Military Review

Turkish decomposed. The army starts, but does not win?

The failed attempt at a military coup drew the world's attention to the political situation in Turkey. The role of this country in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean politics is too great to ignore such large-scale events in its political life. The East, as is known, is a delicate matter, and Turkish society is a typical example. Islamists and Kemalists, supporters and opponents of Erdogan, followers of Gulen, the military elite, the Kurds, the Communists, the Alawites ...

Turkish decomposed. The army starts, but does not win?

Let's start with the Turkish army. Turkey is one of those countries in the world where security forces traditionally played a very important role in political life. It happened historically, since the days of the Ottoman Empire. But under the Sultans, the armed forces did not yet have the influence that they gained later, after the fall of the monarchy. The father of modern Turkish statehood, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk himself was a professional military man, a general of the Turkish army. It was the coming to power of Atatürk, relying on the army, that formed the vector of development of the Turkish state and society. The army has become the main guarantor of the "secularism" of the Turkish state and the personification of the policy of Turkish nationalism. Turkey is proud of its army, which, by the way, is the second largest in NATO after the US.

By the way, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk himself opposed the direct intervention of the army in the political life of the Turkish state. But the system created by him provided all the conditions for this. The non-participation of the army in political life did not mean distancing the military from issues of national importance. Rather, the army was given the role of an arbiter who was in charge of ensuring the internal and external security of the country and not allowing radical changes in the country's political course. For Turkey, this was all the more relevant because Ataturk's reforms faced with enormous opposition from religious circles and fanatical believers. Without the support of the army, the conservative part of Turkish society simply would not allow to carry out reforms aimed at the secularization of the country, and the Ataturk regime would be doomed to fall.

- General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of Turkish statehood

The army also became the main social elevator in Turkish society. Kemal Ataturk’s revolution was not anti-capitalist; therefore, both the big bourgeoisie and the big landowners remained in Turkey. But thanks to the military service, an opportunity was created for the vertical social mobility of middle and lower classes. The peasants, who were called up for military service, also won - in the army they received not only a military specialty, but also knowledge that could be in demand "in civilian life". At the same time, the army service for the peasants also acted as a means of “brainwashing” —in the classes in parts, people from backward areas gradually realized all the advantages of the secular path of development of the Turkish state.

For a long time, the power in Turkey exclusively belonged to the Kemalist Republican People's Party, so the armed forces did not interfere in the political life of the country, confining themselves only to actions against Kurdish tribes in the south-east of the recurring uprisings in the south-east of the country. However, a partial politicization of the army environment, primarily of the junior and middle officers, took place gradually. Young officers did not approve of the concentration of power in the country in the hands of one party and hoped to turn Turkey into a democratic state with developed political competition. Meanwhile, in 1946, the most important event in the political life of the country took place - a second legal political party was created - the Democratic Party of Turkey, headed by lawyer Adnan Menderes (1899-1961). In 1950, the Democratic Party managed to win the election and become the ruling party of the country, pushing the Republican People's Party into opposition. Adnan Menderes became the prime minister of Turkey for ten long years.

The Democratic Party pursued a policy in the interests of capital, including foreign, sought to transfer private ownership of state property. Ultimately, this caused discontent of the Turkish military elite. The officers concluded that the Republican People’s Party ran the country better than the Democrats. It should not be forgotten that most of the officers, even those who studied in the United States of America, remained in nationalist positions and were opposed to turning Turkey into a full US satellite. The anti-American sentiments of the officers were also welcomed by a large part of Turkish society, so a military coup in the spring of 1960 was quite expected. On the night of 27 in May 1960, soldiers from a number of units stationed in Ankara seized government buildings. Power passed to the National Unity Committee, which included 5 generals, 15 colonels and lieutenant colonels, 12 majors and 6 captains of the Turkish armed forces. Prime Minister Menderes was arrested and hanged in 1961 following a court sentence. President of the country became Army General Jemal Gursel (pictured).

The 1960 coup of the year opened the first page in the subsequent almost thirty-year military rule. 1960 to 1989 Turkey was headed exclusively by representatives of the military elite - Generals Jemal Gursel and Cevdet Sunay, Admiral Fakhri Koruturk. The officer corps of Turkey has become one of the main core components of the national elite. The career of an officer for Turkish youth meant not only obtaining high social status, but also ensuring material well-being. The political influence of the military ensured that the military remained at the head of the state after the 1960 coup d'état. However, the situation in Turkish society still remained tense. In the south-east of the country in 1970-1980-s. the Kurdish national liberation movement became more active, both ultra-left-wing and ultra-right radical organizations were very active, and opposition from supporters of a secular state and Islamic fundamentalists grew. The second half of 1970's was marked by an unprecedented wave of violence in Turkish society. The total number of people killed in clashes and political murder victims is estimated at 6,5 thousand people.

