A major military exercise was conducted last week. During the exercise, which the prime minister also watched, Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel delivered a speech:
“In the era we are living, countries are under the threat of political and economic sanctions more than military measures. Countries are being subjected to colorful changes and seasonal revolutions shaped by information technology and social media. Economic manipulation, religious and ethnic abuse constitutes the most important threat to the country. Today, countries are facing economic social threats that directly affect security, not military threats.”
General Özel stated that the Armed Forces should be a force with a high capacity. When you read his words in the entire context, you can understand that a “threat perception” appropriate for this changing situation has prevailed the army.
It is not difficult to guess which ones the Chief of General Staff is talking about when he mentions “colorful changes and seasonal revolutions shaped by information technology and social media.”
We can count them at once: The orange revolution in Ukraine
and the North African dictatorships toppled by the “Arab Spring.” None of these countries had democracy. Dictators were ruling with show off elections, keeping the country under major pressure.
In other words, we should be saying the “colorful and seasonal revolutions shaped by social media” have generated positive results in terms of toppling dictatorships.
To put it more openly, if there is real democracy in a country, those in charge of the security of that country should not perceive a threat of “a revolution shaped by social media and information technology.”
Because, in a democratic environment, those who have the means to express themselves do not have any intention either to make a revolution or the social terrain that would enable them to make such a revolution.
The issue is whether or not democracy is functioning with all its institutions and rules, not about social media or information technology.
No, that question couldn’t have been asked in Turkey
President Abdullah Gül attended a panel while he was in Boston for his son’s graduation. In the Q&A of the panel, a Turkish scientist from Harvard, after reminding him of the Roboski massacre, the death of Ethem Sarısülük by a police bullet, and the death of 14-year-old Berkin Elvan after a long coma resulting from being hit by a gas canister, asked him this question: “Are you not ashamed to head such a state? Don’t you see that your hands are dripping with blood? How can you tell lies to us here about democracy? How do you sleep at night?”
In such meetings, it is normal to ask any kind of question. The president’s bodyguards intervened with the person protesting with, “You are not a human being,” but they must have remembered they were in the U.S., because they did not grab him and take him outside.
The president started responding to the question saying, “Nobody would easily give you the right to ask such a question. If it were somebody else, they would not have allowed you to ask this question.”
Well, this is exactly what constitutes the difference between a democracy and an authoritarian regime.
If you are attending a panel and accepting that questions will be asked to you, then no matter what your position is you should listen to the question and answer it.
In places where there is no democracy, nobody would attempt to ask such a question anyway. Whoever does so, would find their self, before finishing the question, first under police kicks, then in jail.
If this question was asked in Turkey, the result would have been this. There would have been beating, harassment and detention.
The president should not forget the international prestige of the position he is holding is only as much as the prestige of the country he is heading in the democratic world.