President Donald Trump’s foreign policy has proven as erratic as his behavior, and the results are already piling up. In recent days, news came out about a letter that Trump had sent Turkish President Recip Tayip Erdogan recently in which he said that the Turkish leader shouldn’t be a “tough guy” or a “fool” but instead should withdraw from Syria, where Turkish forces have recently started a large-scale military operation after Trump abruptly withdrew U.S. forces from the area. Now, Erdogan has responded publicly to the letter, telling reporters that he took it as an insult and at some point in the future, retaliatory steps that he deems appropriate will be taken.
‘[The letter] was not in line with diplomatic and political courtesy. We will not forget this lack of respect. This is not a priority for us. But when the time comes we would like it to be known that we will take the necessary steps.’
What exactly those appropriate and to him necessary steps are remains to be seen. What’s clear in the meantime though is that Trump’s parade of nonsense exemplifies a president who has no idea what he’s doing.
Originally, in the letter in question, Trump had written:
‘Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will… History will look upon you favourably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!’
In response, sources close to the Turkish president said that he was so up in arms over being treated that way that he threw the letter away. Apparently, trying to use wannabe mafia tactics in international diplomacy doesn’t work — who could have guessed? (Everyone whose last name isn’t Trump or doesn’t own a red hat.)
This week, a U.S. delegation went to Turkey to try and negotiate a cease-fire agreement, although with that letter hanging over the proceedings they might as well have been considered doomed from the start. There was also the matter of Trump and Erdogan’s respective public statements — Trump had been insisting that the Kurds, who the Turks have been attacking, are “not angels,” and concurrently, that the U.S. supposedly had no vested military interest in the region. Erdogan, meanwhile, had flatly insisted that he would not agree to a cease-fire.
The temporary cease fire agreement that Erdogan did eventually sign onto has apparently already been broken, considering shelling has continued. The terms themselves were not particularly conducive to the basic rights of the Kurds anyway — they included a demand that Kurdish forces nearly immediately vacate a region on the other side of the Turkish border, which constitutes a buffer zone that Erdogan had been after in the first place.
The price of this spectacle has been hundreds of Kurdish lives. Hundreds of civilians have been killed already, and well over 100,000 and counting have been displaced.