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Turkiye Wins With Diplomacy
Erdogan: "The Proof is in the Eating"
“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for for unmanliness; ability to see all side of a question incapacity to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent, a man to be suspected.” - Thucydides [3.82.4-5]
At the end of June, the much maligned independent journalist Michael Tracey was inexplicably granted a press pass to visit the NATO Summit in Madrid. It’s not clear how or why this was the case, but he was apparently one of the few journalists there willing to ask substantial questions. It didn’t matter so much, because most world leaders were not willing to receive substantial questions. [Note: you should also check out his piece “Introducing the World’s Fakest Journalist” about a literal PR operative for a consulting firm who was at the event as a “credible” journalist.] However, there was one notable exception to this: Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Of course, Tracey was greatly smeared for even making this observation, because we are meant to believe that Erdogan and Turkiye are pure evil, despite Turkiye being extremely important to NATO’s geopolitical strategy. Erdogan’s willingness to answer real questions is indeed noteworthy:
Tracey asked Erdogan why, in contrast to other NATO leaders, he is favoring a diplomatic approach to the Russia-Ukraine War. Erdogan responded, amusingly, that “The proof is in the eating,” and then asked if we have an expression like that, which of course we do [for international readers who may not know, it is “The proof is in the pudding” in English.] Watch the exchange for yourself:
Erdogan takes the questions and speaks like a man who is actually confident in his own policies. It’s no surprise that President Biden [who hasn’t been coherent in years] and the erstwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t want to answer real questions: their policies don’t withstand scrutiny and their narrative is collapsing. Further, there is always the risk that someone raises the issue of nuclear war, to which there is no good answer besides the accusation of the dreaded “appeasement.”
This is part of a broader trend that has been destroying the efficacy of Western governments for some time. Before the war, during the trucker protests, Matt Taibbi had a quote which has stuck with me since:
“In the Bush years, thanks to people like Rove, the sensible or at least intellectually defensible concept, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” morphed into the much broader idea that it’s no longer necessary to understand the thinking of any adversary or oppositional group. It’s where the now-hegemonic idea that talking is weakness and not talking is strength was born.”
[In the time I was writing this, Taibbi happened to publish an article about the “don’t speak to anyone you disagree with” phenomenon in journalism.]
Indeed, this is why our ruling class cannot do anything: they make everyone who expresses meaningful disagreement into the next “Axis of Evil.” This is bad enough on domestic policy where they pretend opposition to them is white supremacy or simply fictitious [its only a matter of if you’re paid by Putin or the Kochs], but this is profoundly dangerous on the world stage when dealing with a nuclear-armed super-power that could end life on earth at any time. There is a trite, but true, classic piece of diplomatic wisdom: you don’t make peace with your friends. The literal point of diplomacy is to prevent, end, or reduce the damage of wars. War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy [and this is true regardless of where you attribute blame.] Further, a compromise is by definition a situation where both sides make concessions. This is what you do at the negotiating table. However, backed by the Western powers, Zelensky is taking the insane stance that he will not “negotiate” until Russia has fully withdrawn from Ukraine, including Crimea [which has been fully annexed and incorporated into Russia, with the Russians even building the longest bridge in Europe to the peninsula.] This is completely absurd, as they wouldn’t have anything to negotiate about at that point, besides, I suppose, Ukraine demanding reparations with no leverage to receive them. This is all obviously a non-starter, and intended to be, but Zelensky is still claiming it is Putin who refuses to negotiate:
While the West is pushing clearly unattainable goals, at great suffering to the Ukrainian people and the world at large, Turkiye, which as I wrote about previously has re-asserted itself, is showing the world that even in difficult situations diplomacy can still happen, and in doing so, will most likely be the only NATO country to leave this situation with increased, not decreased, prestige.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkiye has avoided going along with the counter-productive Western sanctions regime, and has instead tried to leverage its ties to both countries and use the negotiations to gain diplomatic prestige and to attempt to actually solve problems. Though Russia and Turkiye were long time enemies [well, their predecessor states were] the countries have in recent years developed closer ties, most notably with Turkiye buying Russian S-400 defense systems, something which even before the war made NATO quite upset. Of course, now Erdogan is ever more the devil for his diplomacy-based approach, but as he said, “The proof is in the eating”, and he has shown that diplomacy can still solve problems. Though progress has been hard to come by, with the first March 10th negotiations not going anywhere, Turkiye has continued to show itself as a partner both sides can work with.
