New Kid on the Block

From today’s Washington Post story on Turkey:

“They want to be the big kid on the block,” said Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “They have essentially a very inflated sense of their own importance.”

I wonder what other country in that region might suffer from the same malady?

(Judging from Barkey’s resume and from a skim of a few of his articles, I’m sure he has a more nuanced opinion on Turkey, so I’m putting this one on the copy editor.)

22 replies
  1. 1
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    “They have essentially a very inflated sense of their own importance.”

    I hate to dissillusion anybody, but every country has a very inflated sense of their own importance.

    That includes the US.

  2. 2
    Michael says:

    Antisemitism has no place here in the USA, mistermix. You’re just a Heydrich who wants to fire up ovens.

  3. 3
    zoe kentucky says:

    Any criticism of Israeli policies and actions does not constitute anti-semitism. Seriously, and I write that as a Jew. That is the ridiculous corner some people have backed themselves into– Israel can do no wrong apparently and anyone attempting to point out that they can (and do) wrong sometimes is attacked as being an anti-semite. It’s an absurd position and akin to crying wolf.

  4. 4
    Michael says:

    @zoe kentucky:

    …anyone attempting to point out that they can (and do) wrong sometimes always is attacked as being an anti-semite.


  5. 5
    toujoursdan says:

    Turkey should be seen but not heard…


  6. 6
    skyler says:

    my company has worked with carnegie people before and theyre good, not anti-turkey in the slightest. that quote simply has to be very badly taken out of context.

  7. 7
    Brandon says:

    Or alternatively, it could be that he was responding to a question using the terminonology of the questioner. But who cares, really, let’s all gang up on Turkey now!

  8. 8
    BC says:

    Yeah, what does Turkey know about the Mideast? It’s not like they ever ruled in that region at all, donchano, or have any roots to it. These johnny-come-lately muslims need to know their place.

  9. 9
    HRA says:

    In much earlier times, Turkey was the big kid on the block. During those earlier times, both of my grandfathers were killed by the Turks when my parents were very young. I never heard one word spoken against the Turks from my parents. The best friend they had was a Turk. Times change for better or for worse.

    For years I admired and still do admire the early Israelis. I could never read enough about them. What has happened to them is what is happening here lately and it’s all tragic IMO .

  10. 10
    El Cid says:

    This should help to begin smoothing out the controversy.

    Iranian aid ships are due to set sail to Gaza by the end of the week, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
    The Iranian Red Crescent decided to send the vessels, which will carry food, medications, and medical equipment, following a meeting with the foreign ministry…
    …On Sunday, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards are ready to provide a military escort to cargo ships trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
    “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval forces are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities,” Ali Shirazi, Khamenei’s representative inside the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

    I don’t know if they’re serious or just preferring to have Israel issue howls of denunciations, but if they’re serious, the U.S. will block the vessels’ entry into the Mediterranean, because the U.S. will de facto support the illegal Gaza blockade.

    And always remember that so-called “unintended consequences” or “hoocoodanode” aren’t really. So, hoocoodanode that Israeli forces assassinating Turkish aid activists on a Turkish ship and then flying giant middle fingers at Turkey would aid the political fortunes of pro-Islamic parties in Turkey?

    The fallout from an Israel raid on a Turkish ship could bring forward elections in Turkey as the government moves to capitalize on a wave of popular support for its anti-Israel policies, according to press reports in the country on Monday.
    Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s moderate Islamist AK party believes its harsh condemnation of Israel, which last week killed nine activists when it raided six protest boats led by the Turkish ship ‘Mavi Marmara’, could deliver a landslide in the polls.
    Secular opposition politicians have condemned the government’ uncompromising response, which included the withdrawal of Turkey’s ambassador from Israel. They say Erdogan has gone too far in downgrading ties with Israel, traditionally one of Turkey’s closest regional allies.

    Gosh, it’s almost like Israel’s backing of Hamas over the PLO in the first place, or the U.S. spending a decade backing the most vicious warlord drug dealing terrorist Islamic fundamentalist murderers in Afghanistan only to be surprised that it led to nasty blowback even in the U.S. — hoocoodanode?

    However, bear in mind that a further, easily demonized Islamic politics led Turkey is in the interests of Israeli policymakers. Israeli leaders don’t want a moderate Muslim state in the region as a large and respected rival.

