How Should We Respond to the Turkish Assault in Washington DC?


Last week, a bunch of security goons working for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan waded into a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Washington DC and started beating up the protesters. A few days ago, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump made a pretty good case that Erdogan did more than just watch as this happened. He actually ordered his guards to attack. Rich Lowry has the right response:

This is second offense for the Turks. A year ago, they beat up protesters and disfavored journalists outside an Erdogan talk at the Brookings Institution in Washington. One reporter wrote of that earlier incident, “Never seen anything like this.” If you hang around President Erdogan long enough, though, you’ll see it all.

….The Trump administration is obviously not putting an emphasis on promoting our values abroad. But it’s one thing not to go on a democratizing crusade; it’s another to shrug off an assault on the rights of protesters on our own soil. If nothing else, President Donald Trump’s nationalism and sense of honor should be offended. Not only did the Turks carry out this attack, they are thumbing their noses at us by summoning our ambassador over it.

The Turkish goons who punched and kicked people should be identified and charged with crimes. They are beyond our reach, either because they are back in Turkey or have diplomatic immunity. But we should ask for them to be returned and for their immunity to be waived. When these requests are inevitably refused, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. (heard saying during the incident, “You cannot touch us”) should be expelled.

It’s obvious that Turkey is a delicate problem. On the one hand, they’re a NATO member, and their location makes them a critical player in the war against ISIS. On the other hand, Erdogan is steadily converting Turkey into a totalitarian state. In the real world, sometimes you overlook this because you need allies and you don’t always have the option of choosing someone who’s pure and unsullied. But even if you accept this, Turkey is on thin ice since the Kurds are also our allies and Turkey interferes pretty seriously with our ability to team up with them. Even from a strictly realist/strategic perspective, our alliance with Turkey comes with a price.

I won’t pretend to have the answer. It’s above my pay grade. But ordering your embassy security to attack protesters in the US who are lawfully and peacefully assembled is a whole different thing. That deserves a strong response even if it might cause strategic tension. Enough’s enough.