Turkey and the Neocons

It couldn’t be more predictable. Back when Israel and Turkey were strategic allies with extensive military-to-military ties, prominent neoconservatives were vocal defenders of the Turkish government and groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and AIPAC encouraged Congress not to pass resolutions that would have labeled what happened to the Armenians at the hands of the Turks during World War I a “genocide.” (The “Armenian lobby” is no slouch, but it’s no match for AIPAC and its allies in the Israel lobby). The fact that the ADL was in effect protecting another country against the charge of genocide is more than a little ironic, but who ever said that political organizations had to be ethically consistent? Once relations between Israel and Turkey began to fray, however — fueled primarily by Turkish anger over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians — the ADL and AIPAC withdrew their protection and Congressional defenders of Israel began switching sides, too.

Last week Jim Lobe published a terrific piece at InterPress Service, detailing how prominent neoconservatives have switched from being strong supporters (and in some cases well-paid consultants) of the Turkish government to being vehement critics. He lays out the story better than I could, but I have a few comments to add.

First, if this doesn’t convince you that virtually all neoconservatives are deeply Israeli-centric, then nothing will. This affinity is hardly a secret; indeed, neocon pundit Max Boot once declared that support for Israel was a “key tenet” of neoconservatism. But the extent of their attachment to Israel is sometimes disguised by the claim that what they really care about is freedom and democracy, and therefore they support Israel simply because it is “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

But now we see the neoconservatives turning on Turkey, even though it is a well-functioning democracy, a member of NATO, and a strong ally of the United States. Of course,Turkey’s democracy isn’t perfect, but show me one that is. The neocons have turned from friends of Turkey to foes for one simple reason: Israel. Specifically, the Turkish government has been openly critical of Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinians, beginning with the blockade of Gaza, ramping up after the brutal bombardment of Gaza in 2008-2009, and culminating in the lethal IDF attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As Lobe shows, a flock of prominent neoconservatives are now busily demonizing Turkey, and in some cases calling for its expulsion from NATO.

Thus, whether a state is democratic or not matters little for the neocons; what matters for them is whether a state backs Israel or not.  So if you’re still wondering why so many neoconservatives worked overtime to get the U.S. to invade Iraq — even though Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan or Pakistan — and why they are now pushing for war with Iran, well, there’s your answer.

As I’ve said repeatedly, there’s nothing wrong with any American feeling a deep attachment to a foreign country and expressing it in politics, provided that they are open and honest about it and provided that other people can raise the issue without being accused of some sort of bigotry. The neocons’ recent volte-face over Turkey is important because it reveals their policy priorities with particular clarity, and Lobe deserves full points for documenting it for us.

One last comment. Neoconservatives usually portray American and Israeli interests as essentially identical: In their eyes, what is good for Israel is good for the United States and vice versa. This claim makes unconditional U.S. support seem like a good idea, and it also insulates them from the charge that they are promoting Israel’s interests over America’s.  After all, if the interests of the two states are really one and the same, then by definition there can be no conflict of interest, which means that the “dual loyalty” issue (a term I still don’t like) doesn’t arise.

I hold the opposite view. I believe that the “special relationship” has become harmful to both countries, and that a more normal relationship would be better for both. Right now, the special relationship hurts the United States by fueling anti-Americanism throughout the region and making us look deeply hypocritical in the eyes of billions — yes, billions — of people. It also distorts our policy on a host of issues, such as non-proliferation, and makes it extremely difficult to use our influence to advance the cause of Middle East peace. President Obama’s failures on this front — despite his repeated pledges to do better–make this all-too-obvious. At the same time, this unusual relationship harms Israel by underwriting policies that have increased its isolation and that threaten its long-term future. It also makes it nearly impossible for U.S. leaders to voice even the mildest of criticisms when Israel acts foolishly, because to do so casts doubts about the merits of the special relationship and risks incurring the wrath of the various groups that exist to defend it.

Although the United States and Israel do share certain common interests, it is becoming increasingly clear that their interests are not identical. This situation puts die-hard neoconservatives in a tough spot, as it could force them to choose between promoting what is good for America or defending what they think (usually wrongly) will be good for Israel. And insofar as prominent neocons continue to beat the drums for war, it behooves us to remember both their abysmal track record and their underlying motivations.

Source: Foreign Policy

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he served as Academic Dean from 2002 to 2006. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he was Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division and Deputy Dean of Social Sciences.

On “dual loyalty”

Relevant Reading:

76 Senators on AIPAC payroll sign on to Israel letter: http://america-hijacked.com/2010/04/19/76-senators-on-aipac-payroll-sign-on-to-israel-letter/

Senate letter urging tensions tamp-down gets 76 signatures http://www.jta.org/

Nearly 300 members of Congress have signed on to a declaration


  1. rexw on the 18. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    Stephen Walt said…..
    Of course,Turkey’s democracy isn’t perfect, but show me one that is’.

