Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Tue109 2018

Last update19:14 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Archive > Interviews
Turkish military rules but not governs, says expert
Turkish military rules but not governs, says expert
While the European Union reform process has anchored Turkish reform and constrained the military, as popular support for EU membership in Turkey declines, the military has greater room for political maneuver, said Steven A. Cook, an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as US-Middle East policy.
Monday, May 21,2007 00:00
by Todays Zaman Todays Zaman





While the European Union reform process has anchored Turkish reform and constrained the military, as popular support for EU membership in Turkey declines, the military has greater room for political maneuver, said Steven A. Cook, an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as US-Middle East policy.







Steven A. Cook

In his book, "Ruling, But Not Governing," Cook explores the military and political development in Egypt, Algeria and Turkey.

    "While the militaries in all three countries relinquished direct military control long ago, the officer corps tends to have an abiding interest in maintaining the status quo because they are both the defenders and primary beneficiaries of the current political order. In order to achieve this goal, predatory policies have often been required," said Cook, who is the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations of the United States.Cook points out that the relatively lower profile of the Turkish General Staff in the last few years was, in part, the result of an implicit agreement between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and former Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi ?zk?k not to heat up the political arena. He warns in the book that a change in personalities -- from ?zk?k to Gen. Büyükan?t -- could result in a reversion to previous patterns of civil-military relations.

For Monday Talk, Cook evaluates the military domination and the recent political developments in Turkey.


Your book’s title “Ruling But Not Governing” has a lot to say. What do you mean by it? 


The title of the book refers to the fact that the militaries in Egypt, Algeria and Turkey have traditionally had a compelling interest in both a façade of democracy and in direct control of certain institutions, for example laws, decrees, regulations, rules of political authority, they want to rule but not to govern. In other words, the officers have wanted to avoid the problems associated with day-to-day governance while retaining for themselves the right to intervene in politics to ensure the integrity of the political order. 

What are the dangers of ruling but not governing?

 There are a number of risks associated with ruling but not governing. First, as I demonstrate in the book, there is the strong possibility that a dedicated opposition group is going to take the pseudo or quasi-democratic institutions of the state seriously and seek to empower those institutions. This raises the risk, for the military, that if this group is successful politically and manages to advance its agenda it can actually alter the political system in fundamental ways. Second, beyond the military’s perception of risk, there is a broader danger related to authoritarian politics that is associated with ruling but not governing. While the militaries in all three countries relinquished direct military control long ago, the officer corps tends to have an abiding interest in maintaining the status quo because they are both the defenders and primary beneficiaries of the current political order. In order to achieve this goal, predatory policies have often been required. Some of my Turkish and American colleagues always say to me, “Yes, Steven, but in the Turkish case, the military has always handed power back to civilians.” There is no denying that fact, but what these analysts often miss is that before the officers handed the country back to civilians, they took steps to ensure the regime through what can only be described as authoritarian institutions and practices.

How did you pick Egypt, Algeria and Turkey to compare and contrast in the book? Why did you select those countries?

The original idea for the book dates back to one afternoon in July 1997 when I was reading a newspaper account of the fall of the Refahyol government. I began asking questions about the role of militaries in politics and what effects this has on political development. Egypt, Algeria and Turkey are rich in similarities and differences, which made for a fascinating research project. Turks often bristle when they hear about my comparison, arguing that there cannot possibly be a basis of comparison with Egypt and Algeria. I tend to agree that there are important analytic differences among the three countries, which makes the study so interesting. Despite these differences, Turkey manifested patterns of politics similar to Egypt and Algeria.

What are the differences among those three regimes?

I go into great detail about this in the first chapter of “Ruling But Not Governing,” but just to give you a thumbnail sketch I’ll go through the differences and similarities quickly. The differences that would lead analysts to expect different patterns of politics and outcomes are: First, Turkey, Egypt and Algeria have vastly different histories with colonialism and Western penetration. Second, the nature of Islamist movements in the three countries varies widely. Third, and perhaps the biggest difference among the three countries, is the relationship between religion and state.

