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    Guidelines for beginners to understanding civil-military relations in Turkey: Part IV

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD08 September 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 1275


    Today I will focus on how the developments mentioned in the previous analysis affect the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK. Understandably, the AKP government and its allies claim that they want civil-military relations to suit the Zeitgeist. To what extent the means used to achieve the targeted ends are appropriate remains an unanswered question.

    The government's attempt to achieve control over the military is perceived as "party control," not "democratic control," by the majority of officers and a significant portion of public opinion. There are three main reasons behind this perception. First, the legitimacy of the methods used in the apprehension and prosecution process, such as wiretappings, is dubious. An informal criminal organization was fabricated out of the formal hierarchal structure, without taking into account the institutional culture. Second, ideological discourses used indiscreetly in the mass media have overshadowed the legal framework of the prosecution process. For example, doubt has been cast over the legitimacy of the proceedings because of all the talk about "correcting a centennial mistake."

    There are attempts to link the proceedings to the Committee of Union and Progress, a political party active in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, and this is reinforced by ideas like "rooting out the Baathist faction within the army" and illogical claims such as the alleged cooperation of some officers with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

    Finally, officers believe that they participated in a righteous fight against the PKK and made every possible sacrifice. The continuously deadly character of this fight has led to serious physical and psychological trauma. As the military profession is being unfairly despised and the officers' pride is being seriously hurt, civil-military relations are being carried to a psychological ground informed by emotions like hatred.

    The fact that the means and arguments for achieving civilian control over the army disregard "democratic values" has made it very difficult for the officers to internalize these values. This prepares the ground for irrational reactions. Against such possibility, the political establishment is strengthening the police. A vicious circle of fear and insecurity has entrapped both the relations between the politicians and the army and those between the police and the army.

    Some groups supporting the project of keeping the TSK away from domestic politics have contributed to the further weakening of the professional capabilities and functions of the TSK. These groups clash with the army for the sake of avenging the past. The TSK's intelligence-gathering capacity has deteriorated, which also explains the unwillingness of officers to take any financial, legal and professional responsibility. Morale and motivation in the army is probably at an historical low.

    Unlike other institutions, life in the army is not solely informed by laws. Historical traditions and cultural values have equally important functions, especially regarding trust and the chain of command. This new era has witnessed old cultural values erode rapidly. Still, there are no signs of hope in the horizon that "democratic values" will substitute them. One should not forget that this transformation is happening in the midst of an unstable region and as the PKK problem persists.

    This looks like an attempt to format the hard disk that is instead crashing the computer.


    This commentary was published in Hurriyet Daily News on 08.09.2011