From a Saudi perspective, the investment has paid dividends. Turkey today is not the secular, Western stalwart that presidents from Eisenhower to Clinton embraced. Rather, it is a state where Islamic mores are given increasing prominence, and where fealty to the Islamic world trumps NATO security. Indeed, while President Obama continues to praise Turkey as an important NATO ally, almost as many Turks may be fighting in Afghanistan against U.S. forces as part of the Taifetul Mansura group as are supporting the International Security Assistance Force.
Turkey has changed irreversibly. While it once emulated Europe and even elected a female prime minister, under Erdogan’s rule, women are relegated to minor ministries and make up less than 3 percent of senior management in the state bureaucracy. As he imposes more radical Islamist laws, justice-ministry statistics show that the murder rate of women has increased by 1,400 percent. No longer is Turkey a secular pillar in the Islamic world, nor does Turkish society reflect European liberalism.
Rather, Turkey has become a danger and a liability to the United States. As Erdogan has consolidated control of the media, his government has fed Turks a steady diet of anti-Americanism and religious incitement. In the latest Pew Global Attitudes Project poll, Turkey remains the most anti-American country surveyed, more anti-American than Pakistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.
Turkey’s sponsorship of the Mavi Marmara and Erdogan’s over-the-top reaction to the U.N.-appointed Palmer Committee’s mostly exculpatory findings concerning Israel in that incident are just symptoms of Turkey’s change, rather than the motivation for it. The real problem in Turkey cannot be papered over by diplomats, nor should the concerns of Turkish secularists and liberals ever again be dismissed as mere “cacophony,” as Ross Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, described them five years ago.
Rather than be a partner upon which the United States can rely, Turkey today endorses Iran’s nuclear program, supports — and may even supply — terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and actively undermines the peace process. As Erdogan approaches the end of his first decade of rule, the question for American and European policymakers should not be whether Turkey should join the European Union, but whether it even belongs in NATO.
— Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.