The Dutch give up on Trumpism and leave Erdogan for another day

This election is a harsh blow to Donald Trump, or at least to what White House strategist Steve Bannon has called the “global Tea Party movement.” Wilders was riding high in the polls on the day Donald Trump got inaugurated. After that, he lost half his voters. The best explanation might be in the title of a column by the veteran French journalist Pierre Haski: “Has Trump’s Incompetence Killed Europe’s Populism?” It is a curious question. Haski’s premise is wrong factually. Trump’s political position is exactly the same as it was two weeks before he got elected. The country remains split roughly 50-50, but Trump’s supporters, who control all the levers of formal government power, are happy with him. He has been thwarted by an activist judiciary, which may provoke a showdown at some point. And he has been condemned by a daily press that opposes him 100 percent. This does not make him incompetent.

However, Haski is right politically. Foreigners cannot build their understanding of U.S. politics on hunches and conversations around the water cooler, and they don’t tend to surf Breitbart. When Dutch voters, Dutch politicians, and Dutch journalists examine whether Donald Trump is succeeding or failing, what they are examining is the Washington Post and the New York Times. And this is true even of those Dutch voters who feel themselves in tune with populism. In the narrow band of American media that they access, they see unanimous disapproval of the West’s first experiment with populist rule…

The most important thing was the refugee deal that Erdogan was threatening to pull out of. In exchange for just a few billion euros, Turkey blocks the hordes who are ready to stream into Europe by the millions at a moment’s notice. Isn’t that a sensible division of labor? Turkey’s army has 510,000 men in it. It is roughly the size of Europe’s three largest armies​—​France (222,000), Germany (186,000), and Britain (169,000)​—​combined. And it has been annealed in battles both domestic and foreign. The Turks have lately been in northern Syria, clearing out positions held by Kurdish militias, the common enemy of Turkey and ISIS. Let them tell Syrians they have to stay in Aleppo. Because if Turkey abandoned the deal, then the European Union would have to either find a way to bottle up the flow of migrants itself or submit to it.

Migration pressure from North Africa and the Middle East is a military problem. This aspect of the problem can remain latent for a long time, but not forever. European politicians like the refugee deal because it spreads the illusion among European citizens that a complacent, comfortable, consumerist decline is possible. That may be what Erdogan likes about it, too.