While teaching on an aircraft carrier last year somewhere in the North Atlantic, a number of European dignitaries arrived to tour the ship and watch operations. I struck up a conversation on the bridge with a retired American naval officer who, in the course of his career, had been involved with a number of foreign delegations which had wanted to observe American aircraft carriers in action. He said that during the 1990s, however, the Pentagon pushed back on allowing Chinese delegations to board the ships. It was clear even then that the purpose of the Chinese visitors was to determine how to run an aircraft carrier, as they launched an attempt to acquire the same blue water force projection capability. The Chinese would endlessly take but would never reciprocate. That the Clinton administration and George W. Bush administration continued the informal ban for a time was a wise move, given the transparency of Chinese ambitions.
Alas, the Obama administration seems impervious to the same lessons when it comes to Turkey. Turkey makes no secret of its desire to bolster its domestic armament industry. And yet President Obama has provided Prime Minister Erdogan with the exact same technology which Turkey now seeks to manufacture. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Turkey now brags it has reaped billions of dollars during the past few years selling advanced weaponry. It should come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia is Turkey’s best customer.
Providing Turkey with advanced weaponry — Predators, the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for which Turkey now demands the software codes, or other key platforms — is little different than providing state-of-the-art technology to China. In both cases, the regimes involved will reverse engineer the technology and allow it to be used to kill Americans for both fun and profit.