Thursday, November 10, 2005

Turkey Rides the Tiger

In recent years, as a part of a determined effort to gain entry into the European Union, Turkey has undertaken a series of governmental reforms. The most significant of these has been a change in the historic role of the Turkish military in governmental affairs. As reported in the Financial Times on August 6, 2004 (via BIA Net):
     Turkey is poised to appoint the first civilian head of its National Security Council, the country’s highest policy-setting body, which for years has been dominated by the armed forces.
The appointment, expected to be announced later this month, is an important step in Turkey’s push to join the European Union.
Two senior diplomats have been named as candidates for the post of secretary-general of the NSC after the general who has held it for the past year was appointed Second Army commander on Thursday.
EU governments have in effect demanded that Turkey put a civilian in charge of the council to reduce military interference in political affairs.
Steven A. Cook, writing in Slate on October 28th of this year, was enthusiastic about the ongoing process of Turkish reform and its eventual accession to the EU:
     At long last, the Turkish republic is beginning talks to enter the European Union. More than three centuries after Ottoman armies were stopped at the Gates of Vienna, and 42 years after signing an association agreement with what was then the European Economic Community, Europe may finally be opening for Turks, even though it will likely take a decade or more before Turkey finally joins. It is an astonishing irony of the Turkish political system, which is officially secular, that this triumphant moment belongs to the Islamist-leaning Adelet ve Kalkinma (Justice and Development Party) and its two leaders, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
Since capturing an outright majority in the Turkish Grand National Assembly in late 2002, AK has undertaken an impressive array of reforms that have gone a long way toward razing the authoritarian institutions of the Turkish state. Indeed, after ramming seven reform packages through parliament over the course of two years, the European Commission determined in October 2004 that Turkey had met all the legal requirements to begin accession talks.
Reining in the military has become the top priority of the Turkish government in its effort to become fully Europeanized. Yet there has to be a certain ambivalence among the mandarins of the West about this project — after all, the military is the only Turkish institution that can reliably maintain order and rein in the extremists, thus guaranteeing “stability” in Turkey’s dealings with the West.

Kemal Attaturk established the modern Turkish state out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after the Great War. Though he was a very popular Turkish nationalist, not all his reforms sat well with the public. The adoption of the Latin alphabet, the elimination of the hijab, the relentless secularization of the state — all of these were rammed down the throats of the populace by his authoritarian rule.

Since then, Turkey has retained its status as a modern secular state through occasional military coups, and the military has guided the state with a firm hand during the periods of civilian control. Give that up, and what would we face? An Islamic Republic? The Turkish equivalent of Osama bin Laden?

The reformers hasten to reassure us that we have nothing to fear: the Turkish military is not really bowing out. It will simply be a kinder, gentler military. As noted in Civilitas Research on August 11th,2004,
     Moderates took the upper hand for the next six years in the reshuffle of senior personnel in the Turkish military last Friday, as all four armies got new commanders and hardliners were retired off or pushed out of the limelight.
The first was that of General Aytac Yalman, described by Ker-Lindsay as “a hardliner” both on the Cyprus problem and on other matters.
Yalman was the Land Forces (armed forces) commander, a position which is essentially one step below the Chief of General Staff.
The current Chief of Staff is General Hilmi Ozkok, who is widely regarded as a moderate.
As expected, Ozkok took the opportunity to replace a hardliner with a moderate, Yasar Buyukanit, Commander of the First Army of Turkey’s four armies.
“This means that Buyukanit is now in line to succeed General Hilmi Ozkok in 2006 when Ozkok retires, so the moderates retain the upper hand,” explained Ker-Lindsay.
Europe is to be reassured: the moderates will remain in charge, the foolish and volatile populace will be restrained, and stability will be maintained. We can all go back to sleep.

