This cannot be our war

This cannot be our war

Turkey’s very special chief of General Staff was on a trip to Syrian border areas. Irrespective of how special a top general is to his government, a visit to troops stationed right on the border with a country engulfed in a civil war of attrition must have some very clear messages. Particularly, in view of the latest developments, such a visit becomes all the more important.

If Turkish border towns and villages have been suffering from “stray bombs” fired “unintentionally” from the neighboring war-torn country, if in order to demonstrate Turkey’s anger over such oddities the government has asked and obtained authorization from Parliament to undertake military action it deemed necessary against intruders, if the prime minister has been stressing the need to be prepared for war, obviously a visit to border garrisons by the top general cannot be a touristic trip.

The authorization Turkey obtained from Parliament to “retaliate in kind” to any hostility aimed at Turkish territory and undertake punitive actions outside Turkish territory against any military aggression targeting Turkey must be considered as a tool to enforce Turkish deterrence capability. That authorization cannot and should not be used to legitimize an adventure into Syrian civil war.

It is cheap rhetoric to accuse and label as Baathist or pro-dictator everyone advising caution, common sense and voicing opposition to Turkey’s engagement in the civil war in our neighboring country. Finally even President Abdullah Gül has woken up to reality and described the situation in Syria as a civil war. That is a fundamental deviation from the “Syrian opposition demanding democracy” rhetoric of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his political clan in trying to garner support for the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian rebels. The president has admitted publicly that what has been continuing in Syria for almost two years was not at all a civilian uprising by those demanding more rights and a democratic atmosphere, but a civil war. And in this civil war one of the sides is a government and the other is a rebel coalition supported by some foreign powers, unfortunately including Turkey.

Stray bullets falling on Turkish territory cannot be “friendly attitudes” from our neighboring country, if “unintended” such “mistakes” have been continuing uninterrupted for the past three weeks. It cannot be an honest, civilized or at least an attitude compatible with the Westphalian principles of international relations for a country supporting through various means and forms a coalition of rebel groups waging a civil war in the neighboring country.

Yet, Turkey cannot and should not remain idle against persistent intrusion on its security. If Syria continues its “stray” attacks on Turkish towns and villages, Turkey’s vigilance and legitimate counterbombardment of those targets used in the attacks on Turkish territory will of course continue. The authorization given by Parliament, on the other hand, should be considered a tool to enforce Turkey’s deterrence capability. The Turkish prime minister and his government cannot be crazy enough to risk Turkey’s supreme interests and engage in a war with Syria, but having such a deterrence capability was important.

After all, Turkey must be prepared to strike back and leave not a single attack on Turkey, Turkish interests or territory unanswered, but at the same time we have to know that the civil war in Syria is not our war.