Turkish citizens in uniform
The Turkish military has been passing through an interesting period. Arresting generals and officers has now become an ordinary event. Criticizing the military in the media has mostly turned into a “contempt ceremony.” This is understandable for “democrats,” victims of the past and the former sympathizers of the military.
The public has been discussing about military takeovers, civil-military relations and generals arrested and also about how a former Chief of General Staff could become a terrorist. Suddenly, this discussion moved to a different domain.
Now, we are focusing on the internal affairs of the military, such as the salaries and working conditions of noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Apparently, we will discuss more on this issue. There appears to be a new understanding in front of us. We will try to comprehend the difference between “citizen in uniform” and the “soldier in absolute obedience.” After the first shock, we will learn slowly that the question is not a point of interest only to the generals, but also to the politicians. Moreover, it will interest the people.
Retired and active duty NCOs have got organized in the Internet, which reflects the spirit of the time. They started demanding enhancements in their working conditions and economic welfare.
Naturally, as the Turkish economy grows, they are also demanding a higher salary, like civil servants. However, what makes this interesting is that they are sharing their arguments and organizing on social media, instead of through the chain of command.
I’m sure the Chief of the General Staff is not happy with the addition of a new and different dimension into a series of existing problems. As a matter of fact, he needed to make explanations to calm down the “growlers.” However, we will see that the traditional approach will not be able to cope with this restlessness. Why?
Firstly, we are living in the age of the Internet and social media. Also, Turkey has become an “advanced democracy,” so the military has to abandon some “obsolete” traditions.
Secondly, the military has been fighting with the PKK for 30 years and this struggle is abrasive due to its character, especially for junior officers and NCOs. They have spent a significant part of their professional lives under difficult conditions in the mountains. Nowadays, people in the media mock their “self-sacrifices” and this traumatizes them deeply.
Thirdly, the ongoing arrests are triggering quite complicated feelings in officers and NCOs. Most of them are criticizing the internal affairs of the military and their commanders, and they are no longer proud of their uniforms.
Fourthly, social values are dissolving and collapsing rapidly in Turkish society. The most important power and value is “money.” This makes the military, which promises nothing but a humble life, unattractive.
Looking into the debates, officers and NCOs have recognized that the “age of heroism” is coming to an end. The good news is that they are declaring this through social media at the moment. I hope politicians will also understand this and recognize that locking up generals and criticizing them is not the only way to make a good start in creating “citizens in uniform.”