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The Great Game: News You Might Miss

Ricochet, Ricochet. I take a day off, and you forget completely about Turkey. Hey, what you’re reading in the American news about this region, as far as I can see, is hogwash. And I don’t know what the Israelis are thinking; they seem to be working themselves into a lather because Erdogan delivered some tub-thumping speech in Cairo (toward which the Muslim Brotherhood was distinctly cool: Welcome to the real world, Tayyip. Didn’t do much good for Obama, either, and remember how I warned you: Turks aren’t Arabs?) And Israelis, chill! That’s just Tayyip. He flies in, makes a lot of noise, the ladies faint; he flies out, nothing changes. I promise. Just ask the Somalians. Or the Syrians. Or the Turks, for that matter.

The most astonishing thing of all is that everyone in the West–and Israel!–suddenly seems happy to accept two incompatible propositions simultaneously: 1) Erdogan defanged the military and 2) Turkey is a threat to Israel. No recognition that to the extent the former is true, the latter must be less true, so maybe it would be worth asking–which, exactly, is more true? By the way, did anyone in the US media notice who they locked up yesterday? The head of the navy’s southern command. I’m serious. Doesn’t sound to me like they’re planning a full-on naval assault just yet, so sit back, grab a beer, and wait for it all to blow over. 

And hey, anyone notice this story? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one? Go ahead, America, meditate on the essential nature of Islam.  When you’re done with the panicky debate about how many angels can dance on the severed head of an infidel, I’ll be happy to point out what’s really going on. You too, Israelis, put out some more cartoon videos for the benefit of the American viewing public–I agree that that’s about all they can handle. When you feel like talking to Turks, Israel, give me a call; I may be able to give you some advice about the language people speak here. Oh, wait, I gave it to you. Well, I did my best. 

So: Bushehr’s on line, Russian subs are in the region to defend their commie client regime, and Tayyip’s in Egypt, or maybe it’s Libya today, and that’s pretty convenient for him, because it means he won’t have to face any awkward questions about all these secretly taped recordings involving the head of the Turkish intelligence service and the PKK. (Oh, the irony of that last column! A man who really believes all of his own bull-honky. We’ve always tried to make peace with Oceania!) 

Anyway, that’s it for me on Turkey. I’m happy now to write about anything else, but frankly, I’ve been telling the world to pay attention to Turkey for years, and no one wanted to pay me to write about it. I’ve got a mile-high stack of rejection letters from editors who told me that they just weren’t that interested in Turkey–maybe I’d like to write about a more interesting place, like a country where the names aren’t so hard to pronounce? Now, suddenly, people are all worried about Turkey and they want to know what’s going on. Well, editors, I’m a professional. Anything you want to know, it’s a dollar a word, no negotiations, that goes for interviews, and I don’t give it away for free on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else. And if no one wants to pay me, to hell with it. I can’t keep defending democracies where no one is interested in the world as it really is, as opposed to their fantasies. That goes for you, Turkey, you, America, and you, Israel. I just can’t take the hysteria about Turkey all that seriously if you don’t believe it’s important enough to pay me to report on it. 

  1. Robert Lux

    Earlier tonight I caught the last part of a public radio segment — Warren Olney’s To the Point. Was on Israel, Turkey, and Arab world.  Shlomo Avineri, some Arab and and Turkish diplomats, and some graduate student from U Penn doing his doctoral thesis on the Middle East were the guests. The thought definitely occurred to me: why the heck do they not have Claire Berlinski on this? 

  2. Robert Dammers

    Claire,

    We never forget about Turkey, because we never forget about you.  I can’t help feeling that, as absolutely fair as your rant is, you are mixing your audiences up a bit here.

    *ducks*

    :)

  3. Robert Dammers

    Wouldn’t you be concerned, if you had a pipeline called “Nabucco”, that your mass balancing programme would be weighed and found wanting?

    After all, you’ve only got to balance allocations of gas revenues between Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Egypt.  What could go wrong?

