From Zero Problems with Neighbors to Zero Friends

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attends a conference in Sochi, Russia, November 22, 2017 (Kremlin)

Ten years ago, Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy was all the rage. I went so far as to predict Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister at the time, could be remembered as the architect of Turkey’s return to preeminence in the Middle East.

Miguel Nunes Silva saw things more clearly, writing for the Atlantic Sentinel in 2012 that Turkey’s policy of antagonizing its allies and befriending its rivals merited little praise.

Turkish appeasement of Bashar Assad and Muammar Gaddafi meant little when those dictators turned their guns on their own people. Turkish appeasement of Iran was rewarded by unwavering Iranian support for Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq and Assad in Syria, two strongmen Turkey opposed.

Silva also recognized the on-again, off-again nature of Turkish diplomacy with Russia, which has only grown worse. Turkey and Russia back opposite sides in the Syrian War. Turkey even shot down a Russian attack aircraft near its border in 2015. Yet Turkey has also bought missile defense systems from Russia and is helping Russia build a natural gas pipeline into Europe that circumvents Ukraine. Both decisions were strongly opposed by Turkey’s nominal NATO allies. The United States kicked Turkey out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

To form, Turkey has also allowed the construction of a competing European pipeline from Azerbaijan to Greece. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan still — somehow — convinced his American counterpart, Donald Trump, to withdraw from Syria, clearing the way for him to invade and attack the Kurds.

Trump’s memory may be short. He responded with sanctions on Turkish officials and tariffs on steel, which he respectively lifted and halved only a week later. But not everyone is so forgiving. Turkey’s tendency to play all sides, far from giving it more freedom in foreign policy, has hamstrung its diplomacy. It now has to use force to get its way. Read more “From Zero Problems with Neighbors to Zero Friends”

Democratic Primary News

Hillary Clinton Cory Booker
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks with New Jersey senator Cory Booker in Newark, June 1, 2016 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)
  • Cory Booker has dropped out of the presidential contest.
  • Bernie Sanders is criticized for going negative. His campaign has accused Joe Biden of “betraying” black voters (Biden is the favorite candidate of black voters) and Elizabeth Warren of being the candidate of wealthy white liberals. NBC reports it’s bringing back memories of 2016: “Sanders, his supporters and his surrogates go on the attack; Sanders downplays or dismisses the attacks; and the party becomes more divided.”
  • Biden still leads in the endorsement primary, but it’s slow going. Only a third of Democratic governors, senators and representatives have endorsed a candidate. Party leaders may be waiting to see what happens in the first few primaries before making up their minds. Or perhaps this will be like the Republican primary of 2016, when “the” party collectively decided not to decide.
  • Michael Bloomberg has said that, even if he loses, his campaign — the biggest and most expensive of the Democratic candidates — will remain in place to help defeat Donald Trump. He has also shot down criticism, notably from Warren, that he’s trying to buy the nomination, saying, “Do you want me to spend more or less?” Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Five Candidates Qualify to Succeed Corbyn as Labour Leader

Keir Starmer Jeremy Corbyn Rebecca Long-Bailey
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn chairs a meeting in London flanked by Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey, April 3, 2019 (PA/Stefan Rousseau)
  • Five candidates have qualified for the second round of the Labour leadership election in the United Kingdom: Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry won the required 10 percent support from lawmakers to make it into the next nominating round.
  • Clive Lewis pulled out after receiving only five endorsements. Some of his supporters switched to Thornberry, who received 23 endorsements, only one more than needed.
  • Keir Starmer won the most endorsements by far (89), including from former leader Ed Miliband. Read more “Five Candidates Qualify to Succeed Corbyn as Labour Leader”

Berlin Shows How Not to Do Housing Policy

Berlin Germany
The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas’ Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010 (Mika Meskanen)

If you’re trying to control housing costs in your city, don’t look to Berlin for inspiration.

The German capital is due to implement a five-year, across-the-board rent freeze in March. The measure is expected to save around 340,000 tenants money during that period, but it will come at the expense of housing affordability in the long term.

The German Economic Institute in Cologne estimates that Berlin’s policy will reduce the value of some properties by more than 40 percent.

A consequence of that will be underinvestment. The BBU, a trade association of developers in the Berlin and Brandenburg region, says its members expect to reduce investments by €5.5 billion and construction by at least a quarter.