Against the background of the overt weakness of political parties, the army continued to remain the only institution capable of instilling hope for a stabilization of the situation in the country. In September 1980 in Turkey there was a new military coup. General Ahmet Kenan Evren, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, came to power in the country. The military began to restore order in Turkey as they considered necessary - only by force and methods of repression. In prisons, there were at least 250 thousands of people - both right and left radicals.

There is a fairly reasonable opinion that the United States was behind the coup 1980. At the very least, the American leadership maintained close contacts with the Turkish generals who participated in the coup. Nevertheless, despite the repressive policy, it was in the second half of the 1980-s. Turkey began an economic upturn, which historians associate with the activities of Turgut Özal, in 1983-1989. headed the government of the country. In 1989, Özal replaced Evren as head of state and remained in that position until his sudden death in 1993. Thus, after 1960, Özal became the first civilian head of the Turkish state. But it was the democratization of political life that opened the way to power for Turkish religious fundamentalists. This was the beginning of the weakening of the political position of the military elite. Changes in world politics also contributed to the growing influence of religious circles. A return to Islamic values ​​has been considered by a significant part of Turkish society as a completely acceptable way to overcome the ideological vacuum and strengthen the national unity of the country.

The coming to power of Recep Erdogan, who demonstrates his adherence to traditional Islamic values, of course, did not please the military elite of Turkey. In turn, Erdogan, knowing full well what the dissatisfaction of the military could turn into, took preventive steps. First of all, large-scale and unprecedented “purges” were launched in the officer corps of the Turkish army. In particular, the famous “Ergenekon” case was unwound, in which hundreds of servicemen and civilians were arrested. More than 240 people were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, and General Ilker Bashbug, formerly the head of the Turkish General Staff, was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2011, the 163 General and Officer were imprisoned, who, according to the prosecution, planned to overthrow the Erdogan government in 2003 and drew up a plan for “Operation Baloz” (“Maul”). In this case, the former commander-in-chief of the Air Force, General Ibrahim Fyrtyn, the former commander-in-chief of the Navy, Admiral Ozden Ornek, and the commander of the 1 th field army, General Cetin Dogan, were arrested. Otherwise, except as a demonstration of superiority of power over the army, it is impossible to explain the sentencing of 18 June 2014 of the tenth criminal court of Ankara to the conviction of almost a hundred-year-old retired general Kenan Evren. General Ahmet Kenan Evren (1917-2015) led a military coup in 1980 and until the 1989 served as president of the country. Despite his age, the 97-year-old general was sentenced to life imprisonment and demoted to the rank and file.

But it is impossible to ensure the loyalty of the army only by “purging” disgruntled officers. Therefore, one of the most important tasks for Erdogan was the “renewal” of the officer corps. For many decades, the military schools of the Turkish army remained strongholds of Kemalist ideology and a stronghold of supporters of a secular state. Erdogan headed for the gradual elimination of this tradition. More and more graduates of Islamic schools are enrolling in military schools, especially in the police and gendarmerie, where Kemalist positions have become much weaker compared to army, air force or navy units. On the other hand, many military men, not only generals and senior officers, but also junior officers and sergeants, prefer to leave military service "in the civilian world" in order to save themselves from the prospect of being arrested on trumped-up charges.

Personnel peripetias in the Turkish army are impressive. Only from the middle of 2012 to the beginning of 2013. the number of Turkish armed forces decreased by 50 thousand people. These are huge numbers - considering that approximately 400 thousand people serve in the Turkish armed forces, 50 thousand dismissed or dismissed - every eighth soldier. And this is, of course, not about ordinary military service, but about senior and middle command personnel, qualified military specialists in non-commissioned officer ranks. On charges of plotting a coup, more than 10% of the top naval commanders and 16% of the top commanders of the Turkish Air Force were arrested. Experts say about the dismissal of 8 of thousands of sergeants and senior sergeants from the special forces of the Turkish army. All these people are participants in the hostilities in Turkish Kurdistan, the military with great experience, but for them leaving the army seemed a more acceptable option than continuing to serve in a situation of constant risk of falling under the flywheel of repression.

