Thursday, February 28, 2008

Been There, Done That

So Defense Secretary Gates will soon be making the rounds in Turkey, urging that country's leadership to bring its military incursion into northern Iraq to a hasty end. From the New York Times:

“It’s very important that the Turks make this operation as short as possible and then leave,” Mr. Gates told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday as he prepared to leave for Turkey.

His words reflected the Bush administration’s sharper tone toward the Turkish government over the cross-border raids and stood in contrast to earlier American statements backing the Turks in their operations against guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the P.K.K., the initials of the group’s name in Kurdish.

“I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that, not months,” Mr. Gates said. It was the first time he had demanded a strict timeline for the Turkish operation to end.

Spencer Ackerman takes note of the irony associated with us lecturing another country about respecting the sovereignty, and territorial integrity, of Iraq. But it doesn't end there. We've also been dispensing advice on how to best handle terrorist threats. From the LA Times piece:

The Pentagon chief said the military action by Turkey would not solve the problem of Kurdish insurgency unless it was accompanied by economic development in Kurdish territories and the political will to address the community's grievances.

"There certainly is a place for security operations, but these also need to be accompanied with economic and political initiatives that begin to deal with some of the issues that provide a favorable local environment where the PKK can operate," Gates said. "They need to address some of the issues and complaints that some of the Kurds have."

From the NY Times:

"Military activity alone will not solve this terrorist problem for Turkey,” Mr. Gates said.

While Gates is right to push for calm, the ironi-meter just went to 11 (out of 10). Think about these admonitions in terms of "war on terror" framing. Turkey actually has a legitimate reason to invade Iraq - not that I think it's a particularly good choice. Nevertheless, actual terrorist groups based in Iraq have been committing actual terrorist attacks in Turkey with some regularity - leading to death, destruction and domestic unrest.

What was our pretext for invading Iraq? That Saddam had supported certain Palestinian groups that had committed terrorist attacks in Israel, and that this made him an unacceptable threat to our security (because...well...9/11 changed everything!). Plus: Saddam might have some leftover chem and bio weapons that are ill-suited for terrorist attacks (in most cases, regular explosives lead to a higher body count). Oh, and Saddam might give those clumsy munitions to anti-American terrorists that he doesn't have a relationship with (and that are openly hostile to his regime). Riiight.

Yet we're the ones lecturing Turkey on the virtues of restraint and when it is, and isn't, appropriate to use military force to address terrorism problems. I'm sure they are impressed by the consistency of our position. On the other hand, our advice would take on a different hue if it were given from the vantage point of, "Trust us, more than anyone, we should know how flawed that approach is. Why just look at..."

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