Once again, Andrew Sullivan demonstrates that when it comes to the Middle East he is wrong about both the past and the present. Its hard to understand what is wrong with the guy, he is either suffering from some sort of dementia, is biased, or just plain stupid. Now he is attacking my good friend Barry Rubin, but it doesn’t seem as if he read the article he is criticizing. Whatever his problem is, its time for the Atlantic to take away his computer until the malady is figured out. He is embarrassing himself and the proud tradition of the Magazine.
Andrew Sullivan Attacks Me Without Bothering to Consider What I Wrote
One of the amazing things about the intellectual scene today is that people attack you without any reference to what you actually say. It is as if you were talking to someone deaf who has his hearing aid turned off. You want to explain that there must be a misunderstanding only to find that the person doesn’t care: he just wants to scream insults at you so that nobody actually considers whether you are making an accurate point.
When I was growing up, someone considered your actual arguments and responded to them with rational arguments of their own. Some of us still do that.
Instead, Andrew Sullivan writes:
“Barry Rubin joins the chorus from the neocon right claiming that `Turkey is on the enemy side.'”
Let’s consider this sentence. First, rather than argue the facts he merely throws in two words intended to get people to demonize you and not listen: neocon right. Hey, nothing more need be said! But the central question is whether the original statement was true or not, right?
Then there’s that word “joins.” I’ve been studying Turkey now for 35 years. I’ve been there about 25 times. Regarding the direction of the regime, I’ve been saying the same thing for about two years, long before there was a collapse of Turkish-Israel relations.
If I’ve joined anyone it’s the Turkish socialists and liberals. Here’s one of many examples: a Turkish woman from the left who angrily told me, “We’ve been warning the West about these people for years and they just won’t listen.”
In fact, though, I think I was the first person to say that the Turkish regime (NOT Turkey) has gone over to the other side. I have written literally dozens of articles proving it. I have quoted Iran’s leader and Syria’s government as having publicly stated it. Might Sullivan want to consult the evidence I have compiled? Of course not.
And then he makes a remarkably revealing illogical argument:
“It was once a given on the right that keeping Turkey close to the West was essential in defusing Islamism and winning the war on terror. But once Turkey took on Israel, that ended, because the war many neocons are waging is for Israel, right or wrong, not the West at large.”
This has an implication of antisemitism, doesn’t it? All those people are only angry at Turkey because it has fallen out with Israel, referring mainly to the flotilla issue. This makes me think of the argument in the 1930s that people were only critical of Germany because they were Jews or only cared about Jewish interests.
But, yes, it has been a given on both left, center, and right that keeping Turkey close to the West was essential. Yet what if the Turkish regime is no longer close to the West? Everyone’s opinion is still the same, it’s the situation that’s changed.
So how to keep Turkey close to the West? Act to constrain the current regime and, in appropriate ways of course, to help the opposition win the elections a year from now. Oh, dear! Then Turkey would have a socialist prime minister instead of an Islamist one. Seems to me that’s what liberals would prefer.
As for the claim that it’s all about Israel, in fact, I have been talking for months about:
- Internal repression in Turkey, including the arrests of hundreds of peaceful dissidents on charges of attempting to overthrow the government with violence. Turks have been writing eloquently about this issue.
- Changes to bring the media and court system under government control. The regime and its supporters have bought up much of the media and intimidated the rest. It is now proposing constitutional changes to cripple the judiciary. People in Turkey are scared. Many say they no longer recognize their country.
- Turkish regime support for Iran and its nuclear weapons’ program. This now includes cutting a separate deal with Tehran against U.S. wishes and voting against sanctions. The prime minister has stated that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, therefore calling President Obama a liar.
- The regime’s engagement with Hamas and Hizballah. As I have pointed out, the regime does NOT support the “Palestinian people” but merely Hamas, a fellow Islamist group.
Much of my material has come from the Turkish opposition, mainly Kemalist secularists and democratic socialists.
