April 19th, 2019


No Turkish delight today

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published August 23,2018

No Turkish delight today

  Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Dreamstime

If you've got a bunch of Turkish lira, now's the time to get rid of them in favor of the good old American dollar. For our supposed ally seems mired in a host of political, economic and ethnic troubles brought on for the most part by its dictatorial leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It's clear that Kemal Ataturk, the authoritarian founder of modern Turkey, has been replaced by a dictator of another and far less wholesome bent. Pity the poor Turks caught between the tides of history and about to drown in its ever perilous waves.

Turkey's dictator of the moment has even resorted to seizing and holding hostages to ill fortune such as the Rev. Andrew Brunson, an American preacher who was swept up in an indiscriminate wave of arrests that followed an attempted coup a couple of years ago. Sadly, it failed.

In better days the Turkish army might have stepped in to stop this swing of the pendulum, but today's Turkey no longer has a military establishment with the power and guts to take action, having been neutered by the current regime. Our president may have thought he's worked out a deal by which a Turkish woman accused of financing Hamas, the radical Palestinian faction eager to attack Israel and Israelis, was released by Israel in a kind of exchange of prisoners. But the Rev. Brunson remains locked up.

What a tangled web we weave when we combine economic and political retaliation. Our president's first rationale for his trade war with Turkey was the need to protect American manufacturers who churned out steel and aluminum products said to be vital to our national security. But it has since been overridden by the need to get this American preacher out of whatever hellhole the Turks have reserved for this unwilling American guest of theirs.

Listen to Lindsey Graham, the U.S senator who's always been a good man to turn to when it comes to debating this country's policies, foreign or domestic: "I have always believed the case against Pastor Brunson was a sham. It's very unfortunate that the Trump administration had to retaliate against Turkey for their continued refusal to release Pastor Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkish custody."

Another GOP senator -- Ohio's Rob Portman -- repeated his sound warning to our president against his "misuse" of the law that allows the president to impose tariffs against another country on grounds of our national security. This new tariff essentially placed Turkish steel out of the American market, which makes up 13 percent of Turkey's exports of steel. Once this country was Turkey's best customer when it came to steel. Now we've fallen to its No. 3 importer of steel products.

The moral of this story? Nobody wins a trade war, but the masterminds in both Washington and Ankara have failed to learn that. Instead they're conducting only a boomerang war against each other that both are sure to lose unless they change their ways. For at this point, each qualifies as its own worst enemy.


Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His column has appeared in JWR since June, 1998.