The Corner

A Troubled Nomination for Turkey

President Obama’s nomination of Francis “Frank” Ricciardone to be the new U.S. ambassador to Turkey stalled when Senator Brownback placed a hold pending more information from the State Department. I’ve just seen Senator Brownback’s letter to Secretary Clinton in which he asks several questions, all of which give some insight into Ricciardone’s time in Egypt and basic questions about his competence. Among Brownback’s questions:

  • Did Ambassador Ricciardone ever order that a State Department statement on human rights in Egypt be toned down before posting it on the embassy’s website?

  • Did the ambassador, following a press conference including Secretary of State Rice and Egyptian foreign minister Aboul Gheit, agree with the Egyptian position that the Patriot Act essentially justifies Cairo’s ongoing use of its Emergency Law to restrict freedom of speech?

  • Does the ambassador believe that human rights and political freedom have improved in Egypt over the last several years, especially in light of Egypt’s passage of constitutional amendments limiting the growth and development of civil society?

  • Does the State Department believe that the Egyptian government should be able to reject U.S.-funded programs and projects intended to promote political reform and/or build civil society?

  • How can the State Department ensure that funds to support political reforms and strengthen civil society will be spent on their intended purposes if they are a part of a U.S.-Egypt endowment?

Frank Ricciardone is the right nominee for the job when the goal of the United States is to ingratiate itself to a ruling family or an autocrat. While the Iraq desk in the mid-1980s, he certainly showed tremendous energy and enthusiasm beyond the call in his promotion of U.S. relations with Saddam Hussein’s regime (Donald Rumsfeld was only the tip of the realist iceberg). More recently, Ricciardone did wonders tightening the U.S. embrace of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak without letting either his instructions or U.S. policy get in the way. But when it comes to Turkey, a faltering democracy facing a pivotal election in the coming years, is Ricciardone really the best choice? Does Obama have a reason, other than length of Ricciardone’s tenure, that makes him a good choice? Wouldn’t Ricciardone be a better fit for Laos or Swaziland?

Michael Rubin — Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East ...

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Science & Tech

Set NASA Free

The Trump administration has proposed shifting the International Space Station from a NASA-exclusive research facility to a semi-public, semi-private one. Its plan would nix all government funding for the ISS by 2025 and award at least $150 million per year to NASA to help with the transition. This would be a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More