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October 17, 2007

Realism and Turkish Domestic Politics
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I agree with most of what Matt Yglesias writes, but in this case I think he makes a classic mistake by not acknowledging the political pressure that the Turkish government is facing at home

Turkey is going to formulate its policy vis-à-vis the United States of America in light of Turkey's interests and not actually radically restructure things in the wake of a symbolic resolution. Things like the strategic partnership with Israel and membership in NATO (and the base-hosting it entails) stand or fall on their own merits and Turkish-US partnership in Iraq is going to be determined by the ability of Turkish and American officials to forge a compromise position on the Kurds that both sides prefer to no compromise at all.

Right now the Turkish public is up in arms because the PKK has been attacking Turkish troops and using Northern Iraq as a safe haven.  For over a year the Turks have been imploring the Bush Administration and the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq to do something about it. Outside of some lip service, nothing has happened.  As a result, political pressure has been mounting on the Turkish government to do something and the Turkish public’s opinion of the United States has dropped to all time record lows.  This resolution, combined with the Bush Administration’s inept response to the PKK problem, just further drives home domestic political pressure on the Turks to act. 

But then again, we all know that the Turks will do what is wise and act in their national interest.  Democracies never make stupid foreign policy decisions based on domestic political pressure…


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But it does seem as if we're more concerned about how Turkey will react to this resolution than we are for the wishes and emotional needs of the Armenian Americans who just want their country to acknowledge a historical fact. I'm worried that we're selling out Americans to appease people in Turkey. Or am I missing something?

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