With only a couple of exceptions, I am not too worried about any kind of major war or disruption coming out of the Middle East. The militaries of the vast majority of these countries are of extremely low quality, and, unless we make the mistake again of attempting to occupy one of them long term, there is little they can do to hurt us.
The big exception is Turkey. They have large and competent combat forces. They have a long and distinguished military tradition. They have proven themselves throughout the last century as determined fighters, as in Korea or on Gallipoli.
Turkey was once the pre-eminent Islamic power. The last Caliphate, the political, military and religious leadership of Islam was based in the Turkish Ottoman Empire, with Istanbul as its capitol. The Ottoman Empire was destroyed by World War One. Things got so bad for the Turks in the aftermath, that the Greek Army landed in Asia and tried to take over the western half of Turkey.
The Turkish hero of Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal, was able to drive the Greeks out of Turkey. He established modern Turkey and took the name “Ataturk”. He recognized that Turkey was backwards compared to the rest of Europe, and that Islam was the reason. Due to his enormous prestige, he was able to turn Turkey into a secular country.
Ataturk greatly curbed the power and influence of Islam in Turkey. He ended the Caliphate. He made it illegal to wear beards and forbade forcing women to wear burkas or even headscarves. Islamic headgear was banned. He introduced democracy. He literally changed the mainstream culture in Turkey. He did this to modernize the country and bring it out of the middle ages.
Turkey is now changing. While secular families tend to only have a couple of children, highly religious Islamic families tend to have a LOT more. As a result, what had been a minority within Turkey grew to have significant political clout. They now have as much or more political power at the ballot box than those wishing to see Ataturk’s secular Turkey continue.
Recep Erdogan is the Turkish President. He initially espoused Islamic views in politics and was severely punished. Since then he has attempted to mask these views. Yet he is steadily consolidating power, arresting journalists, and dismissing military officers of differing political views. He views a return to Ottoman glory as an objective.
Should, or rather I should say when, Erdogan takes dictatorial control of Turkey, it will mean abandoning Ataturks secular reforms. Turkey would once again become an Islamic state. An Islamic state with a powerful and competent military that could actually threaten a now mostly disarmed Europe and the weak in the Middle East. This would be disastrous and a far greater threat than current terrorism.
What to Do
Our political leaders need to recognize Erdogan for what he is and what he is doing. He should have no support and no aid. We should stop support of his military and put limitations on Turkey’s participation in NATO.
We should encourage and support opposition to Erdogan and his party. We should do more to arm and otherwise support the Kurds.
Even with all of the above, it may be too late. Turkey may decide, democratically, to abandon its recent history as a stable secular state, and revert to its past as a powerful Islamic state.