The Campaign Spot

Another Obama Statement Expiration Date, and a Recognition That This Is Not the Turkey I Knew

In today’s Washington Post, Glenn Kessler takes a look at the President’s 180-degree shift in position on a congressional resolution denouncing Turkey for its role in the Armenian genocide, and he might as well punctuate the story with my slogan, “All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date . . . all of them.”

During and after my two years in Ankara, I made my views on the resolution pretty clear here, here, here, and here. In a nutshell:

Look, I understand commemorating the genocide and pointing the finger at Turkey is a very high priority to Armenian-Americans. But in terms of vital U.S. interests, fighting the battle over the correct interpretation of events of nearly a century ago is about 10,345th on the list. Our tasks in Iraq, and dealing with Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and fighting extremist interpretations of Islam will be much, much easier with Turkey as an ally on these issues instead of an enemy. And the Turks’ sensitivity on this issue is hard for most Americans to imagine. Imagine the passions of the Vietnam war, the Confederate flag, the treatment of Native Americans, and the internment of Japanese-Americans all rolled into one, and you have a sense of the touchiness of this issue in Turkish life.

If this resolution passes the House, the U.S. can expect no cooperation from the Turks for anywhere from three to five years. Are you paying attention, Hillary? Obama? Are you prepared to enter the Oval Office and lead a war on terror without our closest Muslim ally?

Obviously, Obama wasn’t.

But since I wrote those remarks in March 2007, the ruling AKP party in Turkey has made quite a few ominous moves on a wide variety of fronts. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered an anti-Israeli tirade and stormed out of a panel with Israeli president Shimon Peres at Davos. Polls indicate that that Turks like Obama more than they like Americans. New lawsuits against cartoonists and journalists have weakened freedom of the press in a country where it had generally thrived not long ago. The Turks’ foreign policy has turned away from Europe and gotten closer to Russia and much warmer toward Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria than it was a short while ago.

I find myself strangely echoing the president’s words in other circumstances — “This is not the Turkey I knew.”

The Armenian genocide resolution is still a bad idea. But with Prime Minister Erdogan throwing anti-Israeli tantrums, I find myself strangely unmotivated to preserve an alliance that the Turks seem less interested in maintaining . . .

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