I decided to write this article after I listened to a speech by Halil İbrahim Akpınar, the governor of the district of Bolu, after I witnessed the positive reaction of Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınç. But then such developments took place that the situation became tenser. The headline was supposed to end like this, "...isn’t it a little too much?" This sentence openly shows what is meant. Nevertheless, let me tell you about my purpose in a little more detail. Those of you who read my articles and books know my criticism of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, very well.
While criticizing the military, a little...
I believe the TSK is the most important and trustworthy institution in our country. I keep repeating, since we cannot replace it with another security force, we need to cherish it. Besides, I witnessed that this institution is better in operation than any other institution when it comes to education, discipline and seriousness.
And beside all this, recently I criticized all commanders and civilians who contaminated this institution with politics. Those who pushed the TSK into politics believe that they have done it in order to protect and watch over it, using their legal authority to put democracy on the right track.
I criticized the TSK very much because of their recent attitude and interference in politics. But I also saw that part of the responsibility belongs to the civil administration that was unable to say "no." And I always took a stand against this attitude. The TSK in recent history has influenced this country’s basic politics and mostly took place above the civil administration but took on an attitude of preventing or delaying a solution. I do not entirely hold the military responsible for the development coming this far. I agree with retired Gen. Atilla Kıyat that we’ve come this far because civilians and especially the civil administration have never said "no" to any approach from the TSK, on the contrary welcomed it.
It seemed that people got used to the TSK’s attitude, which has made its mark in history but certain events changed everything.
First the Cold War was over. The Soviet Union fell apart. All international balances and values changed. Human rights and freedom came into prominence. Democracy has internationally, including in Turkey, become a fundamental system of government.
Another important change was experienced with the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, coming to power in 2002. Since then, the tension between the TSK and AKP has never ended. And it looks like it’s not going to end anytime soon. The TSK can be and should be criticized. But these criticisms won’t be any good if they are just an insult. On the contrary, they would lead to outbursts. If we look at the process so far, we encounter the following scene:
- The TSK command echelon is lead by commanders who have started to see that things are changing and old habits cannot persist.
- Maybe the change does not come as fast as desired but there are totally different balances being established right now.
- While these changes take place, big pressure has been put on the TSK via the Ergenekon case, alleged military plans to topple the government, and the recent bill allowing military personnel to be tried in civil courts. In the meantime, part of the civilians started a smear campaign, more ugly than ever seen before.
- And more importantly, now governors representing the state are able to badmouth the military in an indirect way and receive much praise for their attitude (such as Gov. Halil İbrahim Akpınar of Bolu) from authorities of the administration. And members of the administration party or close circles also treat the military boorishly.
If you were to pay attention, you’ll see that I’m not talking about "criticism." Politicians and papers may criticize the TSK and they do it anyway. I’d like to draw attention to something else. Pushing the TSK into a corner, pushing its button and openly insulting it has started to push the limits of danger.
We might experience an unexpected burst.
We might face a development not easily taken under control by the General Staff.
I’m not saying let’s give up criticism. And I’m not saying we should say, "Your wish is our command," either, as done before.
Let’s supervise the military, oppose their intervention in politics and prevent them from getting ahead of the elected administration ... but let’s do this without insulting, humiliating or beating it. The opposition should not engage in trying to push the administration and military into a fight. The media should not start campaigns involving conspiracy theories and false allegations. And the TSK should gather itself up and enter a period of changing its general attitude. It should do its principal job.
It should accept the result that comes out of the ballot box. It should leave it up to the civilians to protect the country’s secular democratic system. Otherwise, in an unexpected moment, there may be a bad accident on the road.