Our Allies

Turkey: Let NATO Protect You!

11.29.12 1:30 PM ET

Koplow reviews why Turkish officials are wary about allowing NATO to command Patriot missile interception batteries (spoiler alert: it's nationalism) and proceeds to detail why they should welcome such help.

Taking a step back though and looking at the wider goals, Turkey should actually be begging off from having to man the Patriot batteries or take any control over them at all. The reason for this is quite simple; if non-Turkish NATO troops are operating the Patriots and NATO is deciding when they should be used, the likelihood of deterring Assad – assuming that he can be deterred, which is a big if – from lobbing missiles toward Turkey or from shelling the Patriot positions is greatly magnified. This is the tripwire theory of deterrence, which purposely places troops in harm’s way in order to ensure that an offensive will be met with a forceful response. The prototypical example of this is the U.S. posture along the DMZ between South Korea and North Korea. Any move on Seoul by North Korea would cause huge U.S. casualties since there are nearly 30,000 American soldiers deliberately standing in the line of fire, and the theory behind this is that North Korea will not risk attacking South Korea since it would automatically embroil it in a war with the U.S. If Turkey is genuinely afraid of Syrian shelling and Syrian missiles, then the same principle applies here as well and Turkey should be doing everything it can to get as many foreign NATO soldiers stationed along its border as it can, since this will theoretically reduce the chances of the Syrian army mounting an assault on Turkey. Syria might think that Turkey is a paper tiger, but Assad is probably still clear-headed enough to realize that an attack that kills American or German troops operating Patriot batteries means full-blown NATO intervention, and that is an outcome that he desperately wants to avoid.