What are the similarities?

The similarities are fairly straightforward. Military officers founded the contemporary states of Egypt, Algeria and Turkey. All three states have featured a web of formally democratic institutions and practices that obscure an additional set of formal and informal institutions that represent the basic framework of authoritarian political systems. It is important to emphasize, as I do in the book, that Turkey’s parliaments, elections, and a range of other political institutions that provided for individual and political rights were more meaningful than similar institutions in Egypt and Turkey. 

You indicate that citizens of military-dominated states are not fated to live under authoritarianism forever and that Turkey seems to have broken out of a pathological pattern of politics and begun a transition to democracy. After the Turkish military’s electronic memorandum to the government on April 27, do you still feel the same way? 

I certainly believe that the TGS’s (Turkish General Staff) electronic ultimatum on April 27 was a setback in Turkey’s drive to become a more democratic and open political system. It is true that in “Ruling But Not Governing” I claim that the European Union reform  process has anchored Turkish reform and, importantly, constrained the military. Yet, as popular support for EU membership in Turkey has declined precipitously, the TGS clearly has greater room for political maneuver. In the book, I also make clear that while the military’s wings have been clipped as a result of the EU reform drive, the officers continue to retain means to influence politics and that it’s clear that the Turkish national security state will not be uprooted overnight. I specifically point out that the relatively lower profile of the TGS over the last few years was, in part, the result of an implicit agreement between Erdo?an (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an) and ?zk?k (former Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi ?zk?k) not to heat up the political arena. I warn in the book that a change in personalities (?zk?k to current Chief of General Staff Gen. Büyükan?t) could result in a reversion to previous patterns of civil-military relations.

How do you think the Turkish military has again started to influence the course of politics in Turkey?

Well, it is clear that the military has tried, and for the moment succeeded, to influence politics. The two clearest and recent examples are first Büyükan?t’s April press conference and second, the electronic ultimatum. There are two prevailing theories behind the military’s actions: a) The TGS took action to reassert its role in the political system and in the process prevent an Islamist-oriented president from entering the ?ankaya palace because the officers were concerned that this would open the way to altering the secular, republican system. b) The senior officers took action to prevent younger officers from taking more drastic measures.

What is your theory?

I subscribe to the first theory as do most Turkey analysts. There is no publicly available evidence suggesting that b) was the reason for the electronic ultimatum. In contrast, it is clear that the current leadership of the TGS has been uncomfortable with the government for some time, lending credence to the fairly straightforward hypothesis that the officers were reasserting themselves to protect the political order -- something they have done with some regularity since 1960.

Erdo?an himself expressed that he wished Büyükan?t had spoken with him before the April 27 statement. Why do you think that there could not be an agreement or some sort of positive communication between Büyükan?t and Erdo?an like there was between ?zk?k and Erdo?an?

It is certainly possible that Erdo?an and Büyükan?t could develop a working relationship similar to the one Erdo?an enjoyed with ?zk?k. I think there are two obstacles. First, I believe that Erdo?an miscalculated in floating his name or Gül’s name for Turkey’s next president given the military’s misgivings about the Islamist roots of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Of course, the prime minister and the governing party can nominate whoever they like to be  president, but Gül’s nomination is precisely the kind of move that heats up the political arena unnecessarily. Second, Büyükan?t is clearly a different personality from ?zk?k.  He is cut from the more traditional mold of a Turkish commander and he has made it clear since becoming Chief of Staff that he was wary of AK Party’s agenda.

Do you see a way for Turkey to break out of this pattern? You mentioned that the EU has been a driving force, but now with not much public support for Turkey’s EU bid, could there be other forces to move Turkey more toward democracy?