    Including the US. I would hesitate to state this as totally accurate but how many countries have 70% to 90% of their elected members attending the AIPAC sideshow and swearing allegiance to the state of Israel. Why, even the US President was the star act on the night and relax, he’ll be there this year as well, cheerleading all the sycophants and the corruptibles with his team of Clinton, Biden and of course, spymaster extraordinary, Rahm Emanuel.

    Can you just imagine the things that Turkey says about the US and its loss of any credibility it had left after Bush. Obama is crowding Bush as the weakest ever.

    If a survey was possible it would be of great interest to determine how many of the US voters, apathetic or otherwise, would consider that the time spent on matters by their government concerning the US subservience to Israel, military aid, financial largesse etc., supporting them in every manner possible, is ultimately of any value to them, their families or for that matter, America.

    Of course, it is possible if they do not read the NYT, that they may not be aware that Israel receives such attention from the Schumers and Liebermans of America and the remaining 70% (PLUS) of loyal elected representatives.

    As for Turkey, it seems they have received many comments of support following their strong stance after the flotilla. The fact that Neocons and their evil ilk are now using Turkey as a whipping boy is exactly as one would have expected. Nothing unusual there.

    The sooner we reach the stage that anything is possible as standard fare when dealing with Israel, the better, Lies, graft, corruption, spying, media manipulation, internet interference, murder, assassination, passport duplication and fraud, not the exception, but the norm.

    When we reach that stage, we can eliminate the thousands of words spent on such matters. They are all part of the Zionist, Jewish, Israeli make-up, never likely ever to change.

  2. Robert H. Stiver on the 18. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    Watch out, because Turkey will now be demonized progressively a la Iraq and Iran. War with Lebanon is reportedly again in the offing; Syria would be “collateral damage” to Zionist Israel’s next eruption of collective criminal psychosis. The tormented Palestinians always take it where it hurts most (their viability as a cohesive people). Is war on Turkey now in the queue of those nations which must grovel before Zionism or face the consequences? I like much of Professor Walt’s reasoning in this analysis, but I cannot forget his and Mearsheimer’s failure to arrive at the full awfulness of the Zionist enterprise in their (admittedly essential, door-opening) 2007 “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” As only one example, they insisted that all was fine and dandy for Palestinian “citizens” of Zionist Israel. Events following the criminal act of piracy on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla have clearly shown the folly of that insistence…with the worst surely yet to come.

  3. rexw on the 18. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    What Robert Silver appears to be saying is that if you aren’t grovelling before Zionism then you are destined to be the subject of neocon murmurings, with the eventual fate of being on the receiving end of a war, which, naturally, the US will fight for you.

    Must be a full time job for the Mossaderos just keeping up to date with all the countries that hate the Zionist state and would, given the chance, cut it down to size.

    Based on good time management principles, perhaps one could advise Israel not to search for those who have refused to genuflect before the six-pointed star but instead to identify those countries that are prepared to sell their credibility and respect for a spot on the list as friends of the parasitic Zionists.

    Simple really…just go through the alphabet to ‘U’ and it’s over.

    Must be great to be loved. Still, the big plus being an Israeli is that it eliminates any possibility of anyone having a narcissistic complex.

  4. john on the 19. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    The tide is turning against these zionist b*st*rds and their jewish american supporters.They can pass all the resolutions they want.This garbage will wipe itself off the map.

    Beware, Israel, the US congress, the good people of the world will take care of you,your day in hell is coming.

  5. rexw on the 19. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    Your optimism, John, is admirable and I hope you are right.

    A knowledgable writer once mentioned to me that he would think that in your House of Representatives he could only count on 5 who would make any comment in support of Palestine.

    If that is the case, we have a long way to go. But there is no doubt, despite one’s nationality and the need to make an effort also in the local environments, the effort needs to be put into the mainland of the USA where it appears the voters are apathetic at this point in time.
    But sadly, it does need the citizens to see the criminal psychotic Zionist lobby as being from another country and that means getting the message across to the people without the assistance of the mainstream and Jewish-owned media. That’s the problem.

    A statement about the despicable attack on the USS Liberty, the 9/11 attack, the Times Square charade and the allocation of strategic contracts to Israeli companies in critical areas of US security, all well planned, may eventually have some impact on the people of the US.
    You are very vulnerable while you have the resources of the FBI and others knocking on the doors of harmless demonstrators while every important telephone network is being monitored by the Israelis. They must be laughing at the US security priorities.

    Something wrong with the decision-making process in your country and it starts at the top, the very top.

    Something needs to happen.

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