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From the Bosphorus: Straight - Seeking a disingenuousness shield

HDN | 10/24/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Not only is the United States' ultimatum to Turkey on missile defense deeply offensive, but the system is effectively useless in an age of terrorism.

Psychologists call it “suspended disbelief.” It is the process whereby the mind refuses to accept or process the information being sent to it by the eye; witnesses to earthquakes on an otherwise placid day, for example, will exhibit the phenomenon: “I could not believe my eyes.”

Which is kind of where we are coming down to on the slow rumbling of a new diplomatic crisis expected to hit a crescendo on Nov. 19-20, when ministers meet for a NATO summit in Lisbon. NATO’s “if you love me, prove it” demand to Turkey is the proposal to deploy a missile defense shield in Turkey.

It boils down to two questions: One, is Turkey willing to do so? Second, can Turkey convince NATO to package what is clearly a proposal with in Iran in mind to somehow fudge that inconvenient truth by avoiding specific mention of a “threat” from Tehran?

It is all, frankly, a little bizarre.

First is the disingenuousness from the Turkish side. It is as if this comes as a surprise. On Sept. 1, 2009, we reported that Turkey was the new choice to host a missile defense shield. The front page story by contributor İpek Yezdani quoted a Polish newspaper and a prominent U.S. defense lobbyist saying that Turkey was the clear choice after the new U.S. Barack Obama administration decided a Polish location would be too troubling for Russia. The Turkish foreign minister claimed to have no knowledge of the plan. Well, so much for that.

Our second concern turns on what we reported Friday. This was Barçın Yinanç’s story that among the bits of leverage the United States is deploying in this round of horse-trading is a threat to pull the stops off of the U.S. Congress in its annual toying with a symbolic resolution to formally recognize the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “genocide.”

Turkey and America may reasonably disagree on policy toward Iran. But we continue to view the latest row, when Turkey and Brazil brokered the now-famous, last-minute deal to avoid sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, as bungling in Washington, not Ankara. Turkey played fairly on this one, as subsequent revelations of correspondence with Obama make clear. So, wheeling in a weapon of diplomatic mass destruction in the form of this perennial resolution is offensive. Deeply so.

Lastly, multi-billion dollar missile defense systems may be much loved by military planners, engineers and defense contractors. They may even have value as an externality for diplomats to make deals on unrelated issues. But as a defense in the age of terrorism, these technologically dubious designs are worthless.

Osama bin Laden proved this in 2001 when he simply engineered the hijacking of just three of the 400 or so commercial jets that are above the Boston-Washington air corridor at any moment, converting them into the poor man’s version of ballistic missiles.

We need a believable defense against 21st-century threats.

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