It’s never a good idea to negotiate with a hostage-taker, but when it’s a NATO ally, there isn’t much choice.The Trump administration has been trying to get back a Christian pastor detained in Turkey since October 2016, and when a possible deal at the sidelines of the NATO summit fell through, decided to drop the hammer.
A couple of weeks ago, the administration sanctioned Turkey’s justice and interior ministers — remember, these are top officials of a fellow NATO country. The action hit the Turkish currency and stock market hard. Then President Donald Trump intervened in his inimitable style, with a tweet promising a doubling of aluminum and steel tariffs against the country and pointedly noting the drop in the value of the lira.
As always, the president’s shoot-from-the-lip style is open to question, but Turkey deserved every last character — including the two exclamation points — in that presidential tweet. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel, a leader firmly within the liberal West who annoys Trump. He’s an Islamist authoritarian who is fundamentally changing the character of an erstwhile ally.
Erdogan’s resort to hostage-taking as a tactic to gain leverage over allies — it’s not just us — is a barbarous throwback and a disgusting homage to rogue states like Iran and North Korea. He also has grabbed a Turkish-American NASA scientist and local employees of American consulates.