Germany needs 350,000 new homes each year to keep up with demand. Only 286,000 were built in 2018. If the BBU is to be believed, that number will fall — driving up housing costs across Germany. Read more “Berlin Shows How Not to Do Housing Policy”

America’s Rigid Two-Party System Is What Its Founders Feared

Washington DC
The sun sets on Washington DC (Shutterstock)

Lee Drutman, a political scientist, argues in The Atlantic that America has become the rigid two-party system its founders feared.

The authors of America’s Constitution wanted to make it impossible for a partisan majority to ever unite and take control of the government, which they could then use to oppress the minority.

The fragile consent of the governed would break down, and violence and authoritarianism would follow. This was how previous republics had fallen into civil wars and the Framers were intent on learning from history, not repeating its mistakes.

They separated powers across competing institutions to prevent any one faction from dominating others. But they did not plan for the emergence of political parties, let alone just two parties. Read more “America’s Rigid Two-Party System Is What Its Founders Feared”

Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya

Vladimir Putin Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9, 2016 (Kremlin)

Days after sending military aid to prop up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done a deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to halt the fighting in Libya.

Russian mercenaries fight on the side of warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls the bulk of the country, including its oil industry.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also support Haftar, who has reportedly received Chinese-made drones and Russian-made air defenses from the UAE.

The Arab states see Haftar as a bulwark against Islamist influences, including the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the Tripoli government. Egypt’s generals overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in their country with the backing of most Arab monarchs in 2013.

It is unclear what, if any, effect the Erdoğan-Putin deal will have. Artillery and missile strikes were reported on the outskirts of Tripoli in the early hours of Thursday. The promised ceasefire could be a test of Turkey’s and Russia’s influence on their proxies in Libya. Read more “Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya”

Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a World War I memorial in Suresnes, France, November 11, 2018 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

American president Donald Trump and his supporters have learned one lesson of the Iraq War: To quash legitimate concerns about an ill-advised military operation, call the patriotism of your critics into question.

It sometimes works — but only briefly, and it hurts you more than helps in the end. Read more “Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors”

Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East

Jens Stoltenberg Donald Trump
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and American president Donald Trump answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 12, 2017 (NATO)

American president Donald Trump has called on NATO to get more involved in the Middle East.

Speaking a day after Iran retaliated for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq by attacking American military bases in the country, Trump pointed out that the United States are no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

He didn’t elaborate, but I can think of at least four problems with the idea. Read more “Don’t Pull NATO into the Middle East”

Democratic Primary News

Elizabeth Warren
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts visits a high school in Des Moines, Iowa, October 21, 2019 (Phil Roeder)
  • Julián Castro has thrown his support behind Elizabeth Warren. This has helped Warren move up in the endorsement primary, which tracks support from prominent party actors. She is now in second place, behind Joe Biden but ahead of Bernie Sanders.
  • Although Sanders has raised the most money in total, Biden is ahead in donations from people who also give to the Democratic Party. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Sanders, who isn’t even formally a Democrat, is running as much against the Democratic establishment as he is against the Republicans. Warren and Pete Buttigieg share second place in big-dollar donations from politically engaged Democrats, but neither is far behind Biden, suggesting there isn’t a consensus among donors yet.
  • Biden continues to lead the polls with 25-30 percent support nationwide. Biden shares first place in the Iowa polls with Buttigieg and Sanders. Each has around 20 percent support. Warren is at 15. It’s a similar picture in New Hampshire, where Sanders — from neighboring Vermont — is slightly more popular. Nevada and South Carolina haven’t been polled since November, but at the time Biden was ahead in both states.
  • California shows a three-way race between Biden, Sanders and Warren. Texas has Biden in the lead. Both states will vote on March 3, Super Tuesday, and together send 644 out of 3,979 pledged delegates (16 percent) to the convention in July.
  • Michael Bloomberg has moved into fifth place with 5-6 percent support nationally. He has also hired some 500 new staffers across thirty states, bringing his total campaign staff to 800 — more than any other candidate. Read more “Democratic Primary News”

Everything You Need to Know About the Labour Leadership Election

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016 (PES)

After leading the British Labour Party into its worst electoral defeat since 1935, Jeremy Corbyn is stepping down as leader.

The contest to succeed him will take three months and pit defenders of Corbyn’s legacy against centrists who believe the party must change.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Labour Leadership Election”