Hurt Erdoğan, not Turkish people – analysts write

The United States should use its soft power to isolate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling circle rather than punish the wider Turkish population with measures such as visa sanctions, according to an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, and the head of the National Security Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“It is time for Washington to take a principled stand against Erdoğan,” wrote Dr. Lisel Hintz and Blaise Misztal. “Erdoğan is not taking hostages. He is burning bridges. There are no deals to be struck with him.”

While urging U.S. leaders to take a tougher line towards the Turkish government, Hintz and Misztal said care must be taken to direct them at Erdoğan rather than Turkey as a whole.

They said the United States has long granted Turkey’s leaders legitimacy whilst getting little in return:

Being able to smile, shake hands with, and receive acclaim from the leader of the United States, only then to turn around and undermine American interests is a blatant demonstration of Erdoğan’s power.

They added that “American rhetoric and actions must be calibrated to exploiting Erdoğan’s vulnerabilities and undermining his strengths”, although even some of Erdoğan’s opponents would not welcome unabashed U.S. meddling in Turkish domestic politics.

The authors did not call upon the United States to emphasise the benefits to Turkey of a strong bilateral relationship. Instead, they said the focus should be put on what Turkey had to lose from having Erdoğan at its head:

A more successful approach would make this about Erdoğan’s deleterious impact on the strength, vitality, and prosperity of Turkey, not U.S. interests. U.S. policymakers should seek to erode the foundations of Erdoğan’s appeal to Turks and amplify their concerns about him.

Finally, they wrote that the United States should threaten a wide range of potential sanctions to the Turkish economy, threats that, even if only made and never acted upon, might damage the lifestyle of the average Turkish citizen far more than any visa ban.