    The trashing of Turkey as a regional rival to Israel is not just a result of the recent killings of the flotilla civilians — it is a desirable development for Israeli pro-militarists.

    According to a Lebanese report on Saturday, Erdogan is considering traveling to Gaza aboard a Turkish navy vessel accompanying a new attempt by protest boats to break Israel’s maritime blockade.
    On Monday a senior IDF commander said Israel would view an attempt by Erdogan to sail to Gaza as an act of war.
    If he comes here with Turkish warships there can be no doubt that it would amount to a declaration of war,” Major-Genral (Res.) Uzi Dayan told Army Radio.
    “We need to draw a clear line and say that whoever crosses it will not be boarded but sunk.”

    Again, in reality, the U.S. (or British, or whomever the U.S. calls up) Navy would be sent there to block Turkish ships, perhaps under a new interpretation of NATO functionality.

    Meanwhile, Israel’s reputation as the onliest, bestest democracy EVAR in the Middle East continues to be burnished.

    The Knesset’s House Committee on Monday recommended revoking the privileges of Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi, after she participated in last week’s Gaza-bound aid flotilla which resulted in an IDF raid that killed nine activists.
    The decision was passed by a majority of seven to one, with MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz opposing.
    The Knesset committee recommended rescinding from Zuabi three key privileges usually granted to Knesset Members.
    One is the privilege to exit the country – which is supposed to prevent Zoabi from fleeing Israel if she commits a felony or has debts in Israel.
    Another privilege is carrying a diplomatic passport, which according to the Knesset’s legal adviser, is a privilege that does not grant diplomatic immunity so revoking it would not make it more difficult for Zuabi to fulfill her duties.
    The third privilege is the right to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she is put on trial…
    Likud MK Yariv Levin, who serves as chairman of the Knesset House Committee, said before the discussion that Hanin Zuabi betrayed the State of Israel and she must be put on trial.
    “What Zuabi did crossed the line and even in a democracy there must be red lines. Whoever sails to Hamas is a supporter of terror,” said Levin.

    If only our Bush Jr. triumvirate Congressional Republicans had thought to vote to block Democratic members from traveling abroad, or ignoring their immunity from arrest or legal assistance.

    Once again, however, remember: this is not merely a ‘reaction’ to this Israeli Arab MK (member of the Knesset). It is an opportunity for the right wing ultra-militarist establishment to have the opportunity they have desired to greatly advance their attack on Israeli Arab participation in elected governance.

    Let us not say that the Israeli ultra-hawk establishment and its punditarian worshipers do not know how to turn a crisis into an opportunity — for them and their goals, the interests of ordinary Israelis (Jews & Arab alike) be damned. Who cares about the peons, whose allegiances vary?

  11. 11
    Napoleon says:

    Prediction, 2 years from now Turkey will no longer be actively considered for EU membership and within a 5 to 10 year frame will resign NATO.

  12. 12
    El Cid says:

    @Napoleon: Maybe, and I think a bunch of Israeli and U.S. hawks and liberal hawks would see that as a good thing.

  13. 13
    J says:

    And what other country wants to be the big kid on that and every other block? We’re No. & don’t forget it!!!

  14. 14
    Rommie says:

    I think you are correct that NATO ships would discourage Turkish warships from escorting another flotilla all the way to Gaza, Cid.

    But wouldn’t it be something if they let them by, metaphorically turning their backs and whistling, Sgt. Schulz style? It might be a way to show their displeasure with Israel but subtle enough to get away with it.

    Then again, the resulting fireworks might create an even bigger problem – but does Israel really have the brass ones to openly fire on a NATO warship? That’s one answer I don’t want to learn the truth of.

  15. 15
    mike in dc says:

    The strategic equation, leaving aside Israeli nukes, is that the IDF could readily defeat the combined forces of, say, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Or even Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iran. Maybe they could even hold off or stalemate the combined forces of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. But now throw Turkey into the mix–roughly the same number and type of combat aircraft, with more polished professional training akin to what Israeli pilots get; a huge army with modern equipment; a larger and more capable navy than Israel possesses; and a member of NATO, to boot–and to say it “complicates” Israel’s strategic situation is a vast understatement. Turkey by itself can stalemate Israel militarily; Turkey combined with any other significant powers in the region can reduce Israel to having to call on the US to bail them out.
    So I don’t see a net benefit for Israel to antagonizing Turkey.

