It’s not your father’s Turkish military

Susan Sachs has a New York Times story highlighting one of those below-the-radar developments in world politics that gets drowned out during the campaign season — the institutionalization of the Turkish military’s slow withdrawal from politics: For the first time since the 1980 military coup, a civilian presided over Turkey’s National Security Council on Wednesday, ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Susan Sachs has a New York Times story highlighting one of those below-the-radar developments in world politics that gets drowned out during the campaign season -- the institutionalization of the Turkish military's slow withdrawal from politics:

For the first time since the 1980 military coup, a civilian presided over Turkey's National Security Council on Wednesday, reflecting a quiet but major shift toward limiting the political power of the country's generals. The council's new civilian secretary general is Yigit Alpogan, a diplomat who was most recently ambassador to Greece. His appointment followed amendments to the Turkish Constitution this year that reduced the number of posts reserved for the military in the council and several other government institutions. The army's influence has hurt Turkey's drive to join the European Union, which has urged it to bring the generals to heel and impose civilian control over the military.... The Turkish Army intervened four times in the last 50 years to remove elected governments, most recently in 1997. In what was widely described as a "soft coup," the generals pressured the prime minister at the time, Necmettin Erbakan, to resign by criticizing his Islamist leanings and acting without consulting him.... The recent changes have caused grumbling, but senior commanders did not act to block or delay the latest constitutional move reducing the army's influence over higher education and increasing civilian control of the National Security Council. "I believe that the army also felt the necessity of eliminating politics from its structure, given the progress of civil society in Turkey," said Serap Yazici, a professor of constitutional law at Bilgi University in Istanbul. "The more involved the military is in politics, the more it becomes politicized, and this would ultimately contradict its primary function as the protector of the country." ...It is too early to judge whether those changes, and the imposition of a civilian administrator, will reduce the military's influence, said Umit Cizre, a military affairs specialist at Bilkent University in Ankara.

If this change is genuine, it makes Turkey more democratic -- but it would also make Turkey a more "Eurocentric" country, as the country bends over backwards to gain entry into the European Union. This should act as an excellent bulwark in keeping Turkey a secular country -- but it would also probably mean a worsening of Turkey's relations with Israel (the Turkish and Israeli militaries are on very good terms). On the whole, this is probably a net benefit to U.S. foreign policy -- but I'm sure that others may disagree.

Susan Sachs has a New York Times story highlighting one of those below-the-radar developments in world politics that gets drowned out during the campaign season — the institutionalization of the Turkish military’s slow withdrawal from politics:

For the first time since the 1980 military coup, a civilian presided over Turkey’s National Security Council on Wednesday, reflecting a quiet but major shift toward limiting the political power of the country’s generals. The council’s new civilian secretary general is Yigit Alpogan, a diplomat who was most recently ambassador to Greece. His appointment followed amendments to the Turkish Constitution this year that reduced the number of posts reserved for the military in the council and several other government institutions. The army’s influence has hurt Turkey’s drive to join the European Union, which has urged it to bring the generals to heel and impose civilian control over the military…. The Turkish Army intervened four times in the last 50 years to remove elected governments, most recently in 1997. In what was widely described as a “soft coup,” the generals pressured the prime minister at the time, Necmettin Erbakan, to resign by criticizing his Islamist leanings and acting without consulting him…. The recent changes have caused grumbling, but senior commanders did not act to block or delay the latest constitutional move reducing the army’s influence over higher education and increasing civilian control of the National Security Council. “I believe that the army also felt the necessity of eliminating politics from its structure, given the progress of civil society in Turkey,” said Serap Yazici, a professor of constitutional law at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “The more involved the military is in politics, the more it becomes politicized, and this would ultimately contradict its primary function as the protector of the country.” …It is too early to judge whether those changes, and the imposition of a civilian administrator, will reduce the military’s influence, said Umit Cizre, a military affairs specialist at Bilkent University in Ankara.

If this change is genuine, it makes Turkey more democratic — but it would also make Turkey a more “Eurocentric” country, as the country bends over backwards to gain entry into the European Union. This should act as an excellent bulwark in keeping Turkey a secular country — but it would also probably mean a worsening of Turkey’s relations with Israel (the Turkish and Israeli militaries are on very good terms). On the whole, this is probably a net benefit to U.S. foreign policy — but I’m sure that others may disagree.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

Tag: Theory

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