We had a Turkish dinner guest on Sunday evening—I will call him Murat—and we quizzed him about Syria. Murat told us his countrymen do not favor an American attack, though they believe it will probably occur. Turks don’t trust their own press enough, he said, to be certain Assad actually used chemical weapons.
If you were sure, what would your opinion be? I asked. Well, Murat replied, “It is not the Turkish way to attack a country that is struggling internally.”
Turks are already being drawn into the war, he said, due to their acceptance of Syrian refugees. An American attack would draw Turkey in further, possibly destabilizing it and damaging its economy. Tourism sounds frivolous when put up against war and suffering, but that industry supports a great many people in Turkey. In 2012, the country ranked 6th in the world for number of visitors, receiving over 35 million people.
Murat commented that, not long ago, Turkey’s prime minister was a friend of Bashar Assad. Indeed, for most of the time Sankar and I lived in Turkey, the country’s official policy was, “Zero Problems with Neighbors.”
He also believes that an American attack would lead to retaliation, which could come in any number of ways, including an assault on the American company for whom he works.
No conclusions, but I’m glad we listened to Murat. I am heartened that Americans are conflicted about what to do. There is a recognition of complexity this time and fewer hard and fast opinions. This leaves room for other ideas, other possible approaches. We are wiser than we were a decade ago.
|Syrian woman at Turkish refugee camp, spring, 2012. Refugees numbered 100,000 then; now there are close to 1/2 million in Turkey.|