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BURAK BEKDİL

burak.bekdil@hurriyet.com.tr

BURAK BEKDİL > The neo-Ottoman Military Band (II)

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In “The neo-Ottoman Military Band” (this column, Jan. 23, 2013), I observed that “the Turkish command structure is probably … fragile.” To support that view, I did not revisit the resignations of the Navy, Army and Air Force commanders in 2011.

Instead, I mentioned: 1) Despite plans to recruit 50,000 special combat units to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), less than 1,500 applicants turned up; 2) Higher ranks in the military did not look to be in better shape and morale as 5,067 officers, 12,274 non-commissioned officers and 7,766 special combat units quit service between 2008 and 2012; and 3) At the top end of the spectrum, the profession of soldiery is no less dangerous than the anti-terror fight as hundreds of officers were in jail, and insiders were quietly talking of command weaknesses and low morale.

A few days later, the resignation of Adm. Nusret Güner, the number two in the Navy, was publicly confirmed (Güner was to take over as the Navy commander in August). As the Economist put it: “Imagine a country with NATO’s second largest army that counts Iraq, Iran and Syria as neighbors and is encircled by the Aegean, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean – but has nobody to command its Navy (The Economist, “Erdoğan and His Generals,” Feb. 2, 2013).” That is, unless, of course, the government plans to recruit imam school graduates as admirals after six-month, intensified “How to Become an Admiral” courses.

With more than half of Turkey’s admirals in jail along with hundreds of generals and other officers on charges of plotting to oust the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the wave of resignations to avoid jail will most likely endure. There are unconfirmed reports that more than 100 Air Force officers have petitioned to quit.

Yet, last week, the Turkish General Staff denied claims that there is a weakness at the military chain of command. That’s fine – Turkey’s state departments have always exhibited a traditional reflex of denying everything they may deem bad for their reputation. The tradition also goes that it is imperative for these extremely thin-skinned office buildings to claim a conspiracy behind such “evil allegations.” The military command is no exception to this rule, and its statement claimed that: “Those who believe that they can harm the Turkish Armed Forces by setting [this] agenda are wrong.”

Is the Turkish military so fragile that it can be harmed if people speak of officers’ resignations? And who are “those who think that they can harm the Turkish Armed Forces by setting this agenda?”

For instance, who said this: “These operations against the army are affecting morale. There are 400 serving and retired officers in jail. At this rate we will have no officers left to appoint to command positions.”

These words come close to my column of Jan. 23, but are not mine. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said them about 10 days after “The neo-Ottoman Military Band.” But could the prime minister be thinking he could harm the Turkish Armed Forces by saying what he said? Nonsense.

All the same, I suggest Mr. Erdoğan’s government should start devising plans to change the curriculum at imam schools as soon as possible. New courses could include naval cruising, platform dock landing, jet piloting, tank command and artillery and asymmetrical warfare.

What about the resigning officers? I suspect they may be secret members of the Ergenekon gang. Prosecutors should indict them on the grounds that these officers, by resigning, aim to assist their terrorist friends in captivity and to undermine the Turkish military by causing command weakness – ah, to harm to the Armed Forces, of course…

A note of no importance: Dear column neighbor; Your “A response to a below-the-belt punch” was another disappointment, but I am not going to respond to your response since I sadly observe that you perceive arguments over ideas as ad hominem attacks. This small note merely aims to correct a factual error you made: Your line that “[I] long ago unilaterally declared we should be sparring partners” is wrong. I still keep the email message in which a former editor coined the term “sparring partners,” after he accused you of “belonging to the ambush culture” for reasons I am sure you remember well.

February/13/2013

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Turk down under

2/14/2013 10:57:10 AM

Nice one AMERICAN! Although the Brit is a big fan of AKP and writes favourably of them, it's so clear to see how long he has lived in Britain, how else could he be so outspoken on political sensitivities!

Coskan U

2/14/2013 5:49:08 AM

Bekdil your “sparring partner” is a disappointment only if you take him seriously. And why would you take a guy who’s mentally stuck in 7th century seriously. As I just commented on his site he wouldn’t have a “career” if it weren’t for Ataturk and Kemalists. He and his ilk can only come up with “Islamaphobe” to defend their ancient behavior, yet overlook that the only others who believe in treating women similarly are their “buddies” the Orthodox Jews. All part of regional ancient tradition

Tekion Particle

2/13/2013 7:50:58 PM

Lol, american american, "great response". I think it was a huge mistake dogan kemal ileri made when he revealed how long he is been living in the UK. Noway back no, hHe is going to get slaughtered consistently from now on.

OZman Cometh

2/13/2013 7:03:12 PM

Playing to the peanut gallery..like it. Still don't see or understand how the AKP has offended all your secular sensibilities? Military listening to govt is a NORMAL thing. AKP mordernising TR which includes the military;- rely less on manpower including Generals and more on tech. Louis: Looking good, Billy Ray! Billy Ray: Feeling good, Louis!

mara mcglothin

2/13/2013 4:32:24 PM

Spot on once again TURK DOWN UNDER. It really appears the AKP has bitten off their nose to spite their face! Great writing BURAK BEY! Anyone who reads the HDNews on a regular basis is well aware of who is on the attack. "Love the columnists, Hate his backward views" perhaps could be s great title for a future column. It is clearly MR AKYOL who has hit below the belt. One has to only read the last paragraph of his attack on Fazil Say to understand who hits below the belt.

american american

2/13/2013 2:12:01 PM

i didn't know brits were such big fans of akp

dogan kemal ileri

2/13/2013 12:17:39 PM

Turkiye has been mismanaged, raped and robbed incessantly by all the previous powers be they civilian or mitary sourced. Erdogan has eliminated all the robbers of the state one way or another and sometimes overzealously. Well so what look whats been achieved in the last 10 years because its unique to Turkiye and quite unbeleiveable..Erdogan bey you carry on conducting that Ottoman military band to your hearts content because I love it and so does 60% of my countrymen.

american american

2/13/2013 12:06:22 PM

ameer, they began quran classes at the military academies, not civics.

Rosalind Polat

2/13/2013 11:06:30 AM

Well said Turk down under - exactly without secularism what kind of turkey will exist - cant believe how people are being hoodwinked by AKP into believing this "softer side of Islam". Why do they fear Kemalism it has worked well for many years with everyone free to be religious if they want to. Soon there will be no. Hoices

anton supertramp

2/13/2013 10:41:20 AM

what is the purpose of army if they wont obey the civilian rule? hasnt army inflicted huge economic politic burdens on turkey in past? is it not thinkable that such power unquestioned untouchable for years would go outlaw in many aspects? are we to put morale before the crime now? :)
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