How not to prevent a coup
Here are some of this columnist’s humble observations and suggestions:
1) Turkey has been a republic for the past 93 years, and a multi-party democracy since 1946. Since the foundation of the republic, the country has seen two conventional coups, one soft coup, one post-modern coup, one e-memorandum coup and, most recently, one failed coup.
2) Since it came to power in November 2002, the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) existential political war was about ending military tutelage. The party feared that Kemalist generals could unseat it. It allied with the Gülenists to have what it viewed as potentially coup-leaning Kemalist generals removed. Instead, Gülenist-Islamist generals attempted the coup of July 15 after an intra-Islamist fight.
3) It’s bizarre that the ruling Islamists and Kemalist generals have blamed the coup on Western conspirators. The former chief of the military accused the CIA of the failed coup. One Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy claimed that a former CIA officer personally acted with the coup plotters and had to flee to Greece in a military helicopter together with a bunch of Turkish officers. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses the West of “standing by the coup and terrorists.”
4) When you start a cure with the wrong diagnosis, there is little chance you will succeed. Turkey did not become a democracy just because hundreds of generals were put in jail at a time that presumably marked “the end of the military tutelage.” Instead, Turkey went down the road to ballot box authoritarianism and became a hybrid democracy, according to independent observers. The diagnosis that interning potentially criminal Kemalists in order to become a real democracy was wrong. But this was not a mistake. It was intentional: The Islamists’ aim was never to make Turkey a liberal democracy, it was to replace Kemalist/militarist despotism with majoritarian, Islamist and elected despotism.
5) How do we prevent another tragic, shameful attempt like the one on July 15? A state of emergency, according to the government. They pass laws that make sure the commanders of the military forces report to the defense minister. They pass laws that make sure the chief of the military and intelligence report to the president, not to the prime minister. How easy. Why did we not think of this before? Turkey could have been a full democracy if we thought of these administrative moves five years ago. That is only laughable. Is it too hard to see that the president’s aide-de-camp conspired with the coup plotters and tried to help them intern the president because this is a duty detailed in his job description?
6) It is not what is written in the laws, or, even, in the constitution, that makes a country a peaceful democracy in which people do not even know what a coup d’état is. It is not who reports to whom, what hierarchical chart we have and not whether the military and intelligence chiefs report to the prime minister or the president that makes a country a real democracy. It is democratic culture, in its simplest, purist form.
7) Since 1923, Turkey has been a battlefield of ideologies. Violent or non-violent forms of civil wars have never been absent. Whether left or right wing, Kemalist or Islamist, all of these warring ideologies, despite their weird or not-so-weird temporary alliances with friendly or unfriendly enemies (enemies, not rivals) have had one feature in common: their aim has always been to fight the enemy ideology because “our” ideology is the best for the country, and “we must either purge the country of the bad ideology or have its adherents [traitors] converted to ours.” By force and oppression, if necessary.
8) The heart of the matter is about this never-ending ideological war, not about which general reports to which politician, or which air base should be closed down to make Turkey a real democracy.
9) Deeper at the heart of the matter is a depressing question: Do the warring ideologies in Turkey really want to make Turkey a real democracy? No. They want power to win over the “enemy.” They want the enemy to “disappear or convert” by every undemocratic means possible.
An Islamist putsch attempt against an Islamist government should come as no surprise in the Crescent and Star.