The Left discovers a strange new respect for the military whenever the soldiers stop killing babies and climb on board a progressive cause. In this case the cause is the EU, and for its sake Steven Cook is quite enthusiastic about the Turkish military:
     The emerging conventional wisdom concerning recent developments in Turkey holds that the broad support within Turkey for EU membership constrained the military’s ability to oppose the political reforms Europe requires. This left the officers with no choice but to submit to a significant diminution of their traditional political influence. In fact, however, it is hardly game over for Turkey’s military establishment.
While the Islamists are basking in the glow of the European Union’s recent decision to move forward with membership negotiations, the military may actually have triumphed in its decades-long struggle against Islamists. Reforms aside, the national-security state in Turkey remains deeply embedded, affording the Turkish military ample means to influence and, if necessary, to intervene in the political arena. The General Staff, for example, remains outside the control of the civilian minister of defense. And while the Turkish prime minister formally presides over military promotions and retirements, the officers actually maintain exclusive control over personnel matters. This makes it all the more difficult to establish civilian control of the military, which is a hallmark of democratic polities. Additionally, the service codes of the armed forces, which direct the officers to defend the country and the republic from internal and external threats, remain intact. While this seems noncontroversial and is, indeed, a guiding principle of armed forces all over the world, Turkish commanders have a tendency to interpret threats to the political order rather broadly.
So, when the Turkish army intervenes in civilian affairs to confront a threat, its suppression of democracy will at least be constrained by “the service codes of the armed forces.” That’s a relief.

If only our elite pundits had the same enthusiasm for the service codes of the American military.

As I have noted previously, Turkey’s entry into the EU is not assured, even if it meets the stringent European requirements for reform. European public opinion generally opposes the admission of Turkey; recent polls suggest that the support for it in Austria is less than 10%.

But leaving that aside for a moment — assuming that annoying public opinion can be overcome — what does Europe face if it takes in an overwhelmingly Islamic country, one that has to maintain its secular modernity via military control?

Instead of having to deal with borders and customs and passport controls, Turks will be able simply to take the ferry across the Bosphorus and travel to any place in Europe that strikes their fancy. The militant Islamists in Turkey — and, yes, there are quite a lot of them — will be free to join their brethren in all parts of Europe. They can even grab a torch and help burn France down.

Relying on the military to hold Turkey in check is not a wise strategy for a purportedly democratic institution. But, in the case of Islamic countries, it is democracy that is most to be feared. Algeria and the FLN are the precedent that everyone keeps in mind.

This is the primary conundrum of our time — absent a lengthy American military occupation, can true democracy emerge in an Islamic country? The auguries are not good.

But, eventually, the will of the people needs to be heard, even the will of Muslim people. And what if their will is to raise a Caliph to whom they would give absolute power, one charged with the task of utterly destroying the infidel?

This is something that we really ought to know.

Then we could gird our loins, take up shield and buckler, and prepare for the grim task ahead.

Hat tip: MZ.


Wally Ballou said...

Maybe you're right that the "auguries are not good" for democracy taking root in iraq, and maybe not. You may be reacting to what you are seeing through the MSM prism of events in that country. Many Iraqis have shown themselves willing to risk a lot to build democracy there.

Ataturk was certainly autocratic (what Turk would respect a leader who wasn't, especially back then) but he is extrememly popular to this day.

Who would have thought democracy could take root in a feudal monarchy like Japan? Yet, our military rule there was pretty brief.

Even in majority Muslim country, I believe there are large numbers of people yearning for secular democracy. Once they have tasted it, those numbers go way up. If they see real democracy or a reasonable fascsimile in their neighbors' countries, the flame may spread just as it did in Eastern Europe 15-some years ago. If political freedoms are coupled with economic freedoms, that big pool of disaffected hopeless youth turns into a herd of iPod-toting IT workers (grin)

Kissingerism aside, it's not necessarily more "realistic" to assume that support of repressive local bullies around the world is the best way to protect our freedoms.

Baron Bodissey said...

Cato, I wasn't talking about Iraq. I was talking about any Islamic country that does not get a long American occupation. I think Iraq has a good chance to succeed, because of what we've done.

But if Baby Assad falls -- even if Syria holds elections, etc. -- I don't think there's a very good chance for a sustainable democracy there without outside intervention.

Freedom of speech, civil society & the rule of law: those are the prerequisites, the ones we helped create in Iraq.

And I don't think supporting local bullies is the way to go. That was my point. We just have to face the possibility that some Islamic country may someday elect a Caliph (just once, mind you!) who proceeds to try to destroy the infidels.

Wally Ballou said...

I take your point - that's why we have to pray (literally or figuratively) for Iraq to succeed - it is a 10-ton gorilla in the region and its example will be hard to ignore. Like the Czechs and their exemplary propaganda struggle with Cuba, the future democrats of Iraq may be actively engaged in subversion of the holdouts.

John Sobieski said...

