A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter speaks with relatives OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Cynicism in Syria

The Turkish Army’s offensive against Kurdish-held territories in northern Syria exposes the true complexity of the Syrian crisis. Turkey and the US, both founding members of NATO, now face the real risk of an escalation that could lead to a direct armed confrontation – one that Russia would watch with satisfaction.

PARIS – In his book The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, political scientist Edward Luttwak credits Byzantium’s longevity to the quality of its diplomacy. By relying on persuasion, alliances, and containment, rather than force, Luttwak argues, the Eastern Roman Empire managed to last for eight centuries – twice as long as the Roman Empire from which it sprang. As countries like Turkey and the United States attempt to navigate the highly complex – or “byzantine” – situation in Syria, they would do well to recall Byzantium’s diplomatic sophistication.

The Turkish Army’s offensive against the territories in northern Syria held by the Kurds –America’s closest partners in the fight against the Islamic State – highlights the true complexity of the Syrian crisis. Turkey and the US, both founding members of NATO, now face the real risk of an escalation that could lead to a direct confrontation between their respective armed forces – a confrontation that Russia would watch with satisfaction.

Turkey is succumbing to the simplistic calculus of the Middle East: territory equals power. For Turkey – so proud of its imperial history, yet anxious over the loss of its former glory – the obvious conclusion is that its Kurdish population must not, under any circumstances, secure control over any of its land.

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