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The Best Thing Turkey Has Done In A While

Turkey's fraught relationship with Europe and the U.S. should be bolstered by its impressive response to the refugee crisis in neighboring Syria. But now will the West step up?

Syrian girls playing jump rope in Tarlabasi, Istanbul
Syrian girls playing jump rope in Tarlabasi, Istanbul
Stefan Kornelius


MUNICH – With little public fanfare, Turkey is currently in the process of seeing through quite a humanitarian and political feat. Some 1.5 million Syrian refugees have crossed its border and are either living in camps or have made their way through the countryside to the cities. In Istanbul, they beg on the streets. But on the whole, refugees in Turkey are looked after with devotion and at high cost to government administrations. Most of all, they are accepted and adopted on a human level.

Now Turkish leaders are admonishing the rest of the world, and particularly Europeans, for a lack of willingness to help. And indeed help is shamefully inconspicuous. While the European Commission just made the grand gesture of approving a further 215 million euros for the Syrian crisis region, only 50 million flows directly for humanitarian aid, and a fraction of that to Turkey.

This behavior is noteworthy because Turkey is an ally accorded the highest strategic importance in NATO, but also with regard to all European Union programs. The stability of Turkey, its political and military vulnerability and its influence in the region — whether on Russia or its Muslim neighbors — is of the highest relevance. So why isn't this being discussed?

(Photo : © Hans Van Rhoon/ZUMA Wire/ZUMA)

Contradictions and commuters

There are always reasons. The years since Recep Tayyip Erdogan was first elected prime minister have divided Turkey and its allies. The EU membership process is just that — a process. Turkey doesn't want to join the Union, and the EU doesn't want to accept it. Erdogan's influence on other Muslim states is erratic and lacks transparency.

Turkey has to fight major contradictions where its approach to the war in Syria is concerned. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad became an enemy. The rebels were overwhelmed by terrorist militias, yet Turkey itself is allegedly one of the major recruiting countries for the Islamists.

In any case, Turkey has become a transit country for international terrorist "commuters" — who can cross back and forth across borders at any time. But if Ankara sides too much with one faction or the other, it becomes an easy target. If Erdogan strengthens the Kurds, then he's bound to help usher in the separatist problem.

All of these are well-founded concerns that mean Turkey would really prefer to deal with the refugee problem on its own. But it won't go well. That is why Erdogan's speech to the UN General Assembly must be understood as an invitation to get involved.

Turkey needs money? That shouldn't be a hindrance, but money alone isn't enough. NATO should talk openly with its most important allies about the security of alliance borders. The EU can not only change its refugee policy, but must take the lead with Turkey about controlling the jihad "commuters."

Turkey has to know now that it has allies. Otherwise, the allies are going to have to live with the charge that they let the country down — and, perhaps, lost it to the enemies.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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