Monday, June 3, 2013 at 6:44 AM

Turkey’s Erdogan No Different from Syria’s Assad…?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

The overthrow of Arab regimes [has] not worked in the interest of freedom, democracy or ending social injustice as much as it helped create chaos.

(BBC, September 21, 2012)

imagesGiven that unrelenting chaos has followed the overthrow of Arab regimes everywhere from Afghanistan to Libya, there’s simply no gainsaying this observation. And that none other than Syrian President Bashir al-Assad made it should give pause to the Western leaders who have been calling for the overthrow of his regime.

Granted, Assad has been in a death-defying struggle (like the one Muammar Gaddafi fought and lost) to defeat the opposition/rebel forces that have been trying to overthrow him for the past two years. Therefore, his observation is clearly self-serving.

But no less a person than U.S. President Obama has given credence to it by refusing to support opposition/rebel forces in Syria the way he supported them in Libya and Egypt. No doubt you recall that Obama led the chorus of Western leaders calling on Assad to step aside:

The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people…

For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.

(, August 18, 2011)

That was almost two years ago. Which begs the question: Why does Obama persist in calling for Assad to step aside, while refusing to do anything to help opposition/rebel forces get rid of him?

Well, with all due respect to Assad’s observation, I submit that it has much to do with the opposition/rebel forces’ remorse I warned about in the early days of the Arab Spring:

The issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question.

The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah – whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since….

(“Army Pledges No Force against Protesters,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)

In other words, Obama called for Mubarak to step aside. He did and chaos followed. Obama called for Gaddafi to step aside. When he refused, Obama helped opposition/rebel forces get rid of him; and chaos followed. So fool him once (or even twice), shame on opposition/rebel forces; fool him three times, shame on Obama.

Turkish protestors take over Taksim squareWhich brings me to Turkey. And, trust me, what is most interesting about the belated Arab Spring unfolding there today is that opposition/rebel forces are attempting to overthrow this regime for the same reasons opposition/rebel forces overthrew the regime in Egypt – complete with Turkish protesters occupying a national square, namely Taksim Square, emulating the way Egyptian protesters occupied Tahrir Square.

What started as an outcry against a plan to build on Gezi Park, the last spot of greenery in Taksim, has become a nationwide outpouring of anger against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, who is accused of being ‘conservative,’ ‘arrogant’ and ‘authoritarian’

(London Telegraph, June 2, 2013)

Except that Erdogan has as much moral and constitutional right to ignore opposition/rebel yells for him to resign as Obama has to ignore Tea-Party Republicans yells for him to resign. Not least because, unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Assad, Erdogan was truly democratically elected:

I am not going to seek the permission of [the opposition] or a handful of plunderers. If they call someone who has served the people a ‘dictator’, I have nothing to say… I am the servant of the people.

(Erdogan, The Guardian, June 2, 2013)

Not to mention that, at this point, Obama would sooner call on the president of France to step aside than call on the prime minister of Turkey to do so.

In fact, nothing is preventing Obama from parroting calls for Erdogan to resign quite like the long-standing allies in the Muslim world who are already accusing him of betrayal for throwing Mubarak under the bus. Because the last thing Obama can afford, geo-strategically, is for them to accuse him of doing the same to another Muslim ally.

turkish-prime-minister-recep-tayyip-erdogan-and-president-obama-at-a-press-conference-on-thursdayThen, of course, there’s the inconvenient timing of having Erdogan at the White House just weeks ago, where they jointly called on Assad to resign:

Let me tell you that ending this bloody process in Syria and meeting the legitimate demands of the people by establishing a new government are two areas where we are in full agreement with the United States…

(Erdogan,, May 16, 2013)

Ironically, Erdogan was so certain of his political standing back home that he rebuked Obama for dithering on helping opposition/rebel forces overthrow Assad.

We are of course concerned more than anyone else, being a neighbor of Syria – but the way to deal with that problem is not withholding your support. Not doing anything is not a solution.

(Erdogan,, May 16, 2013)

Mind you, this from a man who sounded eerily, perhaps forebodingly, like Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Assad over the weekend when he dismissed the cries of his own people for more democratic freedoms as the mischief-making of extremists and idle-minded youths.

Turkey-uprisingEven more ironic, though, is that opposition/rebel forces in Turkey will soon be calling on Obama to do for them what he did for opposition/rebel forces in Libya. What’s more, they will be aided and abetted in this by war-mongering U.S. officials (like Republican Senator John McCain) who are probably just lying in wait to rebuke Obama for dithering on Erdogan, just as Erdogan and these U.S. officials have rebuked him for dithering on Assad. Got that?

But just as I admonished Obama to leave Afghans, Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans, and Syrians to reconcile their political/sectarian differences without U.S. (military) involvement, I admonish him to leave the Turks to their own devices.

And this admonition holds even if resolving their differences takes a bloody military-style crackdown the likes of which not seen since China squashed the Tiananmen-Square democracy movement in 1989; or takes a bloody civil war the likes of which not seen since hundreds of thousands of Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other in Rwanda during the summer of 1994. (I remind you, it took a bloody civil war the likes of which the world had never seen for Americans to resolve their political/sectarian differences….)

Still, if you’re one of those people who think the United States has a moral obligation to intervene to stop ethnic/sectarian violence wherever possible, just ask yourself why it has not lifted a finger to intervene in the DR Congo:

[F]our million or more people have died as a result of the conflict [in the DR Congo] since 1998, almost half of them children under the age of 5, according to the International Rescue Committee.

(New York Times, December 2, 2012)

That’s 4,000,000 people folks! (I duly decried this genocide – for the umpteenth time – in “DR Congo’s Heart of Darkness Gets Even Darker,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 4, 2012.) Yet McCain and others have the (racist?) gall to accuse Obama of a failure of leadership for refusing to send troops to rescue 100,000 Syrians?! And bear in mind that this genocide in the DR Congo began unfolding in the very year (1998) when then President Bill Clinton traveled to Rwanda to apologize for the failure of U.S./Western countries to stop that genocide….

My heart goes out to the Turks – just as it does to people suffering under totalitarian and oppressive regimes … everywhere. Never mind that what oppressed minorities in Turkey are suffering today pales in comparison to what oppressed Blacks in the United States suffered for more than 150 years; which in itself should give any U.S. president pause in this context.

But if the United States wants to act on any moral imperative to stop ethnic and/or religious groups in foreign countries from killing each other, it should begin by honoring its promise to stop the killing in Africa (beginning with the DR Congo and Darfur: remember Darfur?).

NOTE: I hope it’s clear that what is happening to Erdogan is the best thing that could have happened to Assad.  And I hope it’s equally clear that, just like the democracy protesters in Egypt, those in Turkey have not given a moment’s thought to the very likelihood that the devil they know in Erdogan would prove far better than any devil who might replace him.

Related commentaries:
Army pledges no force
DR Congo’s Heart of Darkness

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

My Books

VFC Painting


Subscribe via Email

Powered by FeedBlitz