My simple, short answer: I don’t know.
However, I constantly see online many people—from friends on Facebook to strangers on Twitter, all with the best intentions—asking the West (more precisely, the EU and the US) to do more to ensure that a democratic process is followed in Turkey.
But what should the West do? That they fail to say.
All the major European leaders as well as Obama’s administration have already, in multiple occasions, and immediately in the few days following the coup, called for the Turkish government to not stray from constitutional law. The EU has even threatened Erdoğan to cancel all the Union entry negotiations developed so far if the Turkish government won’t respect the democratic principles.
Back to the original question, what should the West do? I’m sure more can be done, even starting from simple economic sanctions, but many people fail to realise the difficulty of the situation and why each decision towards Turkey needs to be pondered carefully.
- Turkey is a NATO country with the second largest army of the Alliance
- Turkey hosts Incirlik, the US air base (shared with the Turkish army, but also used by the UK and Saudi air forces) that is not only where the coalition planes leave to attack ISIS, but it also houses up to 100 American nuclear weapons
- Turkey is the country that literally separates Europe (Greece and Bulgaria) from Syria
So, what should the West do or should have done? What can they really do?
Should they have supported the undemocratic military coup that could have imposed even worse rules on the Turkish people and that, given Erdoğan’s vast domestic support, could have potentially started a civil war? Thus, not only risking Turkish people’s lives, but also making it much easier for ISIS to infiltrate the country and reach European borders?
Or should the West simply cut all relationships with Erdoğan? Thus, risking Turkey to leave NATO and get close with Putin’s Russia (without even considering the strategic implications regarding the US military base and the nuclear weapons hosted)?
Or what else?
The truth is that the scenario is still uncertain and many western countries are still developing a common strategy to tackle the crisis. What bothers me, though, is the general trend (often observed in national politics) where people take idealistic (in the best cases) or populist (in the worst cases) stances underestimating the complexity of the situation.
It reminds me of Syria in the Summer 2013 when the US was seemingly close to intervening with boots on the ground to both eradicate Assad’s oppressive regime as well as the newborn ISIS hoping to bring stability to Syria and Iraq. It was a very tough call and unsurprisingly many people sided with no intervention. That side won and those very people immediately started to ask the West not to ignore the Syrians’ sufferings. At the same time, of course, they didn’t and don’t want neither a hypothetical ground intervention nor the current air strikes. I don’t ignore that some things could be done, such as limiting the funding of the Gulf States who proceed with pouring money and weapons in these conflicts, but often it seems all people want is peace (rightly so) and they think they will obtain it by wishing for it.
If you think the West is ignoring the situation in Turkey or some other big world crisis, it would be useful if you also told everybody what you think should be done. Personally, I wouldn’t know what to do.