A few days ago tanks rolled into town in the capital Ankara and Turkey’s heart Istanbul. The tanks were accompanied by troops that marched onto the famous Bosphorous bridge in Istanbul and blocked the route to the European side of the city. In this well connected world of today, the occupation of the capital and a country’s major economic center does not serve much strategic value. Instead, the gesture was symbolic, including blocking the bridge to the Bosphorous.
For a long time now, the country of Turkey had been attempting to gain membership to the European Union. The EU has a very strict membership policy and for the past few years the country has been trying to fulfill the obligations in every possible manner. Yet every time it seems Turkey is closer to obtaining membership in the EU, the result announced is somewhat different. The country and its leadership always seem to fall short of the union’s requirements. What Turkey and Europe share maybe called as close guardianship and adoption of secular values but given the enmity that is still harbored with respect to the past two wars the continent of Europe and the Mediterranean nation fought, the drive for EU membership seems to get harder and harder year by year.
So even though Turkey’s armed forces and their senior ranking officers do hold as near and dear maintenance of the secular order in Turkey, it seems they do not believe that the slow and steady process of democracy is of any benefit to the vision and mission of the late founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. As many people would believe the Turkish army is not very fond of idea of letting go of Turkish traditions to cozy up to Europe. Hence, the symbolic gesture of standing on the Bosphorous – ‘Your entrance to Europe lies through us’, was the message the splinter group of the Turkish Armed forces wanted to give .
Definitely, there exists an extremist nationalist troupe everywhere, and this is the kind of troupe that decides to take the least rational path to achieve ill defined aims of its leaders. Such groups are borderline cult and have a very tedious process of entry and membership. The education they have mostly revolves around practicing of rituals rather than planning for the larger aim. The aim which is to grab every short and quick victory, ignoring the immediate consequences and the long term outcome of the decisions. Such was the planning with which the coupe was executed, ill defined and aiming to achieve short term gains as opposed to long term advantages that garners popular public support. If this is the way these troops fought a war, then they would have been wiped out very quickly and swiftly by the enemy, such as was the case that day.
The coup wasn’t successful as a result of the ineffective vision of the coup leaders and the support that was provided to the democratically elected government of Erdogan. Although the democracy in Turkey is reeling off course with respect to human rights abuses in the country to some extent, a government threatened by uncovering repeated plots against it will naturally react in this manner. By those in office, the attempt to take away their posts to which they worked all their lives towards will be met with all kinds of intense resistance. If experience of both sides was to be compared it can be seen that Erdogan’s government has been in office for a significant number of years while the coup planners had just left school. The apparent mastermind behind the incident; a colonel from the infantry, was aiming to bring down a behemoth, that too based on theoretical concepts of coordinating information warfare. He supposedly saw himself as a savior to the nation, and given the amount of brain he possessed (he was the head of operation and cyber-intelligence at the Turkish War College), he probably felt any plan he had would somehow workout eventually gaining public support. While propagating this much dissent at this particular rank is impressive, such a large scale coordinated effort should not have failed given the resentment against Erdogan’s government was real. The colonel’s partners and whatever out of country supporters he had made some incorrect assumptions.
Most people, in Turkey and all over the world, have little interest in who runs their government. All they want is to have a peaceful life, free of the issues that usually plague third world nations (Issues Turkey has managed to overcome, leading to a developed nation status). However, people now have a greater understanding of how the world works and choose to let the slow process of democracy run the show. The concept of might is right, is now met with what is right is right. If the process of democratization had failed or if their was widespread resentment against the government, the coup attempt would have garnered a lot of support from the masses and especially from the top military brass. However, no side fell to the whimsical promises of a stronger country that coup perpetrators usually give , not the military and not the civilians.
So what is next for Turkey now? Erdogan, who sees himself threatened at various ends, whether it is a Russian plane crossing the border into the country or coup perpetrators is definitely troubled. He sees himself threatened both internally and externally and his style of dealing with such events is with an iron fist. The Russian plane was shot down and there are talks of sending the coup planners and participants to the gallows. A special restoration of the death penalty is under discussion for vetting out punishment to this particular group regardless of how it will affect Turkey’s bid for the EU.
The situation may seem like a win for democracy and according to some a loss for secularism, what can be said for certain is that it is definitely a win for AKP and Erdogan.
It can thus easily be concluded that Erdogan and his government have emerged even stronger after this event. This was the general perception after the Gezi park protests were not successful in burning into a nation-wide revolution but after this particular event, a systematic rooting out of planners that are involved in the domain of instigating riots against the government will be managed in every possible manner. Secondly, Erdogan will now command the respect of his people and his party may see another election win in the near future, this is because governments are toppled in three ways – either by internal dissent, military coup or war, Erdogan’s government has effectively dismantled each threat they faced and analyzed why it happens to get rid of the causes. The situation may seem like a win for democracy and according to some a loss for secularism, what can be said for certain is that it is definitely a win for AKP and Erdogan and Turkey will see more of them for quite sometime.