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Why Enlisting Turkey to Fight the Islamic State Was a Bad Idea

August 30, 2015 in Economics

By Brad Stapleton

Brad Stapleton

Earlier last week, Turkey announced that it is poised to launch “comprehensive” air operations, in cooperation with the United States, against Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Syria. That announcement is surely welcome news to the Obama administration, whose campaign to degrade and defeat ISIS is now in its second year. Yet this burden sharing entails costs as well as benefits.

Since taking office, Obama has insisted that in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States’ allies will have to shoulder more of the burden in addressing new and ongoing international security challenges. In the campaign against IS, the administration has ruled out the deployment of U.S. ground troops. Instead, the U.S. military has been restricted to launching airstrikes against IS targets in support of local ground forces in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, the administration has pressured regional allies, Turkey in particular, to play a more active role in the conflict.

In the future, the White House should not try to pressure allies into combating threats to international security on Washington’s behalf.”

There are certainly benefits to the administration’s approach. Most importantly, it keeps U.S. servicemen out of harms way. In so doing, it shields the war from the intense public scrutiny that invariably accompanies the sacrifice of American lives. Proponents also contend that ceding greater responsibility to regional allies endows military campaigns with invaluable legitimacy. As national security adviser Susan Rice argued in June 2014: “When we spur collective action, we deliver outcomes that are more legitimate, more sustainable, and less costly.”

Yet Turkey’s intervention in Syria is likely to prove that the ultimate goals and objectives of America’s allies will often deviate quite significantly from those of the United States. Already, the Obama administration has encountered substantial difficulty convincing Turkey to engage in a campaign focused solely on eradicating IS. Ankara has long contended that the campaign must also remove President Assad so that a new government, with greater legitimacy, can reestablish authority throughout Syria. That objective is clearly inspired by a fear that permitting the Syrian Kurds to carve out an autonomous zone in northern Syria would establish a precedent that might prompt the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that Ankara and Washington have both categorized as a terrorist organization, to renew its fight for autonomy from Turkey.

Given that concern, it should have come as no surprise …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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