Thorny Road of Change
The Transformation of Civil–Military Relations in Turkey
Subject: Political Cultures and Economies in Transition
Instructor: Dr Edoardo Monaco
Submitted on: 20 May 2014
Before Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s sudden rise to fame, the renowned example of civilian-military relations anomaly in the Middle East is Turkey: elected officials run routine government business under the watch of a powerful military, and they are ready to be deposed if things go awry. Today, we see a different image of the civilian government gaining ground and senior commanders of the military willing to concede.
The central question that this paper seeks to answer is what factors have enabled such a transformation to take place. There are multiple variables coming into play, the understanding of which may not be completed and well-informed without taking into account the politics and society since the forging of the Republic of Turkey. The changing status of the Turkish military should be construed from nature and practice of the military itself, and the broader scope of the Turkish society, which put external pressure on the structure reform of fading the military from civilian governance.
Therefore, in the literature review section, two major strands of understandings pertinent to civilian-military relations are examined. A review of the Turkish history of military dominance over civilian-military relations follows thereafter. Then, the paper highlights factors that underlie the fundamentally refreshing initiative to alter what was then the status quo.
American, British, and Soviet militaries are seen as classical examples of civilian controlled militaries that do not meddle with domestic politics. On the other hand, there are praetorian militaries, not conforming to civilian rule, which may take opportunities to obstruct civilian governing bodies. It is nonetheless observed that most militaries are in the middle of the spectrum.
One strand of civilian-military theory focuses on the internal and external threats confronted by a state and its military. The changing mores of international affairs and technological advancement are exposing the military to external threat at increasing pace; therefore ‘the functions of the officer become distinct from those of the politician and policeman.’
In his book Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment, Desch uses two variables, internal threat and external threat, to explain four types of civilian-military relations. When high external threat and high internal threat co-exist, the civilian-military relations tend to be poor or chaotic. But when both threats are low, the civilian government and military are neck and neck. Praetorianism is likely to prevail when there are high internal threat and low external threat with the military having the upper hand. Low internal threat, coupled with high external threat, can...