Saturday, July 30, 2011

Top Military Brass Resign in Turkey (NATO's Second-Biggest Force)

Call it the uncoup d'etat -- at least for now.

Turkey's conservative civilian government appeared today to prevail over the secularist generals who stepped down in protest of the arrest of scores of military officials accused of plotting a coup dating back to 2003.

Gen. Isik Kosaner, Turkey's equivalent of the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, stepped down last night along with the commanders army, navy and air force commanders.

The mostly symbolic resignation, as all four generals were slated to retire in the next year,  was to protest the jailing of about 250 officers on charges of conspiring against the civilian government.

The government alleges the initial coup was to be disguised as war games known as "Sledgehammer," but the military contends the evidence against them and their compatriots was trupomed up and meant to strip the military of its standing in Turkish society.

"Along with losing their freedom, 14 general-admirals and 58 colonels lost their right to be evaluated in the upcoming Supreme Military Council and were punished beforehand even though there have been no definitive judicial decisions against them," Kosaner said in his resignation statement.

The civilian government stressed continuity for Turkey, which boasts of being NATO's second-largest military, after the U.S. The only top commander who did not resign, Gen. Necdet Ozel, who heads the military police, was appointed acting chief of general staff after Kosaner stepped down.

"Nobody should view this as any sort of crisis or continuing problem in Turkey," said President Abdullah Gul. "Undoubtedly events yesterday were an extraordinary situation in themselves, but everything is on course."

Gul added the government "asked Gen. Kosaner to stay, but he wanted to retire of his own volition... As you see, everything proceeds on its own course and there is no gap in chain of command."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants a constitution he argues reflects a democracy in a civilian-run era, not a document overshadowed by four coups since 1960, including the overthrow of an Islamist government in 1997. The current constitution was drafted after a 1980 military-driven coup.

Critics of Erdogan, who has served as prime minister for eight years, claim he will rewrite the constitution to strengthen his already strong position. He and his conservative -- and some would say budding Islamist party -- cleaned house in elections in June, giving three straight victories to the Justice and Development Party, better known as AKP.

Anthony Shadid in The New York Times highlights what may the end to another end to a military culture that is presumed to be above the law. "The days of the military calling the shots are over," said Turkish newspaper columnist Cengiz Candar.

Victor David Hanson warns today on National Review online that there may be longterm political, diplomatic and military concerns from the downfall of Turkey's generals, especially for Greece, Israel, the EU and U.S. 

"Turkey has emerged from the shadow of military power, a breakthrough of historic proportions. Whether it is moving toward an era of European-style freedom or simply trading one form of authoritarianism for another is unclear," journalist Stephen Kinzer observes in The New York Review of Books.


  1. overthrow of an Islamist government in 1997*

  2. Yes, caught the typo. Thank you.