I believe the EU was an important anchor for Turkish reform in 2003 and 2004.  The incentive of membership clearly permitted the impressive, wide-ranging and thorough-going reform of many of Turkey’s political institutions. The question is, as you suggest, whether Turkey can continue along this trajectory without the pull of the EU. Turkish leaders have spoken bravely about the “Ankara criteria,” but the events of late April raise questions about the quality of Turkish democracy. I believe that the “electronic ultimatum” reflects a certain amount of backsliding on reform and indicates that Turkey has a way to go before the changes of 2003-2004 are institutionalized. The obvious other force to carry Turkey toward democracy is the Turkish people. I believe the placards that some protesters held up in late April stating “No to Shariah, no to a coup, yes to democracy,” speak volumes about what many Turks are thinking. It is fascinating to observe the fierce debate going on about Turkey’s future among both ordinary and elite Turks. There is no doubt in my mind that Turks want to live in democracy, but just what that democracy looks like is currently unsettled.

Do you think Turkey’s secular order has been threatened as the military claims that it has been, or has the threat to secularism been overstated?

I can certainly understand, given the context of Turkish politics, why secularists are unnerved at the prospect of “hijab in ?ankaya.” For secularists the headscarf is a provocative symbol that heralds fears about the implementation of Shariah. That said, it is abundantly clear that the AK Party government has done more to get Turkey into the European Union than any previous Turkish government. It strikes me that this is an important indicator that the AK Party leadership is not interested in implementing an Islamist agenda because it would be rather difficult for a country to enter the EU under Islamic law. I understand that if the AK Party leadership does want to alter Turkish secularism, it is in a way that reflects the secularism in the United States, where anyone can pray as they see fit and outward expressions of religiosity, whether it is the hijab, cross or yarmulke, are tolerated (in fact barely noticed), as opposed to the laicism of France. If, in fact this is the case, it should not be threatening to secularists.

The US government has been following a pragmatic approach toward Turkey and usually sides with the winner in such political turmoil. Do you think it would follow the same course again?

It is likely that the United States will support whoever prevails in the current political contest. That being said, I believe that Washington is reluctant to get too heavily involved in Turkey’s domestic political drama. Part of this has to do with the fact that Washington’s standing in Turkish public opinion is so low. The other aspect is that there are very few tools at Washington’s disposal to affect the outcome. I do believe that the State Department’s initial statement was a bit wishy-washy, but to the extent that Washington has addressed the issue, it is clear that the United States supports Turkish democracy and would like to see the reforms of the last few years deepened.


 




[PROFILE]

 


Steven A. Cook 

Steven A. Cook is the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States. He is an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as US-Middle East policy. Dr. Cook is the author of “Ruling, But Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey.” Prior to joining the Council, Dr. Cook was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution (2001-2002) and a Soref research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1995-96). He has published widely in a variety of foreign policy journals, opinion magazines, and newspapers including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Journal of Democracy, Weekly Standard, New Republic Online, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, and the International Herald Tribune. Dr. Cook holds a BA in international studies from Vassar College, an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and both an MA and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. He speaks Arabic and Turkish.

tags: Turkish military / Steven A. Cook / US / Middle East / Algeria / Egypt
Posted in Interviews  
Add Comment Send to Friend Print
Related Articles
Turkish demo in front of Azerbaijan consulate protesting Peres visit
Turkish media expose Mossad plan to assassinate Erdogan
Turkish newspaper: Israel plans to oust Turkish premier Erdogan
Turkish delegation: The destruction in Gaza is beyond description
Turkish Leadership
Turkish Islamist Intellectuals at Left-Leaning Crossroads
A Turkish model for Arab politics?
Turkish Lawmakers Vote on Head Scarves
Turkish Lawmakers End Ban on Head Scarves in Universities
Turkish relief committee describes siege imposed on Gaza as "slow execution"
Turkish masses, Pakistani group denounce Israeli massacres
Turkish Paradox: Progressive Islamists versus Reactionary Secularists
A look back at the Turkish elections