Now, though, at least one breakthrough has been made. We’ve all heard much about Russia allegedly blocking Ukraine’s grain exports [Russia has said they are not blocking exports, and that Ukraine mined the port of Odessa. What no one has explained is why they can’t send the trains that would usually take the grain to Odessa into Romania instead…I’m personally quite sure the answer is that Ukraine is holding grain supplies hostage for more foreign aid, something which Erdogan has now made unfeasible.] With everyone talking about the global food shortage, Black Sea grain, crucial since antiquity, has become ever more important. And while US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is just now about to meet with his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time since the war began [and not even about Ukraine, about a basketball player in prison for something illegal in our own country…and they may actually give Russia Viktor Bout, the Lord of War guy], Erdogan has got a deal signed that will bring food to Africa and the Middle East. The basic terms of the deal are that Ukrainian ships can guide cargo ships through sea mines, Russia will not attack any naval transports, and that ships returning to Ukraine will be inspected by Turkiye, Russia, and Ukraine for weapons smuggling before they are allowed to enter Ukrainian ports. Further, this has unlocked Russian grain and fertilizer exports, with shortages of fertilizer and spiraling prices having been a major concern for global food availability; Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of both food and fertilizer.
By doing the diplomatic work to get this deal through, Erdogan has done a genuinely humanitarian service for people in the developing world reliant on Black Sea grain. Though the US officially praised Turkiye’s efforts, it is clear that with the US’s stance against negotiation they would have just let people starve and blamed Russia. It seems no amount of collateral damage is too high to avoid the perception that you are willing to compromise. However, far from making Erdogan and Turkiye look weak, it makes them look like devoted problem solvers. Turkiye will be able to continue to play this role, with great benefits to its own prestige. And once again, the US chose to not be at the table, continuing an absurd pattern of voluntarily ceding their own interests in misguided attempts to harm Russia.
Turkiye is not only facilitating negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Erdogan also just had a major trilateral meeting in Tehran with Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The New York Times humorously referred to this as a “new anti-American alliance,” despite the fact that Turkiye is literally in a mutual defense pact with the US. It is almost a deranged compulsion to try and drive Turkiye away from NATO. This, of course, is madness when all of NATO’s broader plans rely on Turkiye, which has NATO’s second largest military and also has uncontested control of acccess to the Black Sea.
Whereas Turkiye is a “neutral” party on Russia-Ukraine [despite its status as a NATO ally], at this meeting Erdogan was negotiating about issues where Turkiye is a competing party, and not a mediator. The biggest issue: northwest Syria, where as I explained previously, Turkiye has wanted to launch a new offensive. This is a problem to Russia and Iran, who are both close allies of the Syrian Arab Republic. Turkiye’s justifications for attacking northwest Syria are broadly the same as Russia’s justifications for attacking Ukraine insofar as its an unstable smaller neighbor with various hostile militant groups operating that Turkiye claims represent an existential threat. The thing is, though, that these countries recognize the premise of countries acting on self-interest, whereas Western countries seek to uphold a phony “rules-based world order”, where they make the rules and break them as they please.
This article from The Guardian titled “Erdoğan Asks Russia and Iran to Back Turkey’s Incursion into Syria” is a prime example of Western coverage of Turkiye [including the refusal to use Turkiye’s UN-approved English name change…apparently “dead-naming” is fine when its a major military power.] It cites Putin saying, “With your mediation, we have moved forward. True, not all issues have yet been resolved, but the fact that there is movement is already good,” which of course just is diplomacy, and then is sure to mention that Erdogan referred to Putin as “My good friend” [which is how world leaders trying to make progress tend to refer to each other.] To the author Ruth Michaelson’s credit, she takes the time to cite a pro-peace think tank, “The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation,” with analyst Hanna Notte commenting that, “They share a view of the world as multipolar, where countries outside of the west should have a say on how things are run.” This is anathema to the cabal which runs the West, and does much to explain their extreme hostility to Erdogan. She goes on to finish with this quote from Aron Lund at the Washington-based think tank “The Century Foundation,”:
“There’s all this leverage building up because of Ukraine and all these crises at once; it would be surprising if Erdoğan doesn’t try to squeeze something out of this moment, as this is what he does. Under Erdoğan, especially in the latter half of his rule, Turkey is always stirring up crises and then getting something in return for stopping them. That’s been the modus operandi all along. It damages Turkey’s standing in a lot of countries. We witnessed a severe lack of appreciation for this in Congress and in the EU parliament, for example. But Erdoğan doesn’t care, or doesn’t seem to. He can show off the results to aid public opinion and he benefits domestically – plus Turkey benefits in real foreign policy terms, they do get results.”
