Time for destructive creation
Last week the parliamentary commission investigating military coups and interventions in Turkey’s past released a 700-page report that provided a roadmap for reforms in the state’s security structure. This was the first Parliamentary initiative demanding a security reform. The century-long dichotomy and historic struggle between the “secularist soldier” versus the “anti-secularist politician” seems to finally be over.
There have been symbolic moments reflecting the fundamental changes in civil-military relations in Turkey in the 2000s, which I call “revolutionary mementos.” Recall the resignations of Turkey’s four highest-ranking generals in July 2011. The fact that it did not end up in a crisis as widely expected, marked a significant breakthrough. The very next day another first happened. At the meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took the sole seat at the helm whereas at previous YAŞ meetings, the prime ministers used to be flanked by the chief of the General Staff.
When speaking at the Turkish War Academy on April 5 2012, President Abdullah Gül urged comprehensive defense reform in accordance with the security needs shaped by the new strategic climate. This instance of a political leader requiring security reform symbolized the rising weight of the civilians in the civil-military equilibrium. As a result of the reform package passed by the Turkish Parliament, for the first time a civilian was appointed as the Secretary General of the National Security Council (MGK) in August 2004. Since the MGK used to be widely perceived as the institutionalization of the military’s influence in politics, this shift pointed to a new era.
These mementos reflect the military’s reduced influence in politics and vice versa, the increased civilian influence in security policies. However, this is still not equivalent to civilian oversight of the armed forces. That is still a long way to go. Yet, it is worth noting that civil-military relations are no longer viewed as a conflict-ridden relationship in Turkey. In today’s world where internal and external security is intermingled, political and military spheres are interpenetrating more than ever. Furthermore, the turbulence and uncertain environment surrounding Turkey today makes this penetration more urgent and vital. There should be a healthy dialogue and a cooperative relationship between the civilians and the military that reminds us of the concept ‘negotiated revolution’ coined by George Lawson. Lawson describes this type of revolution as a dynamic process which seeks to build a new order without resorting to violence and coercive control.
Revolutions are processes first of creative destruction and secondly of destructive creation, as Schumpeter says. The phase of “creative destruction” is already over. Now is the phase of “destructive creation” ahead of us. You must also have noticed that now the emphasis is on creation rather than destruction.