Naturally, such a policy of the Turkish authorities towards the military could not but cause a natural rejection among the generals and officers. But, as the 15-16 events of July 2016 showed, a coup was carried out according to the classical scheme already tested in Turkish stories, the military did not work. The conspirators were not supported by a large part of the army and Erdogan’s supporters succeeded in suppressing the intervention of the military without much difficulty. Arrest of more than three thousand military personnel, including regular representatives of the senior officers of the Turkish army, followed the rout of the insurgency. Among those arrested was Army General Adem Khudouti, who commanded the 2 Army, a strategically very important alliance deployed on the border of Turkey with Syria, Iraq and Iran. General Erdal Ozturk, the commander of the 3 Army Corps, and Major General Avni Angun, who commanded the Malatya garrison, were arrested.

However, in an effort to protect his power and the chosen political course from the risk of a military coup, Erdogan, organizing the repression of generals and officers, contributes, at the same time, to a real reduction in the combat potential of the Turkish armed forces. When hundreds of high-ranking generals, admirals, officers go to jail, and thousands of servicemen in lower ranks leave the ranks of the armed forces, regardless of experience and suitability for service, this causes enormous damage not only to the strength of the Turkish army, but also to the national security of the Turkish state as a whole. When thousands of officers and generals are ready with weapons in the hands of overthrowing their president, and after the failure of the coup, some of them are trying to flee to neighboring countries (for example, a helicopter with the Turkish military - participants in the coup landed in Greece), it is hardly possible to talk about the high motivation and unity of the Turkish armed forces. By the way, Erdogan called the coup attempt “a gift from God,” since it would allow him to continue the purges in the armed forces.

On the other hand, Erdogan would hardly have succeeded over many years in successfully neutralizing the dissatisfaction of the military elite and cracking down on the most active opponents among the generals if he had not had the support of a significant part of the military. If we consider the army as a slice of society, then we can conclude that in the army Erdogan is supported by about the same part of the military as part of the Turkish citizens as a whole. After all, it’s hard to refuse what it’s and what’s the support of a significant part of the country's population. However, the radical opponents of the Erdoganov regime in Turkey are also lacking in Kemalist officers. The split of Turkish society is inevitably transmitted to the Turkish armed forces.

To be continued ...

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  1. avva2012
    avva2012 19 July 2016 05: 14
    An extremely interesting article. Thanks to the author for such a detailed analysis without labeling and imposing his own opinion.
    1. siberalt
      siberalt 19 July 2016 06: 45
      And when Turkey did not hold on to the military, from the same Janissaries? There is some kind of split. If, according to the majority of the media, Erdogan seeks to become a dictator, then he cannot be one without an army a priori. And, if the counter-sentiments of the military elite hindered him for the dictatorship, then, having eliminated it, what will he get in return? It will not be difficult to create a new "funny army". But where to get the competence? This requires time and a different ideology, and in fact, another state. Then what to do with the Kurds, who need to live now and every day? Who will "brake" them outright?
      1. avva2012
        avva2012 19 July 2016 07: 08
        In my opinion, the world is not only an economic crisis. Much more significant is the crisis of ideas, the lack of a clear understanding of where we are going. The ideology of the West with its tolerance, the destruction of the institution of the family, the transformation of people into stupid consumers, to put it mildly, does not find support among a significant part of the population of our ball. More recently, there was a communist idea that could unite the majority of the population, as a result of the fact that it did not conflict with the traditions of the peoples. Plus, it gave clear guidelines to where humanity should go and what to strive for. The Soviet Union collapsed as an ideological center, and the denial of religion, on the other hand, did not contribute to the total dissemination of the ideas of communism.
        At present, especially in countries with a patriarchal way of life, the national idea is sought precisely in religion (although more recently, as it may seem strange to someone, leftist ideas have found significant support in these countries). Any secularism, tolerance, etc., etc., there begins to be denied by the majority of the people.
        The so-called "Islamization" in Turkey does not occur from above, but from below. That is, the people themselves are beginning to reject Western ideas, the carriers of which were, until recently, the army. Thousands of people on the streets, self-sacrifice happens when ideas reach the masses.
        Erdogan, as a politician, perfectly understands the mood of the people and skillfully takes advantage of this. So, the time of the army and military coups in Turkey may have passed for objective reasons. Although relapses are not excluded. IMHO.
      2. Ami du peuple
        Ami du peuple 19 July 2016 07: 08
        Quote: siberalt
        Then where are the Kurds who need to live now and every day?
        The Kurds seem to have a respite. But today there is no need to talk about the military invasion of the Turkish army in Syria. All goes to good..
        1. avva2012
          avva2012 19 July 2016 07: 26
          Quote: Ami du peuple The Kurds seem to have a respite. But today there is no need to talk about the military invasion of the Turkish army in Syria. All goes to good..

