In the aftermath of the council

No matter what else is said, the first set of decisions made by the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) indicates that the period of democratization in Turkey is progressing. 

The YAŞ meeting was an important step toward doing away with military tutelage through the message it sent to military officers with the propensity for coups and interventions.

Yes, the fact that an “accused general” with a coup indictment against him was part of that council is a matter of concern.

Yes, it was wrong for Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ to nominate as land forces commander an officer who has been called upon by prosecutors to testify in a criminal case and whose signature is found in the coup plans that have been shared by the press.

These are actually the weaknesses of our democracy that have been reflected in this meeting. However, the flip side of the coin is looking more optimistic. On this side of the coin, 11 generals that the courts have issued arrest warrants against have not been promoted.

More importantly, political will was able to take a tough stance by saying “no” to a general whose name has been mentioned alongside coup plans. This general, who was previously expected to become a force commander, will be given retirement and sent packing.

That another general whose name is also implicated in coup planning and who was hoping to head the Gendarmerie General Command will instead be given light duty is also a brighter side of the coin.

In the end, this council meeting demonstrated to many officers in different ranks of the army what the repercussions of coups and memorandums can be and that one day these attempts could cost them their careers.

There is no importance in a force commander requesting early retirement, whether as a way of making an individual statement or as putting forth an institutional message. The Turkish army, which has over 300 generals, will surely find a land forces commander; however, finding a political administration that has the courage and resolve to use the authority given to it by the laws is not always easy. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) demonstrated its resolve with the stern stance it took.

The final determination for the next head of the land forces may still take some time. Başbuğ, who is in his final days at the helm of the General Staff, may leave the initiative of nominating another name to his successor after the nominee he put forth was not accepted.

There has never been a chief of General Staff who has experienced as much trouble as Başbuğ when taking over the position. But his own mistakes played just as much of a role in this as the headlines of the Taraf daily. He exercised caution in maintaining a balanced relationship with the government during his post. His name was not mentioned in the coup plans in a way that would cause trouble for himself or the government. He was a chief of General Staff who actually brought himself to say, “I am shamed by the talk of a coup.”

However, one can’t quite say that Başbuğ conducted the “internal cleansing” that was required. This is why he suffered at the hands of his subordinates and entourage; his trustworthiness suffered a strong blow. His dismissal of the document signed by Col. Dursun Çiçek as a “piece of paper” and the subsequent arrival of the original “wet signature” document with the prosecutors was a heavy blow.

One hopes that the new chief of General Staff will not be caught in a position like Başbuğ, that he will be in complete command of his military headquarters and block the desire for coups.

With the new chief of General Staff the Turkish army should enter a period of education that is in line with contemporary needs and renew the culture of the institution. The state of mind that sees civilians and governments as a “threat” should be removed from the army.

They say “The real salvation of a country occurs through its salvation from its saviors.” It’s high time for this to happen for Turkey.
07 August 2010, Saturday