This week Turkish people commemorate the unsuccessful military coup attempt of July 15, 2016. By now, people in Turkey understand the circumstances surrounding the coup bid, who did it, who's behind the actual perpetrators, how it was prepared, et cetera. If somebody presents this picture with large shadowy areas of suspicions and questions for you, they may very well be trying to obfuscate the facts and thus delegitimize the legal security initiatives taken by the government after this unsuccessful military intervention.
But for any student of Turkish politics of yesteryear, a little background information on successful military coups is a prerequisite before delving into this first unsuccessful one. The author of these lines has been through all the military coups of modern Turkey, except the first one that eventually deposed Sultan Abdülhamid II.
In the summer of 1908, what was later named "the Young Turk Revolution" broke out; troops in Salonica had started marching to Istanbul (July 23). The next day, the sultan succumbed to the demands of military officers and published edicts as demanded by them. Historians say that Abdülhamid could have easily suppressed the military upheaval and have all the responsible officers arrested, but he preferred not to, reportedly saying, "I will not ask the sons of the country to fight their brothers." Again historians say that the armed forces tasted the power they could have over civilian politics and they never forgot it. From Karl Marx to Max Weber and more recently a majority of students of military interventions, almost all political analysts have tried to understand the impact of the military in Asian and Turkish societies. Marx himself called these societies lacking civilian power to rein in their armed forces (in the Asiatic mode of production). Samuel Huntington depicted them as countries invaded by their own armies.
Later, especially after the experiences following World War I in Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey, analysts noted that some countries were not able to have politics and be organized, as in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy, but they could have authoritarian civilians riding on the power yielded by their military partners. Prof. Taha Parla calls them "corporatist regimes" and defines corporatism as regimes that could not flourish as fascism did.
There are many theories on the nature of partnerships in such authoritarian-corporatist polities. Some portray them as dictatorships as in some Latin American societies; some as benevolent autarchies as in the Kemalist and Nasserist one-party regimes in Turkey and Egypt.
However you posit them, one thing is for sure: The military-civilian elites of secular-positivist behaviors and Western-oriented political attitudes have final veto-power over civilian politics, which is sometimes nothing more than farcical theater.
With the 1960, 1971 and 1982 coups and 1997 military intervention, the corporatist system developed its constitution, election and party laws and judiciary into a perfect regime where you had an exemplary pluralistic, democratic mechanism, where you would observe all the works of a modern society except that it always had boundaries drawn by the military. At all times, it had veto power over the civilian system. Imagine that the total number of all the bureaucracies of the prime ministry and 20-plus ministries were less than the number of employees of the National Security Council, which was overseeing all the decrees, bills and regulations submitted to the Council of Ministers, Parliament and the Presidency. It was a perfect system until the people started to reject the veto power of the "establishment." Whenever they raised their voice and acted as if there was no corporatism under what seems to be a real democracy, the army intervened directly, killed the prime minister and his colleagues (1960), appointed their own government (1872), exiled civilian politicians and established new political parties (1982) or played politicians against each other and shamed them with false embezzlement stories (1997).
The common thread of all these interventions was that governments erected by the military were strictly secular and could not reciprocate the religious, ethnic or linguistic demands of the masses. For instance, if you wanted to lead a life in accordance with your beliefs and wear the hijab at school or work, you couldn't. You could not name your kids with your ancestral Kurdish names. You could not speak Kurdish in public and government offices, let alone write a novel in Kurdish.
But the sheer force of economic development and the invisible hand of globalism helped Turkish people topple the perfect system that a military strongman once said would survive 1,000 years. From this point on, I think deciphering the reasons why the last coup bid was a failure will be easy.
To be continued.
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