Yet none of this matters, right? It’s only all about Israel, we are supposed to believe, and talking about everything else is just an excuse!
Sullivan has, however, taught me something important: why such people must keep harping on Israel. Forget about the canary in the coal mine analogy. The Israel card’s use is to make people blind, to shut them up, to throw out every other issue and piece of evidence. They hope that anti-Israel passion (plus dark hints of a Jewish conspiracy) will keep people from actually looking at what’s happening.
On top of this, the main theme of my article Sullivan was attacking was quite different from his claims. Here are the key sentences:
“Suppose you are the British prime minister going to Turkey, or to just about any country. What should you say? The theme should be: We can cooperate and do mutually beneficial things. Here’s what I can do for you; here’s what I’d like you to do for me. And here’s what you must not do in order to reap the benefits of my friendship and favor.
“Obviously, you need to dress that up in appropriate language. But everything should be conditional. The message to be delivered is that it is in your interest to respect my interests.
“Cameron did the precise and exact opposite. His message was: The UK needs Turkey. Turkey is wonderful. Its behavior has been perfect. We are desperate for your help.
“What is the effect? A man goes into a bazaar, points to a carpet, and says, ‘That is the most beautiful carpet I have ever seen. I must have it no matter what the price! How much is it?’”
Does that sound like a call for war?
Mr. Sullivan: There is something in diplomacy between war and appeasement. It is called carrots and sticks, costs and benefits, quid pro quo. Cameron’s speech was a mess because he abandoned that principle and resorted only to simple-minded flattery. Middle Eastern peoples–Muslim or otherwise–know what that signals: weakness, which invites ridicule and aggressiveness.
Sullivan also ignores my point–which I think is rather significant–that Cameron foolishly insulted France and Germany by strongly implying that the only reason they oppose Turkey’s EU membership is because they were bigots. If Sullivan had been Britain’s prime minister I guess he would have called them “neocon rightists.”
If Cameron had not mentioned Israel at all I would have written precisely the same article on all these points.
“Keep it up, prime minister. Advance the interests of Britain, and resist the war of civilizations the far right wants to gin up. We will only defeat Islamism if we keep an open hand stretched to Islam. Isolating and demonizing Turkey’s evolution as a regional Muslim power – prepared to be Israel’s ally if Israel stops the persecution and colonization of the Palestinans – is about as dumb a geo-strategic move as one could imagine.”
The issue is not a “war of civilizations” but a war of ideologies. Is Sullivan really so dense that he doesn’t understand that the people most similar to him in Turkey hate and fear the current regime? Doesn’t Sullivan understand that the governments of most Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East don’t want the West to support the Islamists?
(Here’s a list: Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. And even the Palestinian Authority and the democratic forces in Lebanon. These are almost all Muslims, too, aren’t they? And then let’s add the majority of Muslims in Turkey and in Iran as well!)
Turkey is not evolving into being a regional Muslim power as some kind of national project. This is in fact the policy of one party in Turkey which has less than 30 percent support according to recent public opinion polls, with probably twice as many Turks favoring non-Islamist opposition parties.
And what does deifying the current Turkish government have to do with keeping an “open hand stretched to Islam”? Almost all Turks are Muslims, they just aren’t political Islamists. That’s why the West gets along with Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia, for example, who are all Muslims but not on the side of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah.
It was a Socialist leader who once said that antisemitism was the socialism of fools. Today, the insane use of Israel as the cause of all issues and problems is the tool used to make fools on the left support the most reactionary forces on the Middle Eastern extreme right. And then, to make it laughable, they do so in the name of fighting evil rightists!
Incidentally, don’t think I didn’t notice Sullivan’s sleazy little trick: he didn’t link to my article so those reading his blog item cannot easily check out what I actually said rather than what he claimed. That’s the kind of behavior that tells a great deal about Sullivan’s intellectual dishonesty.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) CenterMiddle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).