President Erdogan of Turkey is the last person on Earth, surely the last Middle East leader, that President Barack Obama wanted to have a fight with. But a fight he has, and this is just another indication that the entire American Middle East policy of the outgoing president is in shambles. It started with so much gusto and promise, and it was in Egypt and Turkey where President Obama embarked on his ''be nice to Muslims'' strategy. It was logical, it was different, it was original. And it was not without political courage. That said, the fact is, nearly eight years later, President Obama will not be welcome in either Cairo or Ankara nor Istanbul. And most probably in most other Middle East capitals, almost certainly in nearly any other Muslim state.
Let us start from the end. What exactly happened in Turkey over the weekend is not so clear to me, and I, for one, subscribe to the view, that Erdogan and his men had a wind of ''something'' about to happen and they were ready. Unlike the dwindling ranks of the Kemalists in the Turkish army and society, they had a clear cut vision of where they aimed to be, what Turkey should be, how to do it, and who are those who stand in the way. Those who aim big and dare accordingly, do usually win. The plotters had a lot of frustration, a sense of a collapsing legacy, that of the great Ataturk (the Father of the Turks -- meaning of the name -- originally Mustafa Kemal), but no coherent action plan and no unity. They executed poorly and they lost. It is not the end of the struggle, it is going to change though, it will be more desperate and will include violent terror activities. When people realize that their old world is crumbling, they tend to be extreme.
That said, where is the U.S. in all that? To start with, from the very beginning of the Obama presidency, it was a very wrong assumption which guided his Muslim strategy. This is that Muslims looked for the West as their salvation, no different than the mistake of the neo-cons prior to Iraq's invasion of 2003. There too, the self-delusion was, that it is a Western solution, called democracy , which the Iraqis are longing for, and will be happy to have it silver-plated to them straight from DC. Yes, Muslims do not automatically resent democracy, do not prefer oppression over liberation, do not "understand" only force. All these are insulting nonsense. But they want it done by themselves, in their way, according to their legacy, traditions and needs. It is not Barack Obama with his ringing rhetoric which they were waiting for. In the case of Turkey, it was Erdogan whom they waited for, NOT Ataturk anymore, NOT Obama, and also NOT Fathullah Gulen. Erdogan's allegations against Gulen seem to be far-fetched, cooked up, and demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the American system, of what democracy is like. Assuming that President Obama will humiliate himself and decide to extradite Gulen, can he really do it? He simply cannot, as there are judges in the U.S., and courts are independent. Go and sell this strange idea to Erdogan, whose government fired already nearly 3,000 judges. And they call it democracy there. Then there is the humiliation of the besieged 1,500 American servicemen in Incirlik where maybe as many as fifty nuclear weapons are stored. Turkey as an ally, or the theatre of the absurd? So, Turkey is no more a credible ally, Egypt is not, Libya, where America intervened from behind, is a name on the map, not a functioning state, so is Yemen. Iraq? Syria? If there is any coherent and well-defined American policy there, it is yet to be exposed. Saudi Arabia fumes over the Iran deal, while Iran itself makes a mockery of this very deal. And by far not the least, ally Israel is no more the favorite son of the American foreign policy, much to the joy of Welt and Mersheimer, the writers of the ridiculous diatribe against AIPAC running American Middle East policy. Well, PM Netanyahu was much less liked in the corridors of the White House than say President Erdogan is, but alas, the Arab and Muslim worlds still do not rally to the US.
Here is what really happens. Many Arabs do not like abandonment by allies, do not like to be preached to patronizingly from the outside, are fearful of Iran, do not believe that Israel is the problem -- in sum, do not understand what America wants from them.
Does America know what it wants from them?