Read the original text at carnegie.ru.
In the modern history of the Middle East, major political changes were held with the active participation of the army. The military overthrew monarchs and presidents, dissolved the parliaments and political parties, and appointed the ministers and the premiers. In fact, the armed forces in these countries have formed strategic elite - a particular social group, whose decisions, judgments, and actions are crucial for society.
In this regard, the political development of Turkey has always been indicative. Turkey is a country where the armed forces of has been playing a dominant role in politics during the whole XX century. At the beginning of the last century, Young Turk and Kemalist revolutions laid the tradition of the active role of the military in strengthening the centralized state government to solve social problems. Even after establishing the multi-party system, the military have significantly strengthened their political influence.
Since 1960, the Turkish army has been able to carry out four successful military coups. In 1960, the militaries executed the first "people's favorite" Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, formed the National Security Council, and established their own courts, creating a kind of parallel state. In 1971, the army ousted Süleyman Demirel’s government that failed to curb the riots. In 1980, the generals have consolidated their power and influence, adopted a new constitution, which significantly limited the number of political freedom. In 1997, the army ousted the first in the history of the country pro-Islamic government of Necmettin Erbakan, under the pretext that it seeks to establish Sharia and turn the country into an Islamic republic.
In 2007, the Turkish militaries have threatened the government. They published a memorandum with a warning that they would not allow to trample the secular principles of the republic, and that they will be ready to act if the pro-Islamic candidate Abdullah Gul becomes a president. However, Gul safely won as a president. It undermined the political influence of the army.
Removing the impact
Since the mid-2000s, Erdogan's government has been attacking the army political positions: extensive legislative reforms, dismantling of the special order for all the militaries, countless criminal cases against acting officers ("Ergenekon," "Sledgehammer" coup plan and other operations, during which more than 400 people were arrested). In the early 2010s, the military elite was completely demoralized. Neither the president, nor the government were no longer required to listen to the generals.
Moreover, Erdogan has started reformatting the officer corps; he promoted loyal candidates to leadership positions; National Intelligence Organization (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT) took control over the army officers. MIT officers are mainly from the internal security services; they have always been at the forefront of the army’s political activity. MIT became the most loyal military power structure.
In the summer of 2013, demonstrations and civil unrest in Turkey began, initially to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul's Taksim Gezi Park. The subsequent wave of anti-government protests across Turkey, and most importantly, unprecedented corruption scandal in December 2013, in the organization of which the authorities accused former ally of Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen, have strongly changed the traditional model of civil-military relations. In 2014, the Turkish authorities have started to revise cases involving the generals, prominent public figures, and politicians.
All this, coupled with the deterioration of the situation across the Turkish border and the actual start of the civil war with the Kurds, has created a feeling that the army has got an opportunity to regain the lost ground in real politics. Loyalty of the Turkish society to the militaries is caused not only by the specifics of the formation of the armed forces and conscription, but also by the institutional and systemic reasons.
Firstly, it is the geopolitical factor. External threats and threats of terrorism force Turkish citizens to trust the army. Secondly, it is a great constructive role that army played in the formation of the modern Turkish state. Third, the Turkish army is based on a long institutional history; it has preserved its system of values and traditions. Finally, the popularity of the national army is connected with the Turkish education system - every little Turk is taught from an early age that he is a soldier.
Why, then, the last Turkey’s military coup Failed?
The numerical superiority of the active participants of the events was not in favor of the coup. It became clear after the first hours of the conflict, as the participants were not able to keep control over the key objects. As it turned out, only 2 helicopters, 7 tanks, 2 military aircrafts, and about 350 personnel were involved.
The actions of the military were considered a paradigmatic case: the seizure of government buildings and transport hubs, strikes against the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency, blocking cellular communication, social networking, and international Turkish-speaking channels (BBC, Euronews, CCN Turk), storming the office of Turkish radio and television (TRT). But the political leadership of the country was not detained, neither the president nor the prime minister, not even a single minister was arrested. Erdogan and his colleagues managed to orient and coordinate retaliation of the loyal army units and police.
The second problem was the mobilization of supporters. The rebels were countless; just look at the speed and enthusiasm of spreading tweets with support of the military. The "peace committee" called on to stay calm and stay home. Erdogan called on his supporters to go to the streets, literally go under the tanks. Erdogan supporters were more active and organized, and most importantly, they were prepared not only to fight in virtual social networks, but in the real world.
In addition to the disorganized popular support, the rebels did not have ideological, political, and team support. None of the Turkish political parties has acted with the open support of the militaries.
The main cause of failure was a poor training. None of the senior officers publicly supported or condemned the coup; none of the politicians has something to do with all these events.
The traditional scenario assumed a strict sequence: the arrest of political leadership, the seizure of the Parliament, government buildings, radio and television. This would allow establishing control over the entire state system. The rebels’ aim was not so much to seize power, but rather to create the sound effects: the plane flights over the capital, blocking bridges across the Bosporus, idealistic statements on national television with a completely different picture on the other channels.
Erdogan supporters celebrate a victory over the putschists. Hunting for real and imaginary enemies of the regime has begun. Turkey officially demands the extradition of the main culprit of the incident, Gulen, who currently lives in the United States. Just six years ago, Erdogan told his supporters: "Before AKP (JDP or AKP in English and Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisiin Turkish, ed.) came to power, Turkey was surrounded by the sea from its three sides and by the enemies from four sides... Everyone looked like a potential enemy. Each country was suspected of harboring dirty plans against Turkey."
Amazingly, after some two years, Erdogan, inspired by the unprecedented growth of his support in the elections of 2011, has not only destroyed the old system of checks and balances, but has adopted the rhetoric of his old opponents. Especially after the Gezi Park protests defenders in the summer of 2013.
Turkey’s national reconciliation is even more urgent task than the establishing relations with the neighbors. We should not forget that the Turkish economic growth indicators are linked to an increase in the costs of a special operation, emergency medicine, and reconstruction of the destroyed cities. The repressions and the subsequent strengthening of Erdogan’s power just demolish the prospects of national reconciliation. It becomes obvious who has actually lost in a failed military coup attempt.
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