          Erdogan, clearly got his gesheft from the conflict in Syria, but as an option, the United States pushed Turkey there. "Controlled chaos". If, having finally strengthened his power, Erdogan continues to Islamize his country, which means he will move away from the former curator, then he will have to make peace with the Kurds, as well as really clean the bearded ones. He needs the SA supporters, that is, the Wahhabis, like a hare need a stop signal. He himself can become the head of the Sunni movement.
      3. Teberii
        Teberii 19 July 2016 07: 22
        And if you imagine, this is Erdogan’s idea. Now he can easily change the Constitution, declare the Turkish Islamic Republic. He will become an almost life-long leader.
        1. avva2012
          avva2012 19 July 2016 07: 28
          Himself will become an almost lifetime leader.

          If he takes survival lessons from Fidel Castro. laughing
          1. Teberii
            Teberii 19 July 2016 07: 33
            Now he is engaged in this. A convenient reason to deal with opponents.
  2. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 19 July 2016 05: 38
    Thanks so much for the article.
  3. Wolka
    Wolka 19 July 2016 05: 48
    the conclusions are not straightforward, everything that happened and is happening in Turkey now is all from gluttony with immature plums ...
  4. Mountain shooter
    Mountain shooter 19 July 2016 06: 37
    But really, how much the fighting efficiency of the Turkish army will be weakened - God alone knows, but that it will be - is undeniable. Right 37th before WWII! Great blood turned for our homeland. And they also want to introduce a neat execution.
    1. Dimon19661
      Dimon19661 19 July 2016 06: 40
      And for example, I was very annoyed by the dismissal of the entire command of the Ballot. Just bam and beheaded ..
      1. Chiropractor
        Chiropractor 19 July 2016 12: 52
        Quote: Dimon19661
        Just bang and beheaded

        So we condemn Turkey for the purchase of crude oil from barmaley?
        And when the fuel from our ships, which "fired" without leaving the berth, leaves no one knows where - is this normal?
        When the sailors do not go to sea, but only fight and paint, and shells and missiles are decommissioned - doesn’t it bother ???

        Now it’s not martial law - the execution will be a bit much, but just getting on the cap is not enough ....
  5. parusnik
    parusnik 19 July 2016 07: 33
    the strength of the Turkish armed forces decreased by 50 thousand people... The law of physics, where it has departed, will certainly arrive elsewhere .. this is where these 50 appear .. Thank you, Ilya, we are waiting for the continuation ..
  6. Bakht
    Bakht 19 July 2016 07: 41
    The article is not bad. But there is a missed moment. The intervention of the army in the affairs of the state was prescribed in the Constitution of the country. So the arrival of the military junta was legitimate. And then, the military transferred power to civilians after stabilization of the situation in the country. So the Turkish military coups were distinguished by their specifics. But everything changed when Erdogan eliminated this provision of the Constitution.

    Another point in the article that should be noted is the "social elevators" of society. As P. Sorokin wrote, the stopping of social elevators is the most important reason for the emergence of revolutions. Sorokin generally considered the stopping of social elevators to be the only reason for the revolution. The army in Turkey was the only way to get to the top in a social position. In any case, social tension in society will grow.

    N u and the combat readiness of the army. It is correctly noted that the military status in Turkey was traditionally high. I do not think that this status will remain now. The combat readiness of the aircraft is likely to decrease. Recent elections in Turkey and an attempted coup have shown that society in Turkey is split. 50 to 50. Such a split is fraught with civil war.
  7. Nicola Bari
    Nicola Bari 19 July 2016 07: 52
    The army of any state is inseparable from the people, and the people of Turkey are little, but changed. Perhaps it’s worth looking out of this.
    1. alatanas
      alatanas 19 July 2016 10: 58
      If the army is of a professional kind, that is, hired, it is completely separable.
  8. ivanovbg
    ivanovbg 19 July 2016 10: 56
    Very competent and exhaustive staty.

