“Trying to engage Erdoğan like efforts to coddle Saddam” - Michael Rubin

The trajectory that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken Turkey means it is no longer inconceivable that Turkey and the United States could one day go to war, as attempting to engage Erdoğan brings to mind efforts made 30 years ago to coddle Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein, former Pentagon official Michael Rubin said.

In an article written for the Washington Examiner website, Rubin pointed out that Erdoğan is now friendlier towards Russia and Iran than the United States. Turkey’s turn toward Russia, he said, was being driven by “deep-seeded and ideological anti-American animus among Turkey’s top leaders”.

“The Turkish military is now an engine for Islamism rather than a bastion of secularism,” said Rubin. Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar’s personal ambition has led him to betray his colleagues, Rubin said. 

Rubin argued that with Erdoğan purging most of the professional officers, very little discipline remained in the Turkish military.

The former Pentagon official accused Turkey of sponsoring terrorism by embracing Hamas leaders with open arms and opening its doors to tens of thousands of foreign jihadist fighters.

“While it is fashionable among diplomats and some analysts to argue that the transactional nature of Erdoğan’s Turkey requires more and targeted engagement rather than coercion, such efforts have a very poor track record. Indeed, for much of the past 15 years, Turkish enmity has grown against the backdrop of NATO denial and Bush and Obama-era denial, coddling, and engagement. Rather than smart diplomacy, efforts to engage Erdoğan now uncomfortably appear like efforts to coddle Saddam Hussein into moderation three decades ago.”

Rubin said it was obvious that Turkey was not longer an ally to the United States, but rather “an adversary and potential belligerent”.