I love how at the end of this he inserts almost parenthetically that it works. It damages his reputation with the Western powers who want to control Turkiye and will never be “appeased” regardless. Their think tank writes things like this about a close ally and then criticizes him when he seeks other partners. This is especially absurd as the US government has been intentionally creating a terrorist safe haven in Idlib and funding Turkiye’s Kurdish enemies and then without blushing this guy accuses Erdogan of inventing crises. [It’s worth noting that the US government is constantly fomenting crises and then failing to solve them and looking worse for it…for example, as one of my friends pointed out, under real leadership they would have just injected everyone with saline in May of 2020 and declared victory against covid.] And once again, this is all happening in Turkiye’s “near abroad” where it is a major power, whereas the Western countries are simply tepidly demanding allegiance to their hypocritical abstract “principles.”
The main topic of the summit was Russia’s plan to “outsource” its role as the guarantor of the Syrian Arab Republic to Iran, due to Russia’s current preoccupation with Ukraine. As Turkiye and Iran have a historically contentious relationship. Turkiye is not happy with Iran taking on this role. Similarly, Russia and Iran are strong supporters of Syria’s territorial integrity, and thus oppose all Turkish incursions into the area. However, the parties do agree that the problem of terrorism in northwest Syria needs to be solved, and Russia and Iran hope that they can create a situation where Turkiye does not have reasons to feel threatened [which means they are willing to acknowledge Turkiye’s concerns as valid, a key aspect to diplomatic progress.] The conference ended on a “positive note” with an agreement for further talks to take place soon in Russia. Further, Turkiye and Iran have agreed to increase their cooperation in fighting terrorism as well as their economic ties. While these sides have competing interests in Syria, they do have a genuine interest in reducing Sunni extremism in the Middle East, as well as in weakening Kurdish terrorist groups. The three parties have competing interests, but by actually bothering to speak to each other they were able to reduce regional tensions, which is indeed the point of diplomacy.
Turkiye’s diplomatic behavior is the way countries used to be expected to behave. It was understood that wars sometimes happen- generally because for some reason or another diplomacy failed. Sadly, now it is the case with the West that diplomacy often isn’t tried, or is preconditioned on ridiculous conditions like Russia’s complete withdrawal from Ukraine- including Crimea [which, once again, whether or not Russia should do that- in the moral or practical sense- they absolutely will not, there would be nothing to negotiate if they did, and it is clearly a cheap way to refuse diplomacy.] The fact is every world leader you dislike is not the next Hitler. All diplomacy is not appeasement [also, the public is wildly misinformed about the drastic diplomatic failures leading up to World War II, I recommend Pat Buchanan’s remarkable book Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War for more information about this topic.] War between major nuclear powers should be seen as not an option, which makes diplomacy all the more critical. It is sheer madness to deny that nuclear powers, or even non-nuclear regional powers such as Turkiye have a sphere of influence, as is now being done in the West. It seems extremely clear to me that the Russia-Ukraine war is another crisis the West ginned up and then failed to solve, so they will yet again suffer from catastrophic narrative collapse while our own economies based on inherited wealth grievously suffer. Instead of demonizing Erdogan and Turkiye, perhaps Western leaders should learn from him, and focus on living in reality-based world, instead of their “rules-based” world order.
As Machiavelli writes,
“I do not believe there is any worse example in a republic than to make a law and then not to observe it, and even more so when it is not observed by the person who made it.” [Discourses, I.45]
Indeed, perhaps the people who did the invasion of Iraq in violation of all international laws and standards should shut the fuck up about how other people need to follow the rules and instead focus on trivial issues like the spiraling food and energy prices bankrupting their own populations and destabilizing their own governments. But they won’t, because doing the difficult things necessary for prosperity and stability, such as talking to people you disagree with, is apparently beyond the capabilities of the West’s feckless, pompous, incompetent, and increasingly impotent leadership class. Not so in Turkiye, the one country [well, perhaps besides Russia] whose prestige is genuinely rising from its role in the Russia-Ukraine war.
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