U.S. Need Not Defend Turkey From Islamic State

Apparently Washington believes its allies to be wimps and weaklings.  Why else would NATO officials promise to defend Turkey from the Islamic State?  Surely this well-armed U.S. ally can hold off a few thousand Islamic irregulars, some of whom Ankara allowed to enter Syria next door.

The rise of the Islamic State has led to much nonsense from Washington officials who speak as if the group was capable of conquering America.  ISIL is made up of dangerous fanatics, but in the form of the Islamic State they are largely powerless to harm the U.S. 

Their conventional capabilities are minimal compared to those of the U.S.  Moreover, so long as the Islamists are attempting to conquer territory they cannot afford to launch terrorist attacks on America, which would bring down the full wrath of the U.S. military on the return address they had so thoughtfully provided.

Among the states really threatened by ISIL is Turkey.  This led NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to promise to defend Ankara:  “If any of our allies, and in this case of course particularly Turkey, were to be threatened from any source of threat, we won’t hesitate to take all steps necessary to ensure effective defense of Turkey or any other ally.”

However, Ankara is partly to blame for ISIL’s rise.  The Erdogan government decided to support the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and allowed opposition fighters from all sides, including ISIL, easy access to the battlefield. 

Reported the Washington Post:  “eager to aid any and all enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey rolled out the red carpet.”  The government simply looked the other way as members of the Islamic State and other Islamist groups traveled to Syria.  One Islamic State commander told the Post:  “most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.” 

A politician from Reyhanli, Tamer Apis, complained that “this is a mess of Turkey’s making,” he added.  The Erdogan government since has changed course, but passage for people and materiel through the 565-mile border still is available at a price.

Moreover, the worst damage has been done.  Reported Bloomberg’s Mehul Srivastava and Selcan Hacaoglu, ISIL “has already established itself firmly in Turkish society.”  Ankara is paying the price of its own folly.  There’s no reason to share the burden with 27 other NATO members. 

Especially since Turkey can well handle the fall-out.  Ankara can easily defeat anything ISIL throws at the former.

The number of ISIL fighters has been estimated at around 10,000.  Turkey has an armed forces of more than a half million.  The Institute for Strategic Studies reported:  “The army is becoming smaller but more capable … The air force is well-equipped and well-trained … the military has ambitious procurement plans.”

Why would NATO have to protect Turkey?

Indeed, Ankara should be thinking offense.  If the Islamic State consolidates its position, Turkey is likely to be a site for the group’s expanded activities. 

The Erdogan government is part of NATO’s “core coalition” targeting ISIL.  I ask in my latest Forbes online column:  “Why are U.S. planes and drones striking Islamic radicals operating next door to Turkey when Ankara’s forces could take the lead?”

The Islamic State is evil, but that does not make it a serious military threat against America.  ISIL is a much more significant threat against the Middle Eastern states, such as Turkey.

These nations also hold the key to the group’s defeat.  They have the interest and capability.  As Islamic nations they also have credibility.

All that’s lacking is necessity.  If Washington or NATO rushes in to relieve them of responsibility, they likely won’t act.  These nations should be held responsible for their past policies.