Why Turkey Needs a Light Touch

For those conservatives who want to see Turkey's ambassador to the U.S. sent home (or the U.S. ambassador to Turkey recalled, or some variant of the two), consider this: the only realistic hope for any sort of missile defense shield over Europe all but requires the U.S. to place its highly advanced AN/TPY-2/TPSX X-band radar system in Turkey.

Actually, it's either going to have to be in Turkey, or it's going to have to be in space. And Russia has made it clear that a space-based radar system would violate its interpretation of the START II missile defense treaty, while a radar system in Turkey, farther away from Russia's perimeter, would be acceptable. The fear is that the radar, highly sensitive and studded with senors that allow it to continuously track multiple targets and intercept them at above-atmosphere levels wouldn't be passive enough for Russia's territorial integrity. 

Putting the X-band system in Turkey (along with other elements of the "phased adaptive approach" in Poland and the Czech Republic, and fielding them by 2011 or 2012, would keep Europe ... er, old Europe ... satisfied that the U.S. intends on fulfilling its NATO obligations and general defense promises.  Turkey is of two minds about the radar system. For one thing, they're trying to build closer ties to Gulf Arab states and don't want to over-dramatize the nuclear threat from Iran. But they also want to keep Europe happy. 

So the US, mindful of this, is going out of its way to make sure that Turkey's outrage over the Israeli flotilla raid does not put the kibosh on larger U.S. goals for the region.