  16. 16
    El Cid says:


    But wouldn’t it be something if they let them by, metaphorically turning their backs and whistling, Sgt. Schulz style? It might be a way to show their displeasure with Israel but subtle enough to get away with it.

    There are a lot of things I think would be interesting if they happened, but I think the chances of something like this are, unfortunately, really really really really low.

    [By the way, I don’t think the U.S. foreign policy establishment views Israel’s actions in assassinating flotilla members as inherently wrong and disagreeable, just awfully inconvenient in having caused discomforting results. The U.S. doesn’t particularly care about either Gazan survival or when forces allied to the U.S. FPE kill U.S. citizens.]

  17. 17
    CalD says:


    “They want to be the big kid on the block,” said Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “They have essentially a very inflated sense of their own importance.”

    Yeah who do those uppity Turks think they are?

    Just because they’re the 18th largest country in the world (out of a couple hundred countries) in terms of population — larger than any country in Europe except Germany. In the Middle East, only Egypt and Iran are more populous. (Israel is #95 at about 1/10 the size of Turkey.)

    And OK, so what if Turkey is the world’s 17th largest economy (Israel ranks 40th with less than half of Turkey’s GDP) and the 37th largest country in land area (Israel is 151st) — larger than any country in Europe and third largest in the Middle East. And sure, they’re the oldest and most successful constitutional democracy in the Muslim world — women in Turkey had the right to vote before women in the USA — and have the 2nd largest standing army in NATO after the USA.

    That still doesn’t give them the right to go speaking up to our cool friends. How dare they presume to consider themselves players? Thank goodness the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has such a learned Turkey expert like Henri Barkey on hand to put them in their place.

  18. 18
    CalD says:

    PS: It’s a shame they don’t have the internets at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, because their Turkey experts could actually look some of this stuff up pretty easily if they did. And with all due respect to Henri Barkey, in my own travels in Turkey and all my conversations with Turks from all walks of life, one thing that has struck me over and over is that they all seem to share some real self esteem issues when it comes to their perceptions of their country’s place in the world. To call their sense of their own importance under-inflated would be the grossest of understatement in my experience.

    That perception seems to permeate their national consciousness to such an extent that I can’t see any way that anyone could spend any length of time in Turkey without noticing it. Maybe Henri Barkey should try visiting there some time — FWIW, it also might help if he took his head out of his ass first, but that could be asking for a lot.

  19. 19
    o kanis says:

    Anyone who thinks that Turkey will be out of the NATO any time soon, say the next century or so, is dreaming technicolor dreams, big time.


  20. 20
    wengler says:

    This rightwing trashing of everyone that disagrees with them at any moment of time is quite entertaining, if only because the hardcore corporatists will step in eventually and tell them what to say.

    Turkey is the point of access to Caspian oil. There is no other way to get it that doesn’t go through Russia or Iran. There is a pipeline that goes through Georgia but Black Sea access is, you guessed it, controlled by Turkey.

    At the end of the month, the oily creatures that subsist on crude will make sure that American rightwingers are composing tributes to the mighty Turkish state, while the Turks will be done with pursuing any sort of human rights agenda anywhere. I mean they were the architects of the Armenian genocide and the current suppression of Kurdish culture. Consistency has got to count for something in this world.

  21. 21
    tkogrumpy says:

    I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every juicer for their input on this blog. You have no idea what a joy it is for this old drop-out to have the benefit of your many different takes on the issues discussed. Bless the intertubes.

  22. 22
    CalD says:


    Armenian genocide? You’ve got your Turks confused. The Armenian tragedy took place under the Ottoman empire — i.e., the monarchy that the founders of the Turkish Republic overthrew to found the modern state of Turkey.

    You’ve got them dead to rights on the Kurdish thing though. Never mind that those cultural bans were brought on in the first place by the uprisings of Kurdish separatists in the southeast. That doesn’t excuse it in my book and it certainly didn’t prove to be an effective policy, so it was stupid as well as wrong. And I know that a lot of Turks would agree on that one.

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