As Turkey continues to fall under the emerging tyranny of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the United States is poised to finally take a hand. That means sending in a top diplomat to bring some stability to the situation, and who better then… Joe Biden. The Vice President is preparing to head to Ankara, though what he hopes to accomplish is a bit vague at best. (Bloomberg)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will find himself in a familiar role when he flies to Turkey this week, offering President Recep Tayyip Erdogan effusive support in public while delivering a tougher message behind closed doors.
It’s a part Biden has played before with Erdogan and world leaders from Beijing to Baghdad, coupling his ebullient personality with the clout of his standing as President Barack Obama’s closest surrogate.
This time, though, “Biden has a very difficult trip ahead of him,” said Bulent Aliriza, the director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Perhaps this is just a symptom of 21st century politics, where everything is leaked and nothing can be accomplished behind closed doors. Traditionally it hasn’t been unusual for leaders to put on a display of some sort in public while delivering a more nuanced, effective message in private, so Biden’s objectives with the man he refers to as “an old friend” wouldn’t seem all that odd. But you’re reading about this at Bloomberg. It’s on CNN International. Even with the media crackdown taking place in Turkey right now, the word is no doubt getting around that Biden is going to be criticizing Erdogan on some level and the smiling photo ops which will surely take place are all for show. Who are we trying to fool at this point?
Perhaps more concerning is the message being sent to the Turkish people rather than their government. Obviously we’d like Turkey to go back to being at least somewhat more democratic and free, keeping them as an ally against the terrorists and a potential member of NATO. But right now Erdogan is acting like a tyrant and oppressing his people in the tradition of strong men around the world. Having the representative of the United States chumming around with the tyrant at official state dinners can’t be terribly comforting to the thousands of Turkish citizens currently languishing in whatever dungeons Erdogan has them locked up in.
Also on the menu will be the subject of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. Unless and until Gulen is actually charged with something over here he’s ostensibly under our protection. Are we seriously discussing extraditing him to a place where Erdogan’s “enemies” are likely being lowered into vats of acid as we speak? Even at a time when we’ve apparently started paying ransom to terrorists that would be a very public signal of surrender. If Biden leaves Turkey with a “deal” where we ship out Gulen and Erdogan promises nothing in terms of restoring basic freedoms in his country we will once again be embarrassed on the international stage and our allies should have even less confidence in our strength and reliability.