The Corner

Crunch Time in Turkey

In perhaps the biggest international story receiving no attention in Washington, there will be on September 12 a referendum in Turkey on new constitutional amendments that would, among other things, strengthen Prime Minister Erdogan’s political control of the judiciary. This would cement Turkey’s slide into dictatorship or, to be more generous, Putin-style democracy.

On September 6, at a ceremony marking the beginning of the judicial year, Hasan Gerçeker, head of the Supreme Court of Appeals, said, “With the constitutional amendments, the conflict between the courts and the executive power will increase, as the amendments ignore the courts’ will and cut their authority within the judiciary.” Many other judges have come out against the amendment. Emine Ulke Tarhan, the chair of the Judges and Prosecutors’ Union, was quoted in the press (sorry — in Turkish only) as saying they had discovered listening devices in their offices. In any other democracy, this would be a Watergate-scale scandal. In Turkey, it’s par for the course. As Tarhan explained, “It is definite now we are under surveillance, as are 72 million other Turks.” The polls show a dead heat.

Meanwhile, there remains dissonance in U.S. policy: we treat Turkey as the ally we wish it would be, regardless of what Turkey has in reality become. The chief example: The United States continues to plan to sell Turkey our most state-of-the-art F-35 Joint Strike Fighter without so much as a Pentagon review to determine whether Islamists in the Turkish government and, increasingly, its military could leak its secrets to Turkey’s allies in Iran or Syria. This is congressional malpractice; there does not seem to be anyone awake in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Perhaps senators could ask Frank Ricciardone, the White House nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, whether he supports the F-35 sale absent any study of the security of the technology upon which the United States will depend on for air supremacy for a generation to come. It would be unfortunate if congressmen took Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, at his word. While Tan might be a good guy, his job is to charm. The image he projects is in sharp contrast to the policies his government continues to pursue.

Michael RubinMichael 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

White House

Nikki Haley Has a Point

Nikki Haley isn’t a Deep Stater. She’s not a saboteur. She wouldn’t undermine the duly elected president, no siree! That’s the message that comes along with Haley’s new memoir With All Due Respect. In that book, she gives the politician’s review of her career so far, shares some details about her ... Read More
White House

Trump vs. the ‘Policy Community’

When it comes to Russia, I am with what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman calls the American “policy community.” Vindman, of course, is one of the House Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses. His haughtiness in proclaiming the policy community and his membership in it grates, throughout his 340-page ... Read More
Law & the Courts

DACA’s Day in Court

When President Obama unilaterally changed immigration policy after repeatedly and correctly insisting that he lacked the constitutional power to do it, he said that congressional inaction had forced his hand. In the case of his first major unilateral move — “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which ... Read More
Books

A Preposterous Review

A   Georgetown University professor named Charles King has reviewed my new book The Case for Nationalism for Foreign Affairs, and his review is a train wreck. It is worth dwelling on, not only because the review contains most of the lines of attack against my book, but because it is extraordinarily shoddy and ... Read More