Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey didn’t last long, though the brevity doesn’t negate its significance. Any time the government of a NATO member faces a military coup, it’s of enormous international significance. And even though the effort failed, the repercussions of Friday’s events will be felt for quite a while.
Closer to home, Republicans did what Republicans do: they tried to think of a way to blame Turkey’s attempted coup on President Obama. Here, for example, was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Donald Trump’s new running mate, on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last night:
“I truly do believe that history teaches that weakness arouses evil and whether it be the horrific attack in France, the inspired attacks here in the United States, the instability in Turkey that led to a coup. I think that is all a result of a foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that has led from behind and that has sent an inexact, unclear message about American resolve.”
Pence pushed the same line on Friday night, as did assorted conservative media personalities. Trump himself seemed to clumsily make the case over the weekend.
Let’s take a moment or two to set the record straight. Turkey is its own country, with its own complex domestic politics, its own internal divisions, and its own long history. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a very controversial figure in his country for a variety of reasons, which have contributed to instability.
To think that this has anything to do with the Obama administration and American “weakness” is bonkers. Jenny White, a professor at Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, explained to Slate over the weekend, “Pretty much every 10 years or so since 1960, there has been a coup through which the military took over and threw out the existing government, either because it was too religious or not seen as capable of running the country. In the case of the 1980 coup, there was a civil war that preceded it.”
I’ll look forward to Republicans explaining how American “weakness” and “unclear resolve” are responsible for this cycle. Will they start with blaming Eisenhower for “leading from behind”?
The instinct among conservatives to blame the United States for every international development they don’t like is quickly becoming farcical.
If, however, we’re going to look at Turkey’s attempted coup through an American-electoral lens, it might be worth starting with this piece from Vox’s Matt Yglesias.
Picture Donald Trump on a series of calls with advisors and heads of government from around the region, and inside the NATO alliance, devising a constructive response to a coup attempt in Turkey.Good luck.
Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey was a reminder that crises happen, and there’s value in having competent U.S. leadership, capable of processing complex information and reaching sound judgment, in place when there’s an emergency.
Is anyone seriously prepared to argue that Donald J. Trump is up to the job? Or that he could even find Turkey on a map?