  4. Danihel Tornator

    Personally, I’m thrilled to learn more about what is occurring in Turkey. I have had a special interest in the country ever since I wrote my Comparative Politics term paper on Turkey during my junior year in college. Keep it up!

  5. Douglas Johnson

    Lordy, what in the world did I just read? “I have a lot of interesting things to say but no one wants to pay me for them you’ll just have to take my word for it. You are really missing something!”

  6. jonorose

    Good lord! That was a severe dressing down….

    Claire, I just want you to know that you have personally changed my tune on Turkey/Israel. I’ve started reading Hurriyet’s English site every day now and have been encouraged by the tone there. I definitely feel better over the whole situation despite the constant hysterical bombardment in the Israeli media. I do feel now that the whole issue is being blown WAY out of proportion. 

    But you have to agree that it is Erdogan and Davotoglu themselves that are pouring the kerosene on the fire. Every day they issue some new incendiary statement about how Israel is the biggest threat to world peace, that they will send their navy to torpedo casual bathers on Tel Aviv beaches etc. (I’m exaggerating of course). Its a dangerous game when the leaders of a country openly threaten another country. What will happen when they burn one bridge too many? What happens when they are forced by circumstance to back up their words with deeds? 

  7. Israel P.

    Time will tell, won’t it.  Unless it’s one of these “It only turned out that way because everyone ignored me.”

  8. Claire Berlinski
    C
    jonorose: 

    But you have to agree that it is Erdogan and Davotoglu themselves that are pouring the kerosene on the fire. 

    Oh, for sure. And there’s a real danger of miscalculation–don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they’re benign. I’m just saying–well, a lot of things, but basically, the model for understanding Erdogan isn’t Khomenei. It’s the Godfather. And I had to laugh when I read in the Israeli press that the soccer players required thousands of cops for their security. Anyone who lives here knows that’s not because they’re Israeli. It’s because of soccer–which truly is a politically explosive story here. 

  9. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Israel P.: Time will tell, won’t it.  Unless it’s one of these “It only turned out that way because everyone ignored me.” · Sep 15 at 3:40am

    Indeed. 

  10. jonorose

    Claire, you seem to be suggesting that one of the reasons that there is so much misinformation about Turkey is due to the fact that news companies are not interested in Turkey. Strange then that there should be so much misinformation about Israel DESPITE the fact that almost every major news company in the world has a fully staffed office here.

    BTW, maybe there will be a sunny side to all this nonsense. Perhaps a small amount of interest will arise and afford you the opportunity to write about Turkey and be paid to do so! 

  11. Western Chauvinist

    Considering your mood, Claire, I hesitate to ask this question, but…

    Do you believe Iran’s nuclear power plant is just a nuclear power plant, in the Freudian cigar sense?

  12. Robert Lux

    Claire- no one serious of whom I’m aware is suggesting Erdogan is Khomenei in embryo. You’re quite right to say that the model is more The Godfather. You’ve raised this before in dialogue with me, to which my only retort would be that the degree to which you diminish the role of Islam is, imho, far too great. Authoritarian religions — like Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity in southern Italy, the Balkans, and South America, etc. — when in combination with the state (or, let’s say, in the absence of a republican, natural rights based polity) do seem fairly reliably to produce wonderfully thuggish, tribalistic (broadly understood), corrupt (“Godfather”) cultures.

    I’m curious: do you more or less incline to the belief that, say, carnage between Croatians and Serbs (or between Bosnian Muslims and Serbs) represented not really a religious war because so many of its orchestrators — and even great many ordinary participants — were not actually pious/observant? That’s to say, the real “substructure” is essentially nothing more than the self-interested schemes of various cynical potentates and warlords using religion for demagogic reasons for the sake of empowerment? 

  13. Deleted Account

    Claire – re. taking out the heads of the military – I don’t know that it makes the military threat less dangerous, in fact it may make it more so. Concentrating both military and political power in a smaller and smaller group tends to make both – which should normally be somewhat at odds in a democratic state – increasingly unstable. Just thinking of Germany, Japan, and Russia in the 30′s and 40′s, as well as countless banana republics.