Turkey will not join the EU because the EU will fall apart before then. Le Pen, and other right wing parties like BNP, want their countries out of Europe. As the fifth column jihad advances, parties that hate the EU will be turned to by the suffering public.

Then again, I never thought the EU would agree to the ascencion talks a couple of months ago. Let's not forget Bush and Condi aggressively pushed the Greek leaders, and others, and pressured them to vote yes for Turkey 2 months ago.

Baron Bodissey said...

metaphysician --

Heck, I don't know. It's just one of those things in the Bible, e.g.
Jeremiah 46:3-4: Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle...

Maybe some of us will take up one, and some the other...?

Wally Ballou said...

It's a quote, you buckler stickler:

Psalm 91:

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

(but we'll carry a sword, too, just in case)

Wally Ballou said...

dang - almost beat you to it.

Baron Bodissey said...

Wally -- yeah, I just did an online Bible search though. I bet you had yours from memory. All those catechism classes...

Wally Ballou said...

No, I couldn't remember the verse but I knew it was in a psalm. It also apparently pops up all through the OT. It appears to be a stock phrase, like "kith and kin" or "bag and baggage".

Or one of those standard epithets in Homer like "red-haired Menelaus" or "rosy-fingered dawn"

Baron Bodissey said...

How about "women and minorities"?

ShrinkWrapped said...

I am reluctant to drag this discussion back to democracy vs Islam, but I have been wondering: what percent of a population has to support bin Laden's Islamic fascism in order for chaos to ensue? If 1% of the Turks support Islamic fascism, is that a recipe for disaster for the EU? 5%? 10%? In Britain, 15% of their Muslim population supports the 7/7 bombers; is there a "golden" ratio of support for Islamic fascism (Muslim Brotherhood, bin Laden, et al) below which a Muslim Democracy can survive? Is this the key metric we need to discover?
Just askin', is all...

X said...

There's a certain irony in the EU demanding greater democratic accountability within Turkey, given that the EU has made great efforts to destroy any semblance of true democracy within its zone of control.

A good recent example is the "treaty for a constitution for the European Union", needed to be ratified by every member state in order to come in to effect. Most member states simply ratified it in their parliaments, often without a mandate bypassing the will of the people. Two countries, Denmark and France, had referendums, and both voted overwhelmingly against the project. The result? The EU dropped the treaty and started implementing its provisions through decisions taken by the European Council, which is made up of the foreign ministers of EU member states or their representatives. European Councils make decisions on a lot of things, often outside their remit. A recent European Council on agriculture tried to get an "A Item proposal" on software patents, something that can't be modified by council attendees, voted through. software patents don't have much to do with agriculture...

Anyway, the constitutional provisions for things like a European Army and re-organisation of national emergency services along EU regional lines are being forced through at the Councils, without any reference even to the EU parliament, itself hardly a beacon of democracy despite being voted in.

Given all that, Turkey's accession is at once required by the EU to be a certainty, and less likely to happen than me getting a sex change and marrying Bill Clinton. The EU is already falling apart. If Turkey were to join, it would collapse overnight.

X said...

I forgot to add that such a spectacular colapse of the EU would leave quite a large power vaccuum in a large part of continental europe. In one sense we're looking at the 1930s all over again, but the difference is who might take power. With sizable muslim minorities in most EU countries it's conceivable that at least some will come under the absolute control of Islamic governments, or be so crippled by Islamic terrorism as to be rendered almost uninhabitable.

France burns now, but I remember the Bradford and Oldham riots a few years ago. Islam has a much larger hold on Europe in general and the EU in particular than some people would care to admit. Certainly it's not the "eurabia" that people fear - not yet anyway - but it's a dangerous situation. All we need is a charismatic islamic leader to unite the largely wahabbist Islamic minorities within the EU. The result will be a war, and it's a war I've been worried about for several years.

Baron Bodissey said...

Archonix --

"There's a certain irony in the EU demanding greater democratic accountability within Turkey, given that the EU has made great efforts to destroy any semblance of true democracy within its zone of control."

I think the EU will settle for the pretense of democratic accountability, with stability being the real aim. Europe seems able to live with a facade of its cherished institutions, a kind of cultural Potemkin village.

It can forgo real democracy, and real intellectual freedom, in order continue to sit in the cafes and stroll the boulevards, pretending that things will always be this way.

Why should it require anything better of Turkey? Brussels will accept it if the Turks paint a pretty picture on the front of their polity.