By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend
The essence of social democracy is the idea that citizens must take control of their lives through democratic systems. Social democrats believe in the extension of democracy into the economic realm via labor unions, social insurance, social welfare programs, public ownership in a handful of areas and the regulation of business.
The democratic world currently faces challenges from authoritarian and totalitarian systems the world over. One of these problems is Turkey. Their current leader, Recep Erdogan, represents a tendency that some call authoritarian democracy – a semi-democratic form of government where a faction wins power democratically and then uses its power to undermine segments of democratic rule. Turkey currently belongs to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but there is a powerful argument to be made that it does not belong there. Former French Socialist President Francois Hollande said Turkey should be stripped of membership since it attacked Kurdish militias in Syria. The Kurds were a strong ally (fighting forces) in the war against the Islamic State. In our country, even US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for bipartisan sanctions and a suspension of Turkey’s membership in NATO.
Matters are not as simple as kicking Turkey out. While many multilateral institutions allow for the suspension of wayward members, NATO has no such rules. However, some NATO. members have put diplomatic pressure on wayward members at times. One way to expel Turkey would be to look toward the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, an international agreement regulating treaties between states. Although the 1969 treaty was never ratified by our nation, we usually follow at least some of it as customary law. The Vienna Convention codifies several standards of international law. NATO member states at the organization’s 70th anniversary in 2018 reinforced the ideas behind Vienna: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. If Turkey is in violation of the Vienna Convention – and it is – then it can be expelled from NATO.
One must look at Turkey’s other alliances. The country is in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Russia (a NATO opponent), China and Iran. Turkey recently purchased a missile system from Russia! The Jerusalem Post reported on this provocative transaction. Turkey is also in possession of several nuclear warheads that should not be in the hands of such an anti-democratic, anti-Western, and anti-American power. It is acting like a power that is purely pursing its own interest at the expense of some of its allies because it is trying to create a modern-day version of the Ottoman Empire. While Turkey said it was opposed to Islamic State during the fight against it, Turkish customs officials let ISIS fighters cross the border into Syria throughout that very fight. Turkish intelligence also gave support to ISIS, who was fighting the Turks’ nemesis – the Kurds. Turkey both wants to be a NATO member because it wants to be a part of a powerful economic block and also be able strike out at enemies at any time with impunity. Even under Erdogan’s Islamist government, Turkey has no intention of living in the Dark Ages like the Taliban in Afghanistan; at the same time, the country wants to be able to pursue its interests by other means.
There seems to be no end to Turkey’s current destructive behavior. It currently backs Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia. The war is deadlier than it would ordinarily be because of Turkey’s involvement, making it harder for diplomacy to resolve the conflict. Turkey’s behavior is partially motivated by ethnic hatred of the Kurds and the Armenians and religious bigotry against Arab Christians. Erdogan aims for the ethnic cleansing of all that he hates.
There is a segment of Turkey that does not agree with Erdogan. His Law and Justice Party was dealt a string of defeats in municipal elections in 2019. At one time, Turkey applied for European Union membership, as a portion of the country looks to the West. Until such time as a legitimate democratic opposition party/coalition comes to power, Turkey should be expelled from NATO in the good name of the form of government known as the democratic republic.
Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St Louis.
Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.