    Coup cannot end in luck
    when he beat his name is different ...
  9. Lord blacwood
    Lord blacwood 19 July 2016 12: 18
    According to recent events, it is clear that neither the United States nor Russia had any relation to the coup. This is evident from the illiterate actions of the coup supporters who did not take key goals under control. In order to claim power, the rebels needed to capture:
    1) Erdogan, since if they seized him, more than half of the supporters of the Turkish president would not have opposed the military.
    2) Parliament, since Erdogan’s supporters in parliament would not be able to quickly decide on the situation.
    3) Key military facilities, since with their help they could gain an advantage over Erdogan's supporters in the army.
    4) To seize the objects of television, and to inform the people of "necessary" news, including the capture of Erdogan.
    However, this was not done, and if the coup was prepared in the United States or the Russian Federation, then all this would have been done in a matter of hours.
  10. andrew42
    andrew42 19 July 2016 14: 27
    Unfortunately, little is known about the personalities of the officers who organized the coup. Practically nothing is known about their so-called "life credo". Therefore, it is difficult to say who and whom was trying to move away from the cashier in Turkey. However, it is very likely that qualitative changes are taking place in the backbone of the Turkish state, that is, in the army environment: year after year, the share of so-called "Kemalists" is falling, while the share of "Islamists" is growing. It is thanks to this that Erdogan feels very confident. Moreover, the paradox lies in the fact that the "Islamists" are aimed at strengthening capitalist relations in the country, up to the notorious financial oligarchy, if only, as they say, the beneficiaries were neosmanes, a la Erdogan bottling. On the one hand, the United States is afraid of the "Islamic vector" - the fear of losing control over the Turkish political elite. But on the other hand, as in many of the current "geopolitical theater of operations", it is the well-fed Islamized oligarchs that are promising for a rush to the Heartland. It was impossible to cook porridge with the Kemalists here. It seems that Turkey is following the "Ukrainian road", only with the nuances that instead of "great ukrov" they will have "great Turks", and Erdogan, unlike Piglet, did not have to be elected after the coup, but only had to shorten the Turkish "regionals" (by analogy with the Party of Regions of Yanukovych), trying to reverse the development of Turkish National Islamism. As for the political game before / after the coup, the following seems most likely: Erdogan, of course, did not direct such a pseudo-putsch a la "Moscow 1991". Of course not. But Erdogan managed to make the forces ripening against him nervous and came out ahead of time - without time for preparation, and while Erdogan had not yet finally gone bankrupt as a national politician. He actually pulled the fox out of the hole until the fox grew into a bear. And what about us, Russia? - I think Russia will still take a dash after strengthening Erdogan. There is no need to go to a fortune teller. The prospect of a military conflict with Turkey, and maybe a full-fledged war, has become much closer. Anaconda strengthens the "Turkish link": in the person of Erdogan's gang, Turkey had only politicians who were inadequate, and now it will also have generals without brakes.
  11. Simple
    Simple 19 July 2016 18: 06
    Quote: from article
    It should not be forgotten that most officers, even those studying in the United States, remained in nationalist positions ...

    Some analogy to this excerpt- The vast majority of first-generation Turks who came to Germany in the early sixties bequeathed to bury themselves in Turkey.

    How much I ask the second generation (if the conversation comes to this topic) - they wish to be buried in Turkey.

    True, in Germany there is no law that would provide a legal framework for the existence of a Muslim cemetery. (Which is for the best).
  12. slavick1969
    slavick1969 19 July 2016 18: 09
    this is not the last coup
    1. aba
      aba 19 July 2016 18: 37
      this is not the last coup

      The revolution has a beginning
      There is no end to the revolution! (with)
  13. Cartalon
    Cartalon 19 July 2016 18: 39
    Erdogan makes Turkey a typical "camp" with all that it implies, the return of BV to the 16th century continues, given that most of the population wants it, then this process will be successful.
  14. aiden
    aiden 19 July 2016 19: 18
    While it is not clear what is happening there, it is necessary to facilitate the exit of the Turks from NATO, and also do everything possible so that the NATO ships can’t enter the World Cup.
    on the topic of Turkey, I read Gromov's book "Terek Front", I advise you to read
  15. SerB60
    SerB60 19 July 2016 19: 37
    Quote: Lord Blacwood
    According to recent events, it is clear that neither the United States nor Russia had any relation to the coup. This is evident from the illiterate actions of the coup supporters who did not take key goals under control. In order to claim power, the rebels needed to capture:
    1) Erdogan, since if they seized him, more than half of the supporters of the Turkish president would not have opposed the military.
    2) Parliament, since Erdogan’s supporters in parliament would not be able to quickly decide on the situation.
    3) Key military facilities, since with their help they could gain an advantage over Erdogan's supporters in the army.
    4) To seize the objects of television, and to inform the people of "necessary" news, including the capture of Erdogan.
    However, this was not done, and if the coup was prepared in the United States or the Russian Federation, then all this would have been done in a matter of hours.

    Now, if it was beneficial to Ukraine and it had opportunities, primarily financial, then everyone would agree - "the hand of Kiev". This is their handwriting - everything through one place, everything is awry, according to Chernomyrdin.))