Matthew Bryza of the Atlantic Council warned that “Abandoning Turkey now would weaken the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), forfeit U.S. influence in the Middle East and threaten the coalition whose fight against ISIS is far from finished.” Yet all three of these are occurring today, even as Washington continues to pursue the bilateral relationship amid Turkish misbehavior.
Second, America should raise the issue of Ankara's membership in NATO. Turkey's numerous violations of democratic and human rights norms would make it ineligible for membership today. Nor does Ankara play much of a security role, since it is unlikely to join a fight against Russia, with which it has forged an increasingly close relationship.
In fact, as a member of the alliance, Turkey seems likely to play an increasingly malign role. Ankara's objectives diverge ever more from those of the West and Erdoğan replaced alliance-friendly officers in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Turkey is more likely to use NATO to obstruct than advance Western interests in the future. Ankara is unlikely to leave unless pushed.
Third, Washington should withdraw non-essential weapons and personnel from the country, principally at the Incirlik airbase. The nuclear weapons stationed there are vulnerable and should be brought home. Washington should reduce Americans' profile in Turkey and prepare for a time when the United States is forced to yield the facility. That might even be a positive for America since the very ease of intervening militarily out of the Incirlik airbase appears to encourage Washington to meddle nearby when no vital or important interests are at stake.
But, nothing is set in stone forever. NATO has lost its raison d'etre for America since the U.S. presence no longer is necessary to protect Europe. And Turkey's participation in the transatlantic alliance has lost its raison d'etre since Ankara's loyalties increasingly lie elsewhere. It's time for a divorce, as amicable as possible.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire .