Ready for a surprise?
Well now the election is over; like it or not, Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. There are many citizens, American or otherwise, who are seriously worried about the upcoming Trump era. At the end of the day, this will be a new era in which radicalism will be mainstream. However, for states, “there are no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” So now most countries around the world seem eager to work with Trump. A new era might come with new opportunities at the end of the day, who knows.
No doubt, Turkey is hopeful. It was no secret that President Barack Obama and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have not really gotten along for the last few years. The famous photograph in which Barack Obama was holding a baseball bat in his hand when talking to Erdoğan on the phone was highly symbolic. It was no secret that for the last few years, Obama almost completely lost trust in Erdoğan.
So Turkey was not expecting much from Hillary Clinton’s presidency. However with Trump’s election, hopes have become high again on the Turkish side. Keeping in mind that the pro-government media in Turkey supported Trump during the election campaign, the AK Party government apparently assumes that they will be able to work with Trump much more easily than they would have with the Democrats. Clinton was planning to continue to work with Kurdish groups, but Turkey might be able to talk Trump into a more active role for Turkey, both in Mosul and the coming Raqqa operations. At least this seems to be the AK Party’s plan.
However, the Turkish government might be overly optimistic, they should probably be ready for bad surprises. Yes, Trump is a businessman and probably he will be quite pragmatic. But the political enclave around him will sometimes be more important than himself.
Who will be the secretary of state is the next big question. Rudy Giuliani is one of the names that come forward. John Bolton is another. Regardless of whether one of these gentlemen becomes the secretary of state or not, they will be in the leading cadre, it seems. Giuliani is the ex-mayor of New York and is probably more known to Americans than the rest of the world. Bolton is not a new name, on the other hand. Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. From 2001 to 2005, he was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Those were chaotic years when the U.S. started the war in Iraq despite all the opposition from the world. So Bolton’s job by then was not easy. Unsurprisingly, he is known for his hawkish position on foreign policy.
Bolton’s ideas about the current situation of the Turkish state may not make Mr. Erdoğan tittle, on the other hand. Bolton, who is currently writing for a think tank called the American Enterprise Institute, wrote this about Turkey right after the July 15 coup attempt:
“Most importantly, Erdoğan’s relentless pursuit of an increasingly radical Islamicization of Turkey will proceed largely unfettered. And no significant institutional or political opposition inside Turkey now stands to thwart his penchant for authoritarianism.
“The triumph of Erdoğan’s government means he has swept the board clear of any real impediments to implementing his radical policies. Both as prime minister and now as president, Erdoğan has focused single-mindedly on an Islamicist attack on Turkey’s secular constitution, and the very foundations of a modern Turkey, rising from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, envisioned by Mustafa Kemal.
“Erdoğan’s increasingly dictatorial approach to governance has in recent years become ever clearer internationally, epitomized by his arrests and harassment of both foreign and domestic journalists he deemed critical of his regime. In earlier days, serving as mayor of Istanbul, he said publicly: ‘Democracy is like a street car. You ride it to the stop you want, and then you get off.’ Friday’s coup attempt may well be precisely the stop Erdoğan was waiting for.”
If Bolton becomes one of Trump’s policy makers, it will be hard for Turkey to have the long awaited honeymoon with the U.S. It seems the distrust toward Erdoğan is even higher on the Republicans’ side.