With the Turkish flag hoisted on top of the municipal building in Afrin the other day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters are in triumphal mood.
In a sense they have the right to be, as this is the first time in almost 100 years that Turkey has scored a military victory against an adversary ready to fight. (Turkey’s occupation of part of Cyprus in 1974 was achieved without major fighting.)
However, the euphoria inspired by what Erdogan terms “an historic victory” would have to be tempered by reality. That NATO’s largest army in Europe should win a war against a ragtag band of lightly armed Kurds is no surprise. This is neither Alp Arsalan, after Malazegrd, nor Sultan Muhammad Fatih after capturing Byzantium.
The capture of Afrin represents a 19th century solution for a 21st century problem that Turkey faces.
Judging by official statements from Ankara, Erdogan is trying to create what 19th century strategists termed a cordon sanitaire or a glacis, supposedly to protect Turkey against incursions by Kurdish “terrorists”.