Turkey needs to return to its factory settings

Turkey needs to return to its factory settings

Ankara’s first high level guest since the coup attempt of July 15 was none other than Marine General Joseph Dunford, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and it could not have been a better choice to make the case for Fethullah Gülen’s deportation. Despite all the heavy anti-U.S. propaganda in the pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) media, the officials in Ankara greeted Dunford in a friendly way. But there is more than that.

Dunford’s unannounced visit to the Turkish Parliament came at the request of Gen. Hulusi Akar. The magnitude of the devastation, the courage and the resilience of Turkish parliamentarian democracy impressed Dunford more than anything else. One could dump all the files and legal documents to prove the Gülen movement’s terrorist actions, but his short visit to parliament makes the case in an incredibly powerful way. Here is why:

American society is accustomed to assassination attempts against their presidents. They have seen Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy get killed right before their eyes. Assassinations seldom shock American society because an attack toward a symbolic individual, even if he/she is the president, does not mean an ultimate threat to the system. But the slightest probability of holding the entire Pentagon’s E-ring hostage or bombing the Congress means only one thing: war. This is the case Akar made Monday by taking Dunford to the heart of destruction. 

On the other hand, Gülen’s disproportionate influence in the U.S. comes purely from the AKP’s resources that were allocated between 2007 and 2011. Turkey’s political leaders deeply believed in using the Gülenists for “American” methods like lobbying the Congress against the 1915 Armenian Genocide Resolution or acting together with the Jewish lobby. For them, the traditionalist methods of Turkish Foreign Ministry and its diplomats were “not Muslim enough.” I remember an Independence Day reception at the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC in 2008 where everyone was staring into each other’s glasses to spot who was consuming alcohol.

So now, as the former SAT commando Col. Ali Türkşen suggests, Turkey has to return to its “factory settings.” Like it or not, this country and nation was built by Atatürk and his comrades. The DNA of modern-day Turkey has the military and society together in it. Sidelining one for the huge benefit of the other has showed us what could happen on July 15.

Former JCS Retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ said in a TV interview on CNN Türk that the attempt was “not a standard coup but an ultimate attack against the Turkish Armed Forces using the sleeper cells within.” After restructuring, Turkey’s military power may feel isolated and crippled. It is up to our NATO allies to ensure that the alliance’s second largest military will also be the most transparent, flexible and smart armed force.

Despite all the coups and attempts in its past, the Turkish Armed Forces is probably the most naive military power in its area. Its human resources are relatively poor but they have very intelligent kids with families committed to this land and its goodness. Just look at the farewell videos of Kuleli Military High School students when they leave their classrooms in tears and singing the Harbiye March: “Free is this nation with you in the Eagle’s Nest.”