  14. Robert Lux

    And just reading that OilPrice.com article on Iranian nuclear energy — the fatuous presumptuousness of the article is beyond belief.  

    So because we’ve enjoyed 13 years of no Pakistani nuclear strike, it therefore follows that — nothing to see here, folks! — we’re in the clear.  And we’re to take this as paradigmatic for Iran as well, since, by golly, they’re just as interested in survival as anybody else. I mean, why on earth would they want to risk extinction?    

  15. Scott R

     Why was the Navy leader sacked? (the article’s in Turkish)

    Isn’t de-fanging the military intended to make it less of a threat to the Godfather and his drift from secularism (even if that drift is overstated)? In which case, how is the de-fanging inconsistent with worrying about the implications for Israel?

    Also, if one of the ways that the Godfather pumps up his cred is by drumming up anti-Jew sentiment (even if it’s all talk), won’t that eventually poison attitudes on the Turkish street in a real, tangible way vis-a-vis Israel — not unlike how the Israel-accommodating Mubarek served to inflame anti-Semitism in Egypt?

  16. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Robert Lux: Claire- no one serious of whom I’m aware is suggesting Erdogan is Khomenei in embryo. You’re quite right to say that the model is more The Godfather. You’ve raised this before in dialogue with me, to which my only retort would be that the degree to which you diminish the role of Islam is, imho, far too great. 

    I can’t resist adding one more item. Robert, what is in your view the “right amount?” Is there a formula? I don’t think I diminish the role of Islam.

  17. Robert Lux
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Robert Lux: Claire- no one serious of whom I’m aware is suggesting Erdogan is Khomenei in embryo. You’re quite right to say that the model is more The Godfather. You’ve raised this before in dialogue with me, to which my only retort would be that the degree to which you diminish the role of Islam is, imho, far too great. 

    I can’t resist adding one more item. Robert, what is in your view the “right amount?” Is there a formula? I don’t think I diminish the role of Islam. · Sep 15 at 6:02am

    There is no formula — any more than there is any formula for prudence or natural right.  But it becomes evident, let’s say, in not saying things such as increasing Muslim immigration to the U.S. is a fine or unproblematic thing (as you did seem to argue in an earlier Ricochet post); or in not assaying of Geert Wilders that he’s probably opposed to Islamic inundation of country simply because he’s gay; or in not letting slide Mona Eltahawy’s egregious presenting of Keith Ellison as an exemplar of modern, tolerant, progressive Islam.  

  18. Mel Foil

    I understand that Erdogan is not a monster. But you don’t have to be a monster to get the crazy truck rolling down the hill. You just have to keep giving it a nudge…for the cameras. For whatever reason, he’s still giving it a nudge.

  19. skipsul

    Claire, we’d love to be able to pay you, but none of us here are in any position to do so (I’ve bought several of your books, it’s the best I can do).  We’re lay-people though when it comes to A) finding reliable news on Turkey and B) figuring out what the heck it means – we’re just not journalists or writers and must therefore rely on what we can find, be it accurate or not.  I don’t have the wherewithal to know which the best sources are, much less how to put it all together – and speaking for myself I’m a literalist so if someone says “I’ll wipe out X” I take them at their word unless I have enough knowledge to know otherwise.  But to us on Ricochet you have put yourself forward as the best-informed go-to source on this region – hence our questions both well-informed and not.  If you don’t want us to ask, well we’ll muddle through on our own ignorance.

  20. MMPadre

    As for me, I never venture an Anatolian thought without first vetting it:  What would Claire think?  So I ask, what do you think of Pepe Escobar’s column in the latest Asia Times Online:  http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MI15Ak01.html ?  He seems to think Erdogan is the cat’s whiskers:  “Erdogan’s tour is a realpolitik master class.”

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