"It isn't often [that] a presidential primary debate causes an international incident," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, "but Rick Perry managed" to do just that at this week's South Carolina GOP debate — saying key U.S. ally Turkey is currently "ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists," and should be booted from NATO. Turkey is predictably furious: Its foreign ministry called Perry's "inappropriate" remarks ill-informed, Turkish newspaper columnist Mustafa Akyol tweeted that Perry is "an idiot," and Turkey's ambassador to the U.S. noted that his country is a "secular democracy" and U.S. partner against terrorism — not to mention "a strong and growing trading partner with the U.S. in general, and with Texas in particular, creating thousands of jobs throughout that state." Even as outrage grows, Perry is standing by his remarks. What is he up to?
This is a terrible insult to a critical ally: Let's get a few things straight, says Juan Cole at Informed Comment. Turkey's ruling party "is not even fundamentalist, much less terrorist," and the peacekeeping troops Turkey sent to Afghanistan are battling actual Islamist terrorists alongside U.S. forces. Maybe Perry is showing off his trademark "complete ignorance" on foreign policy, or maybe he's sucking up to the GOP's Israel-worshipping wing. Either way, it's a "profound insult to reward [Turkey's] friendship with the U.S. by this kind of trash talk." Americans should be "deeply relieved" that Perry has little chance of becoming president.
"Perry talks crazy about Turkey, but is par for GOP course"
But there's some truth in Perry's charge: The Texan may have gone a bit too far, says Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute. But had he just called Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan "an enabler for Islamic terrorists, he would be 100 percent correct." From quashing press freedoms to embracing Hamas, Turkey has taken a bad turn since Erdogan and Co. took over in 2003. "Perry may not have broad foreign policy expertise, but sometimes it's useful to call a toad a toad, or at least a supporter of toads."
"Was Perry wrong on Turkey?"
Regardless, it won't help Perry win: Erdogan's party does have "Islamist roots," says Keith Johnson at The Wall Street Journal. But it has also been a key backer of pro-democracy uprisings during the Arab Spring. And Erdogan just agreed to host a U.S.-backed missile-defense system aimed at containing Iran. Still, "beyond calling a NATO ally a terrorist country, what's really odd about Gov. Perry's comments is that they seem directed at a voter who doesn't really exist": Polls show that Republicans just don't care about foreign affairs this year.
"Talking Turkey: Rick Perry's latest 'oops' moment?"