do this here – fortunately, looks like they’re both too few in number and too old/incompetent to actually succeed.

  • Whirrlaway

    Looks like Erd won the handshake, which is something. T is going to go ahead and arm the Kurds … looks like Turkey is going to get carved up like a TG bird. Lie down with dogs, get up with rabies.

  • Dilan Esper

    I will take any American foreign policy analyst’s critique of Trump cozying up to dictators seriously when they propose ending our relationship with Saudi Arabia, refusing to buy their oil, and imposing economic sanctions (or a US invasion) unless they democratize and grant basic human rights to women, non-Muslims, and immigrants.

    (crickets)

    • Arouet

      Uh, with you up until you suggest that the United States should be in the business of imposing its moral compass by force on sovereign states without UN authorization. Do you really trust that moral compass to always point North?

      • Dilan Esper

        No, I oppose intervention. I am making a point about liberal interventionists.

        The complaint of Byrnes and others about the Erdogan visit isn’t that Erdogan is a human rights violator, but that Trump is cozying up to the wrong human rights violators. As long as the POTUS cozies up to the right ones, like the Saudis, it’s fine.

        • Bitter Scribe

          You’re conflating, or confusing, interventionism with a refusal to “cozy up to” dictators. It’s possible and often necessary to deal with odious regimes for economic or strategic reasons. But it’s absurd and counterproductive to go out of your way to say what great guys Ergodan, Duterte, Putin, etc. are. And it’s offensive to do so, as Trump does, solely because you like their style.

          • CP

            There’s also the backsliding thing to be considered. Saudi Arabia has always been a repressive, tyrannical, theocratic society, and the king of the moment is doing the same thing the system’s always done. Erdogan on the other hand is taking what was at least partially a democratic system a ways better than the Saudis, and regressing it back to something worse.

        • Aardvark Cheeselog

          I will take any American foreign policy analyst’s critique of Trump cozying up to dictators seriously…

          I am making a point about liberal interventionists.

          You skipped a step there. Or several.

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            Dylan also thinks we were wrong to oppose the Nazis, because it was “interventionism”.

            (Admittedly, he hasn’t said that specifically about the Nazis. But his rhetoric about why we shouldn’t care if Russia invades Ukraine, the Baltics, etc. applies equally well to Nazi Germany invading its own neighbors.)

        • Thom

          Dilan said,

          The complaint of Byrnes and others about the Erdogan visit isn’t that Erdogan is a human rights violator, but that Trump is cozying up to the wrong human rights violators. As long as the POTUS cozies up to the right ones, like the Saudis, it’s fine.

          Let’s pretend you are not deliberately being an asshole. If that’s correct, you have misread (or read into) the post. Byrnes did not say anything about Saudi Arabia or myriad other human rights violators (including, of course, the US). What is wrong with focused criticism, from a Europeanist who lives in the US, about relations between the US and a European nation-state with a noticeably worsening human rights record?

      • Robespierre

        Why should we care about the sovereignty of states whose peoples aren’t sovereign?

    • Aardvark Cheeselog

      refusing to buy their oil

      Thought we basically don’t buy their oil? Am I wrong about that?

      and imposing economic sanctions (or a US invasion) unless they democratize and grant basic human rights

      Holy shit yes, because that's always worked so well in the past!

      • CP

        Thought we basically don’t buy their oil? Am I wrong about that?

        No, you’re not wrong. IIRC, the problem is that while we don’t buy much Saudi oil directly, Saudi Arabia is still such an oil superpower that destabilizing them would destabilize the entire world oil market, and therefore the entire world economy, which means we’d experience the blowback one way or another. If there are “indispensable nations,” they’re one of them right now.

    • addicted44

      You ally with 1 dictator, means you MUST ally with all.

      That’s the only true morally pure position.

      • Julia Grey

        You forgot your sarcasm font.

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