A general’s confessions

Turkeyand’s once-untouchable armed forces have, in the past several years, come under increasing criticism over a history of staging military coups, while hundreds of retired and active duty officers have been tried on charges of plotting to unseat the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The trials have unfortunately fallen victim to the governmentand’s engagement in a de facto alliance with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), in an attempt to cover up a high-profile corruption and bribery scandal, made public in December 2013, which implicated, among others, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The retrials in the Sledgehammer (Balyoz)oup plot case resulted in the acquittal of all suspects, though not all were innocent. Though the Pandoraand’s box of this once-taboo military institution has been opened, the TSK has maintained its autonomous status.
There is, on the other hand, a serious lack of consensus, as well as awareness, among the public over the virtues of bringing the TSK under civilian democratic control. This is mainly because the government has long abandoned military reforms, and has exhibited a decline in willingness to aance democratic standards and the rule of law. Hence, civil-military relations continue to be fragile, strengthening the authoritarianism that Turkey has already been headed for under the current government, which, ironically, put its stamp on earlier military reforms.
A serious lack of any policies among opposition parties represented in Parliament, and among nongovernmental organizations, to bring the TSK under civilian democratic control also plays a crucial role in the failure to adjust civil-military relations in favor of the former. No political party except the main pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP), for instance, has made any pledges to take steps toward ending the militaryand’s autonomous status in their election manifestos ahead of the June 7 general election.
However, a senior retired Turkish generaland’s recent confessions regarding the shortcomings of the TSK may help renew the debate over the TSKand’s autonomous status and its negative impacts on the countryand’s national security interests.
Retired Gen. ismail Hakki Pekin, former head of the intelligence unit of the General Staff, who is running as a deputy with the Homeland Party (VP), a party that seems to have a negligible chance of gaining any seats in Parliament, gave an extended interview to Zaman.
Pekin, who served in prison on charges of plotting a coup, alongside hundreds of officers, before being released, revealed that the TSK has done nothing more than purchase arms since the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. and”Every army in the world has changed, while the TSK remains the same. The TSK should have been redesigned from the bottom up, in accordance with changing threats. Instead of focusing on ways to defend the nation at the lowest cost, we were involved in politics, attempting to tackle the problems of the nation that are the responsibility of governmental and civilian authorities. We should be held responsible for failing to defend the nation in the best ways and at the lowest cost. In the US, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presents an account of military expenditures to a congressional commission. In Turkey, too, military expenditures should absolutely come under oversight,and” Pekin stated.
In response to a question regarding the TSKand’s opposition to civilian oversight, Pekin explained that conflict between the military and civilians has drawn the military in the wrong direction. Abdullah Gandul, in his capacity as president, made a statement last year, revealing that the TSK has not gone under any major restructuring since the 1960 military coup, which supports Pekinand’s claims.
In the same interview, Pekin admitted that he has sparked controversy by publicly criticizing the military. Among the issues that Pekin says have drawn the most criticism from his colleagues were his remarks revealing that the wives of commanders are able to influence their husbandsand’ promotions. This lobbying of a wife on behalf of her husband is a common occurrence within the TSK, and a major source of discontent, as it jeopardizes the impartiality of the institutionand’s hierarchical structure.
Pekinand’s revelations in the interview with Zaman are critical to our understanding of the shortcomings of the TSK that hinder its ability to defend the nation. The interview also focused on civilian leadersand’ inability to bring the TSK under full democratic control.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman