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The Change

The Change

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The Change

748 pagine
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Apr 8, 2011


Turkey is changing. Day by day and moment by moment, the Turkey that we thought we knew is disappearing and a new one is taking its place. Doğu Ergil guides us through this change by presenting a complex mosaic of essays covering every corner of Turkish politics and society. From the Kurdish issue, to the role of women in a new Turkey, to terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the intrigues of the ruling AK Party and its interactions with the opposition parties of Turkey, Ergil leaves no stone unturned. In a constant flux, Turkey is moving to and fro under the cross-pressures of modernization, urbanization and globalization. Under such circumstances, it is not hard to see contrasting modes of behavior and values existing at the same time. The modern and the traditional, the rural and the urban, the secular and the non-secular coexist sometimes peacefully, sometimes in tension. All of these contrasts are interwoven into a broad canopy that makes up what is most commonly called Turkey. The reader will witness this enormous in the making across many articles, while observing how a country of 72 million is trying to adapt to modern times while bringing along values, practices and institutions that are older than most of the nations on our planet. Observing such a task is like watching Sisyphus at work.

Apr 8, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Lisans eğitimini sosyoloji dalında Ankara Üniversitesi’nde tamamladı; lisans-üstü derecesini sosyoloji ve sosyal psikoloji dalında Oklahoma, doktora derecesini sosyoloji, siyasal ekonomi ve siyaset bilimi dallarından oluşan disiplinlerarası ‘Kalkınma Çalışmaları’ (Development Studies) alanında New York Eyalet Üniversitesi’nde (Binghamton) elde etti. Akademik kariyerinin büyük kısmını Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi’nde (Mülkiye) sürdürdü. Ortadoğu Teknik Üniversitesi, TODAİ Yüksek Sevk ve İdare Okulu, Johns Hopkins Üniversitesi’nin Washington DC’de bulunan yüksek lisans okulu School for Advanced International Studies ve London School of Economics and Political Science’ta konuk hocalık yaptı. Bilimsel çalışmalar yanında ülkemizde eksikliği duyulan ve geçmişte üniversitelerde okutulmayan demokrasi ve uzlaşma kültürü, yaratıcı sorun çözümü, çatışma yönetimi ve liderlik konularında çalışan sivil toplum kuruluşlarının oluşumunda bulundu, programlarını yönetti. Demokrasi ve barış çalışmaları nedeniyle çeşitli uluslararası kuruluşlardan ödüller aldı. Güncel sosyal ve siyasal gelişmeler hakkındaki gözlem ve düşüncelerini, BBC’den El Jazeera’ya uzanan uluslararası ve ulusal TV kanallarında ve köşe yazarlığı yaptığı Today’s Zaman’da geniş bir izleyici kitlesiyle paylaşan Ergil’in Türkçe ve yabancı dillerde yayımlanmış 24 kitabı, birçok makalesi, değişik dillerde kitap bölümleri ve alan araştırmaları vardır.

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The Change - Doğu Ergil


by Doğu Ergil

Published by TIMAS PUBLISHING at Smashwords

Copyright © 2011 by TIMAS PUBLISHING

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.



A Brief Bio of Prof.Dr.Dogu Engil


Tug-of-war between the military and the militarists

Women and politics

System crisis

‘The hidden constitution’

The Dilemma of the Middle Class

A new Turkey?

What space offers

What is model partnership?

Mistakes were once chosen policies

Grand designs and unexpected results

A different agenda

Another step forward

Conflicts and conceptions

Wrong rhetoric

Towards the beginning of an end

DTP’s predicament

What kind of media or what kind of mind? (1)

What kind of media or what kind of mind? (2)

Words and deeds

More on the CHP

Designing politics?

Economic crisis and the rise of nationalism



Politics of corruption and populism

Again and again

Democratic reforms? (1)

Democratic reforms (2)

Democratic Reforms (3)

Fatal contradictions

Problem of the left and the third front

Mistakes and misnomers

The sounds of new elections

Superheroes vs. lumpen heroes

Calculated or coincidental?

Ideologies and the politics of polarization

The decline of the nation-state and plural citizenship

Peace at home, peace in the world

Young civilians are restless

Row over the bailout

Showdown at Davos

Elite fears and subversion

The Republican People’s Party and the problem of opposition

Democracy by democrats

We are opening up; or are we?

The little Red Book

Social and cultural impacts of globalization

What did we learn in 2009?

Gülen and criticism of IHH

Kurds learned their lesson

Dangerous polarization

The problem of nationalism

Perverted sense of power

The Constitution and its court

Two trials


Futility of diplomacy or the human condition


A peace project: Abrahamic Family Reunion

The headscarf debate

Angela Merkel’s visit

Democratic culture

A matter of Perception

Windfalls of the week

End of a short dream: severing Taliban from al-Qaeda

Human rights and Turkey

Questions to be answered

Observations from the countryside

Truth and reconciliation

Knowledge and illusions


Turkey on the shores of Como

Lessons learned

Turks and citizens of Turkey (2)

Food for thought

Identity and history

Problem of Particularism

Identity and the Need for Mourning

Transgenerational Transmission as Identity

Fundamental Human Needs: What is to be Done?

Identity politics

Innocent conversations with God

Expectations and disappointments

Distrust in the people

The human arsenal of the Middle East

Inability to celebrate

Copy, cut and paste

Opening doors and hearts (1)

Opening doors and hearts (2)

Secrets of the mind about love and loyalty

Dıfference of cultures

Problems of democracy in the Middle East

Assimilation versus integration

White Turks and tainted intentions

Treason !

Conceptual crisis


At least three children!


Critical qestions and answers


Secularism and economy

Owing Turkish democracy to kurds

Change is scary for some

Celebrating the holy birth and a possible Islamic renaissance

Identity and Turkish youth

Between belief and reality

Every Turk is a soldier

Who needs history and cultural richness?

The syndrome of defeatism

Reducing historical baggage

Is islam a threat?

Communities and religious orders


The Alevi Dilemma

Identity and History


About the PKK and the Kurdish question

Terror, Insurgency,and the State



Effectıve counter-terrorısm

The ugly side of the Kurdish problem

Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds

Is Israel training Kurds?

The PKK in retrospect

Tamil Tigers and the PKK

Terrorism is declining around the world

Explaining the decline in global terrorism

Al-Qaeda and its spoils

Why Are Islamic extremists losing support?

Thoughts on violence and terrorism

Breeding grounds of terrorism

Changing counter- insurgency methods

Military professionalism vs. civilian militarism

Surprise, surprise! And more questions



Military service under scrutiny

Questions about the Nabucco pipeline


End of coups?

Rationale for the coups

Ergenekon visited

Is the spirit of Ergenekon alive and kicking?

Ergenekon’s ideal world

Ergenekon: The abyss of nationalism

Ergenekon and the ‘deep state’


Iran flexing its muscles

Iran the target

Iraq And Beyond

The Afghanistan dilemma

Peace among Turks

Cyprus peace talks

Prospects for peace

War and peace

Variety of choices

Sudden death!

Axis shift?

War in the mind


What is the problem?

An explanation for rising tensions


Alliance of Reactions

The dark side of nationalism: Sept. 6-7 incident

Paranoia is contagious

Diary of an assassin (1)

Nuclear summit 2010

Dangerous Trends

Courageous moves: Surprising or not?

The nature of the crisis

Disarm or desert!

The ethnic cleanser


To be marked

Oil and diplomacy may not always mix

What does Cheney have in mind?

American primaries: Iowa

Obama’s promise and US elections

Obama’s challenges as he steps in

Looking back at Obama’s speech to the Muslim world

Faith in Obama

The Obama visit

What should Muslim democrats expect from the new US leadership?

US versus Iran

Iran and the US in the Iraqi confusion

Gen. Petraeus departs as violence surges

Has the US betrayed the Kurds in Iraq?

Thoughts on US military might

The Fuller story

Iraq is clearing its chest

Kirkuk and Iraqi elections: Trouble or reconciliation?

The Talabani factor: new developments in Turkish-Iraqi relations

Iraqi imbroglio

Kurds hold the key to Iraqi stability

Election Results in Iraq

Official talks with Iraqi Kurdish leadership

Uncertainty in Iraq and its effect on Turkey

Kurds threaten to break from coalition government in Baghdad

Woes over nuclear Iran

Clouds over Iran

Iranian election results

Views on the near future of Iran

Syria-Israel peace talks through Turkish mediation

Israel’s strategy, Gazans’ tragedy

Israel vs. Iran

A human voice from Israel

A Fatah-Hamas reunion and consequences


Between the bear and the elephant

With or without the IMF

Round two for the Lisbon Treaty

Russia, Syria and the Kurds

Is it Georgia or more?

Will the EU join Turkey?

Taliban vs. al-Qaeda?

China’s challenge with the global slump

Ireland’s decision and Europe’s future

A Brief Bio of Prof. Dr. Dogu Ergil

Dogu Ergil has received his BA degree in Psychology and Sociology at Ankara University to be followed by an MA degree at Oklahoma University in Sociology (Social Psychology minor) and a Ph D in Development Studies, an interdisciplinary program composed of Political Science, Political Economy and Sociology, at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

He has returned to Turkey to teach first at the Middle East Technical University and later at the Ankara University. He became a full professor and the chair person of the Department of Political Behavior at the Faculty of Political Science of the latter University.

Dr. Ergil wrote twenty two books, many of which in Turkish. He has contribted many book chapters and articles in many countries and presitious international journals.

He has been awarded with British Council Fellowship thatenabled him to be a visiting Professor at the London School of Economics, Fulbright Fellowship that gave him the chance of being a vising scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies (Washington DC). Additionally he was awarded with research fellowhips by the Winston Foundation for World Peace and later twice (1999-2000 and 2005-2006) by the National Endowment for Democracy (Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship). The New School for Social Research University in New York has also honored him with the renowned University in Exile democracy and human rights award in 2000.

Prof. Ergilis invited to lecture all over the world. Major TV and news agencies appeal to him for comments and analysis on events concerning Turkey and the environing regions. He is internationally acknowledged as an expert on terrorism, the Kurdish question and the Middle Eastern affairs. He has briefed many official bodies including the European Parliament on issues related to these areas. In fact he is one of the official advisors of one of the EU commissions on the Kurdish issue.

Dogu Ergil has been the founding director of the only NGO in Turkey that was founded and worked on conflict resolution: TOS AM or the Center for the Research of Societal Problems between 1997 and 2005. The Center worked particularly to conduct research and develop concilitory ways to solve the Kurdish problem. TOSAM has also worked to promote active citizenship and capacity building of the civil society. Its weekly Democracy Dialogue radio programs became one of the exemplary public outreach instruments that became the subject matter of a chapter in a book entitled Community Media that has recently been published in the USA (ed. Linda Fuller).

Prof. Ergil wrote to El Nehar, a daily published in Beirut and to a weekly magazine called Briefing in Turkey for several years. After writing a column at the Turkish Daily News between 1997 to 2006, he has switched to the English daily Today’s Zaman where writes twice a week. His column is widely read as a resourceful point of reference on developments in Turkey and environing regions.

Dogu Ergil’s most recent civic activity is acting as a member of the organizing committee intent in convening a ‘Peace Assembly’ that aims at reconciling differences between Turks and Kurds and integrating Kurds to the democratic process in Turkey.



Tug-of-war between the military and the militarists

This is an incredible country. It has been at war with a variety of internal and external enemies for centuries. But since the declaration of the republic (1923), we have mainly been at war with internal enemies.

With a closer look we can see that these are groups that have been alienated to the degree that they developed great animosity over not being included by the political system. Today, we seem to be at war with internal forces on several fronts.

-Obscurantism or religious extremism.

-Ethnic nationalism and terrorism.

-Alevi insolence diluting established formal practices of religious education and administration.

-minorities reclaiming their confiscated territory with the sinister intention of carving out small non-Muslim states.

-Europe and the US pressuring Turkey on human and minority rights with the hidden agenda of dividing our country and weakening our national state.

If you think this is an exaggerated assessment of the worries of the Turkish nation, just follow the media, and you will be even more worried.

Yet the latest war of words has erupted between two unlikely actors. Those are the Turkish war machine, namely the armed forces and the warmongers, pardon me, political parties that wanted a longer and more drawn out war with one of our enemies. The enemy these political parties target is of course the Kurdish nationalists who have taken up arms with the excuse that Kurdish rights have been denied by the Turkish state.

The issue in debate is the latest Turkish military incursion into Iraq. Our two opposition parties, who believe that opposition means opposing anything and everything that the incumbent government does and says, opposed the early withdrawal of the Turkish Army and the number of terrorists that were killed. They wanted a longer operation and total annihilation of the Kurdish militants who have taken refuge in northern Iraq. Unbelievable as it may seem, warmongering civilians have criticized the Turkish war machine for not being sufficiently warlike! It seems that militarism has gone beyond the military in this country.

In fact, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP) do not differ from the armed forces in political philosophy. They opt for the solution of the Kurdish problem, among others, through forceful measures. Hard power, not soft approaches. Soft power methods, that go to the heart of the problem are not their cup of tea. So what is the reason for the exchange of such harsh rhetoric? It seems to be a matter of the extent and duration of hard force used across the border.

The twin opposition parties have accused the armed forces of being too reliant on the US. They believe that the limited scope of the operation and the early date of withdrawal were suggested by the US. The army retorted rather tardily, Some circles render more damage to the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] with their criticism than the traitors. This was a strong statement, but the response was unprecedented. For the first time a civilian political body fired back at the TSK, saying, Step aside, my counterpart is the government.

The whole thing is a tasteless tug of war that should not have taken place at all. However, it showed that military methods are not sufficient to end a social conflict. So this debate about increasing the width and duration of more brute force is futile. Maybe the realization of this fact is making warrior parties more nervous because they have built their political fortunes on trying to solve problems with hard power only.

From whatever angle this tension between the TSK and the two opposition parties is viewed, one can see that a rift is developing between the professional military and civilian militarism. The military is doing what it is doing with the professionalism necessary to get the job done. They know that they could not go and conquer the Kandil Mountains. They know that after a week in hostile territory and in adverse weather conditions, soldiers develop battle fatigue, and the local adversary would gain the upper hand both in logistics and tactical mobility. So a limited operation concentrating on a critical target that was used as a base by enemy forces before they executed forays into Turkey would yield better results. These results would be limited in military scope but wider reaching politically, such as: 1) The autonomous regional Kurdish administration in Arbil was warned not to allow the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militia in its territory. 2) The Iraqi central government in Baghdad was warned that its sovereignty would mean little if it turned a blind eye to the tolerance of one of its components for harboring rogue elements that harm neighboring countries. 3) It showed friend and foe that the TSK does not intend to either destroy the regional Kurdish administration or invade other parts of Iraq. 4) Having acquired the intelligence that the PKK aimed to increase its armed forces to 10,000 by early summer and really hurt Turkey during the tourism season, they executed a retaliatory operation. 5) By relying on American operational intelligence and clearing its offensive with the American authorities, the TSK wanted to 1) make the Kurds realize that American support is not unconditional and 2) drive a wedge between the regional Kurdish administration and the PKK, knowing that the latter would accuse the former of not protecting this natural ally against a threatening Turkey.

When all these aspects are considered, the operation was more successful than it appeared to be given its aims. That is why the military is angry with the militarist civilians for not understanding the political intricacies or the results of their efforts. If this satirical tension ends in a further demilitarization of the system, this is a gain in itself. For this we must thank the military, not the civilians. Turkey is an amusing country, isn't it?

12 March 2008, Wednesday

Women and politics

Billboards in Ankara and 18 other major cities have recently been featuring an absolutely enormous and somewhat unusual photograph. The photograph has the chiefs of the three main political parties facing the people with wide smiles on their faces and the text We agree.

Deniz Baykal formerly of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in opposition, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), have hardly been seen to agree on anything of substance.

In the picture, Erdoğan is embracing his two rivals, who look like age-old buddies, all wearing lilac-colored ties in support of women's causes and seeming to have agreed to open the doors to greater participation for women while, in reality, the opposite is true. So what was this all about? Soon it was revealed that the Association for Supporting and Training Women Candidates (KADER), an NGO that works to get more women elected to Parliament and other offices, had had these posters printed. They did it to drive the point home that 50 percent of candidates should be women in the upcoming elections. This is indeed what women want because they form just 1 percent of local government representation.

According to figures from KADER, there is a single female provincial capital mayor, compared to 80 male mayors elected in the 2004 local elections. Among the existing 3,207 mayors nationwide, only 18 are women. Of the 33,678 municipal council members, those that are women number 799. Of the 3,152 members of provincial councils, there are 56 female council members.

In short, a group which makes up half of our population sees its members filling just 1 percent of seats and it is this discrepancy that makes Turkish women very unhappy. KADER representatives claim that candidacy is based on money and women lack the finances to back their attempts to stand. Furthermore, the decision makers are men and they prefer their own kind. This is why women's names do not appear on the candidate lists of political parties.

It is this stark truth that led them to adopt the maximal target: They want a quota of 50 percent from political parties. Can they get it? Hardly, but they are still determined to make a point and be counted.

There is yet another current among women that are seeking their rights. We could call them Islamic feminists. Throughout the Islamic world, more educated women are trying to teach their counterparts about their rights, which is compatible with the human rights agenda of the West. They are enthusiastic about pointing out that their efforts are based on Islamic teachings.

Islamic feminism claims to reveal and to disseminate the egalitarian spirit of the Quran and the Hadiths. Islamic feminists have a much more limited but sounder target than classical or Western feminists, wanting gender equality to be adopted and observed within a family structure. They believe that if the family supports gender equality, they will stand firm in society to claim what is due to them by the male-dominated, traditional social culture. They want to secure the home ground first.

They make abundant references to the Quran and the Hadiths to demonstrate that Islam does not inherently discriminate against women. Their diligent work has revealed that the Islamic scriptures grant women more rights to inheritance and divorce than what is practiced today, as well as respectful treatment by a spouse and even choosing a husband of their own will. They even find evidence to support a woman's professional career outside of the family.

What is most interesting and challenging for male scholars is that when Quranic verses appear to discriminate against women, Muslim feminist scholars stress the need to read the Quran within the socio-historical context of seventh-century Arab tribal society. This is indeed revolutionary, for what they press for is to make the distinction between God's will and intent that would, undoubtedly, be just and equalitarian, and the values, mores and habits of an underdeveloped tribal society 13 centuries before ours. There is a potent message in this movement that is the harbinger of enormous change to come. Women are coming!

04 January 2009, Sunday

System crisis

What really defines political attitudes are the daily practices of the people. Group identities and perceptions of reality are shaped and expressed according to these practices.

So being Turkish, Kurdish, Muslim or Christian rests on how one lives with these identities and under what circumstances. If these circumstances offer protection, freedom and relative ease to express these identities, the individual (citizen) has confidence and his/her rhetoric is moderate and conciliatory. But if these circumstances are restrictive and oppressive and freedoms are limited, then one is unhappy, insecure and antagonistic toward the conditions and the power structure behind them.

To varying degrees, the system in Turkey has made many groups of its citizens unhappy, insecure and distrustful of the regime that they feel has victimized them. Kurds feel they are left out because they are not Turkish. Non-Muslim minorities feel they are discriminated against because they are not Muslim. Alevis feel they are excluded because they are not Sunni. Pious Sunni Muslim Turks feel they are oppressed because they are not deemed to be secular enough. In turn, the dominant faction that has controlled the executive branch of the government until recently and the judiciary, which is still effective in enforcing the original principles of the regime, feels threatened by the forceful resistance of all these groups (the majority of the people). They feel threatened by those who feel threatened by them, and are unhappy with the oppressive nature of the regime that was concocted back in the 1920s and 1930s.

If a regime makes almost all of its different groups of citizens unhappy and insecure, there must be flaws that need to be mended. Redundant and increasingly dysfunctional institutions and rules must be replaced with ones that are more in tune with the social realities of the day. But resistance to this comes with the battle cry: Oh no! We cannot change the fundamental principles of the republic. This is what is being said by the old ruling elite, which still has enough clout to bring the system to a grinding halt. And we are close to that moment.

A republic derives its legitimacy from a constitution and public support. The source of legitimacy is public consensus, which is carried out in the form of a constitution. A people that has not been permitted to create a constitution is neither the bearer of sovereignty nor the source of legitimacy. It means an oligarchic group has usurped its power and authority.

If the members of the oligarchy claim to be the followers/heirs of the founders of the republic rather than the people, we are confronted with a quasi-monarchy. And if this group insists on upholding the founding principles of the republic sculpted in the first quarter of the 20th century as a tutelary regime over an undifferentiated peasant society, it fails to see that it looks very much like its sworn enemy, namely the religious fundamentalists. Both groups have their sacred codes; they both have unchanging and unquestionable authorities or authority figures that they submit themselves to absolutely. So what is the difference except outlook and rhetoric? They act alike and think alike.

How can democracy flourish under these circumstances when absolutes and fundamentalists of different kinds rule the day? Furthermore democracy is a process whereby new deals are constantly struck, bargaining (negotiation) on new rules takes place and ways of problem solving that avail cohabitation and cooperation are utilized.

Today Turkey needs to put an end to disagreements emanating from this conflicted political system via a new constitution that does not leave out any group of citizens and offers equal opportunity to all. So far it has be the raison d’état that has prevented it. But we still expect the state to be the main actor in a peace deal among social groups. Hence, the peace we have been longing for must be achieved within society. This can be done by the bringing together of the conflicting sides and trying to find common denominators of citizenship that will offer the means of integration for excluded groups and a non-ethnic and non-religious (territorial) identity for citizens as a whole. Only then we will feel that we are a nation rather than communities living in parallel with each other and full of suspicion.

28 February 2010, Sunday

‘The hidden constitution’

As the government is getting ready to launch a series of legal and administrative reforms to secure its position and to end the ongoing intervention of powers into each other’s turf, one of the likely areas of reform will be altering the content of the Red Book.

What is commonly referred to as the Red Book is in fact the National Security Policy Document (MGSB). This secret document was referred to as the hidden constitution and was deemed to have more power than and priority over all other legal documents.

Despite the written introduction stating that the MGSB was put together by the Cabinet and duties thereof were dispensed by the same authority, the reality was different. It was prepared by the mutual work of the Office of the Chief of General Staff and the National Security Council (MGK) and forwarded to the prime minister to be endorsed. The prime minister secured the signatures of the Cabinet members and could not change a word in the document. This procedure did not change in the long decades during which the MGK was composed of five generals, namely the chief of General Staff and four force commanders on one side, and five civilian Cabinet ministers headed by the prime minister on the other. The president of the republic was the natural head of the council who often happened to be a retired general or admiral. So the balance of the council generally tilted toward the members of the military and their mentality.

The decisions reached by the council had a direct affect on the Cabinet, which was obliged to carry them out. Security came above and beyond all else and everything related to security was ingrained in the document. However, the document lacked the distinction between security and defense. The armed forces could take on the defense side of security issues ranging from environment to employment and fighting against poverty and regional inequality. But this never happened.

Only after the electoral victory of the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) did the structure of the MGK change in favor of the civilian members. Furthermore, it was transformed into an advisory body rather than an executive organ above the government with a mandate on every issue that was thought to be associated with security.

The little Red Book is a secret statement written by the military establishment in the name of the state to safeguard the nation from its internal and external enemies. The monopoly on defining the enemy belonged solely to the authors. Among the external enemies, one could see most of Turkey’s neighbors and global currents that could not be toppled by military means. However, what made the document a security liability for the country was more how the internal enemy was defined. Certain ethnic groups, certain religious groups, certain political currents that have never been associated with violence or institutions such as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul, and so on, were labeled as internal threats and were kept under constant surveillance and pressure.

It is ironic that in a country in which the most repeated words in political rhetoric are unity, brotherhood, equality and cultural richness what is professed and what is implemented are in stark contrast with each other.

Another confounding and dangerous issue is the duties given to the MGK by the MGSB. For example, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has taken over the protection of the regime, and suppressing religious movements is particularly highlighted as one of the top security threats. Irtica or obscurantism is the most dreaded near and present danger that has taken top priority in every copy (revised every five years) of the MGSB for decades. However, no such serious movement has challenged the regime so far. Given the latest interrogations within the army concerning coup plans, evidence reveals that in the absence of concrete facts concerning obscurantism, some officers have tried to create missing facts. They have thought of planting weapons, bombing the premises of religious communities and have planned assassinations against non-Muslim community leaders in order to provoke public opinion within and without against religious groups and the incumbent AKP government.

I will further pursue this issue in the next article.

07 March 2010, Sunday

The Dilemma of the Middle Class

I am a member of the upper middle class by birth. My education and professional affiliations (academia and authorship) have allowed me to maintain this social standing all along.

Marxist theory suggests that class relations are the fundamental factor behind self-consciousness and social identity. These determine who relates with whom and with what to carve a personal living space and the social cohort identified with. This is called class consciousness, and it shapes one’s world view and political agenda.

Given this brief description, one expects several things from the middle class: 1-Escalation to higher levels on the social ladder. 2-Universalism in values and a desire to be part of the world (modernity, if you like). 3-To mediate between the upper (ruling) class and lower classes to curb potential conflict of interest and search for equality. With this role, one expects that the middle class would be a potent instrument of democracy. In this capacity the middle class is expected to be conciliatory between different ethnic, religious and political groups. 3-To mobilize lower social echelons and lead them to build a more egalitarian, participatory and liberal political system so that the potential oppression and exploitation of the ruling (or upper) class and the state apparatus under its influence is controlled.

None of these are taking place in Turkey. That is why reform and democratization are limping and valuable time is being lost. Let me convey a few sentences from a get together I attended last night with physicians and engineers.

Who is threatening us?

The US.

What shall we do about it?

We’ve got to nuke it.

Who will do it?

I can. (an engineer).

Who is running Turkey?

Fethullah Gülen, covertly using the Justice and Development Party [AK Party] (a physician).

What should be done about it?

A coup must be encouraged (collectively).

What about the 47 percent popular support behind it?

There is no such thing. Those who look modern and act liberal are boosting the AK Party’s position; if it weren’t for them, the AK Party government would have been done with a long time ago. (implying people like myself).

This is the state of affairs and mindset of the social class I belong to. They have given up on the liberal intellectuals and the society that has produced them and the AK Party. They want none of us although we are quite different. It is not that we are estranged from them; they are estranged from us and everything that does not fit into their mindset.

This class rules no more. It can no longer manipulate the masses. Its loss of power and privilege and the fact that its members feel that they have been disowned by the majority has made them hate the society at large. They feel they are drifting without a destination and they are dangerous in the sense that they hope the army will seize power on their behalf and set the clock back to the 30s and 40s when they were omnipotent and unaccountable. The Turkish middle class hardly seems to be the vanguard of democracy and reconciliation - or modernization for that matter. Why has this class regressed so much ideologically and politically?

In the void of an upper class (aristocracy and bourgeoisie) following the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the bureaucracy, a middle class stratum took over and played the role of the ruling class or the power elite. The power and privilege of this stratum prevailed until 1950, the year when multiparty politics began. Competitive elections started to bring suppressed social demands and new recruits from the populace into a system strictly controlled by the mainly bureaucratic power elite.

From that point on the progressive, the Western[izing] and modern[izing] middle class ceased to be progressive, modern and Western. This was because the West began to demand that the Turkish middle class ruling elite adopt principles and standards that would undermine its grip on society. Principles such as democracy, human rights, pluralism and the rule of law.

Nowadays both social realities that were overlooked and historical realities that were denied are taking revenge on the politics of the old elite. The only safe harbor they can seek refuge in is another coup which they engineered every 10 years in the past.

23 March 2010, Tuesday DO

A new Turkey?

Recently, I have visited several universities in the Southeast, Ankara and Istanbul. They all looked very tidy and orderly except for their art departments. Paints, glues and sundry materials used in the creation of art were scattered all around.

But everyone thought it was normal because these were sites of creation. When one reads about the days of creation, the week when God was at work, everything, the whole universe looked messy and disorderly. But then a divine order was put to work. Today Turkey also looks messy and disorderly. But then these are the days when a new Turkey is in the making. The old order is being dismantled. For the minds and souls that know no other, this is dissolution. For those who have vision and the perception that old ways and means are inadequate to carry Turkey to a new age, these are interesting times of creation.

At the time of the declaration of the republic (1923), several vital decisions had to be made. In ideal-typical terms nations are created around a marketplace or by state/executive prerogative. Some call it by the power of the sword. At the time when the Turkish nation-building process started, there was no national market around which a nationwide division of labor would be built. So the founders built a political nation with no economic foundation that connected various groups through a network of relations based on work and production. Conditions of partaking in the marketplace are on the whole decided consensually and rules of economic engagement are voluntary. It can be said that the rule of law grew out of the marketplace.

Nation building in the absence of a national market obliges the founders to use political means. However, decisions as to who will constitute the nation are vital. In the Turkish case, nationhood was based on a clear ethnic choice and Sunni Muslim. Hence, ethnic Turks and Sunni Muslims who accepted this identity without too much resistance became the backbone of the Turkish nation. The rest felt they were left out and in time victimized by practice and laws based on this selective nationality. The reason why there is so much friction and disunity within society is because the main mission of the republic, namely nation building, has not been successful enough.

We have to embark on another process of nation building now that there is a national market. However, this is not the time of nation-markets. The marketplace and capital are internationalized. Forging a nation when the means of production and the workforce (at least the most qualified) is internationalized would not be the same as before. First of all, the diversity within the population that occupies the national territory has to be acknowledged and afforded with legal legitimacy. This means their equality must be legally accepted and guaranteed. Their participation in politics and economic activities must be facilitated. Their right to be different provided that they bear allegiance to the state whose adherence to the rule of law and righteousness is acknowledged must be the rule rather than the exception.

What do all these mean? Well it means that a new nation has to be forged that is not the creation of the state, according to the vision of the ruling elite of the ideal society. Secondly, it must not be a political nation whose basic quality is uniformity and obedience to the state elite. The nation and the national economy must be thought of as being a part of the international community and global economy. Hence both have to be consonant with international standards. Only then will we cease to be a state nation rather than a nation-state that is part of the international community.

03 February 2010, Wednesday DOĞU ERGİL

What space offers

Given the high price of gas, which puts a great burden on our family and national budgets alike, we seek alternative energy sources.

Conventional resources such as coal, wood and organic material, on the one hand, and ethanol, wind and ground-based solar energy, on the other, are either produced in limited quantity or are quite expensive. They also require huge energy storage systems, not to mention the fact that they harm the environment. There is, however, one potential future energy source that is environmentally friendly and of unlimited potential. Preliminary calculations reveal that it can be cost competitive with any renewable source. If this were a riddle, I am sure the reader would be impatient. Well, it is space solar power.

Is this a scenario from the future? No, not really; the technology already exists. The project needs a space solar power system, which requires large solar energy collectors in orbit around the earth. These panels are expected to collect far more energy than land-based units. Land units are likely to be obstructed by weather and in northern countries, by long nights and low angles of the sun during the day.

The collected solar energy would be beamed to earth from space via wireless radio transmission. It would be received by antennas near cities and other energy-consuming centers. This received energy would then be converted to electric power that would be distributed through the existing infrastructure.

How expensive would this energy be? US officials and scientists have come together to make crude calculations and have come up with an approximation. The cost of electric power generation from such a system could be as low as 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This is about what consumers pay now in the US, and it is less than what is charged in Turkey (15 cents).

There are two difficulties concerning the cost effectiveness of space solar power. The first is the enormous expense of launching the collectors into space, and the second is the efficiency of their solar cells.

So far much of the progress has been made in the American private sector. Private firms together with NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services are trying to develop the capacity for low-cost launching of a solar power satellite system.

For a decade and a half, the US government has invested more than $100 billion, directly and indirectly, in a space station and supporting shuttle flights. This investment may be taken as infrastructure capital that may yield high returns if an energy production project is built on it.

Experts increasingly have come to believe that energy from space really is one of the crucial three principal sources of renewable electricity, along with wind and thermal solar farms. These three offer mankind the best hope for being able to zero out carbon dioxide (CO2) in electricity production.

The project offers us a reliable alternative to other sources, whose byproducts are CO2 emission and nuclear proliferation. That is why we need to diversify our portfolio and develop an international initiative for obtaining solar energy from space cheaper than today’s estimated cost. This initiative must be supplemented with a parallel effort to find better and cheaper ways to store wind-produced energy and to develop a more efficient distribution grid. Experts say that if these are done we can use 20 percent more energy.

All of these initiatives need large economic resources and the pooling of scientific intelligence. Hence they must be international. So let’s go and harvest the sun!

10 January 2010, Sunday DOĞU ER

What is model partnership?

In the 1950s the goals of Turkey’s ruling elite were twofold. They wanted to transform Turkey into a little America and produce a millionaire in every district.

The first could not be achieved except in the limited localities of coastal regions where the rich and the prominent presently live. But the latter became a reality overshooting the goal. Several millionaires were produced in every family due to high inflation rates as the lira swelled to the mark of a million. You had to pay more than a million for a cup of coffee. Then, Turks were infatuated with the American way of life. Every American idol was readily adopted in Turkey as well.

This love affair was tainted with the advent of the left. The Turkish left, just as its foreign counterparts, was anti-American because the US was the dominant world power and its foreign policy was perceived as imperialist. Needless to say, the American governments did everything it could to eradicate this perception.

The left was crushed with the cooperation of the Turkish right, a military-civilian establishment and American support. The gap was readily filled by rising religious politics that hated American influence with much more ferocity.

The Americans were at first baffled by the vigor and extremism of religious politics (maybe not as much now after they witnessed their own Evangelist fundamentalism twist American foreign policy during the former administration) and began to reconcile with Islam in ways to balance its more radical tones. They discovered that the majority of Muslims were peaceful, devout citizens of their countries and were equally threatened by extremists. This discovery led American policymakers to seek allies among the Islamic countries that they could cooperate with against religious fundamentalism and possibly increase the capacity of those moderate Muslim governments that are more receptive to popular demands and a little closer to the rule of law.

Turkey was rediscovered in this process. President George W. Bush made the first advance on Nov. 5, 2007, and President Barack Obama, who campaigned on the note of change, made his first trip to Turkey that promised many important developments.

During his visit to Turkey, instead of using the term strategic partnership, President Obama used the term model partnership to define the new phase of Turkey-US relations and expressed his determination to carry bilateral relations to a new level.

Areas of mentioned partnership are Turkey’s EU membership bid, security and military issues, economic and commercial matters. These included making Turkey an energy hub and transportation center, cooperation against terrorist threats and organizations, acting in harmony in the post-American period in Iraq, normalization of relations between Turkey, Armenia and the Cypriot Greek government, stabilizing Afghanistan and curbing Iran’s appetite for nuclear arms.

This is a broad spectrum and needed multi-layered cooperation. Former US allies can neither cooperate nor carry the complexity of a US alliance in a volatile region, where Egypt does not have the capacity and where Israel is an external actor that has no diplomatic clout in the Middle East.

Now Turkey must be groomed to play an active and able partner’s role both in security matters, peacekeeping and economic issues. For this Turkey must maintain and upgrade its democracy. It must solve its internal conflicts as well as end conflicts of interest with neighboring countries. Then Turkey will first be a model in the Middle East and Central Asia, then a model partner of the US.

20 January 2010, Wednesday

Mistakes were once chosen policies

Only months ago Turkey was praised for being a peacemaker in the troubled Middle East, where everyone calls the other brother while brotherhood is hard to come by.

One of the age-old conflicts Turkey tried to play the role of intermediary in was between Damascus and Tel Aviv. However, nowadays no one is asking Turkey to play such a role, and reports even hint that the Syrian leadership may be starting to look for another intermediary to start talks with Israel following this country’s fallout with Turkey over the capture of ships and the killing of Turkish aid volunteers by the Israeli armed forces.

For Turkey, this was an act of piracy and outright murder in international waters. For Israel, it was an act of self-defense. Turkey wants an apology and retribution. Israel refuses to give it and the conflict looks as if it will drag on. Given the existing row, Damascus may be seeking help from France or the United States, as stated in the press.

US Sen. Arlen Specter traveled to Tel Aviv only a week ago to ask Israeli leaders whether they needed help in starting talks with Syria. He later flew to Damascus and conveyed their messages to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Presently, Turkey’s relations with Syria are at their zenith. However, they are caught in an imbroglio with Israel and not having enough diplomatic clout with Western nations. This is mainly due to the Turkish prime minister’s harsh rhetoric concerning the West’s concerted support of Israel, Damascus is after a go-between that is more acceptable to the West.

The harsh anti-American or anti-Western rhetoric and the flotilla venture were selected policies. They later took their toll on Turkey.

The US government’s recent history is rife with such policy flops, which have proven to be detrimental to America. One such policy is international sanctions imposed on Iran with American pressure. The main target is the Iranian energy sector. Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, one of the presidential candidates in the 2009 Iranian elections, is on the record as saying, Only the weaker classes of society would be hurt by economic sanctions. Hence, sanctions imposed on Iran by the US and its allies would backfire, strengthening the grip of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which are supported by the lower echelons of society. This runs totally contrary to a revolution envisaged by the West that would start from below against the oppressive Iranian regime.

The Iraq war cost the US $1 trillion. It was executed to bring down the rogue government of Saddam Hussein and to control energy sources and flow. Anyone can see the long lines of gasoline tankers lined up for kilometers carrying gasoline from Iraq to Iran. It seems the lack of a strong pro-Western government in Bagdad not only increased Iran’s influence in Iraq, but Iraq’s energy resources seem to be compensating for what is missing in Iran. Apparently, Iran is now wielding more influence in Iraq than the United States.

The only sanction that would seriously undermine the regime in Iran is a severe shortage of gasoline that is very cheap in this country. Although Iran has plenty of oil, it lacks refining capacity and imports 60 percent of its gasoline. Weak coalition governments in Baghdad allow Iran to strike convenient deals for gasoline imports. Bagdad knows that if it does not comply with Tehran’s demands, Iraq can become so unstable that there will be no government at all. Another possibility is the splitting of Iraq, with a big chunk of Shiite territory being controlled by Iran, making it even more powerful.

Is this really what the US leadership wants? Definitely not. Likewise, Turkey’s leaders, who only several months ago seemed to be holding the bull by the horns, do not want this either. That is why they make a distinction between politicians and statesmen.

14 July 2010, Wednesday

Grand designs and unexpected results

With the appointment of Ahmet Davutoğlu to the helm of the Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan probably began to believe that Turkey could become the leader of a new Muslim Middle East bloc.

However, there were two problems with this grand design. First there was a rift between the Arab streets and the Arab palaces. Secondly, relations between most Muslim countries were conducted not directly, but through their links with powerful Western states, mainly the US.

This meant two things: You may be popular on the Arab streets but quite unpopular in their states (the palaces). Considering that the Arab-Muslim state is inhabited by dictatorial regimes of either republican or traditional types and that states are still the main actors in international politics, Turkey’s prime minister’s popularity on the streets is observed with anxiety in the Muslim palaces. Secondly, without considering the nature of international relations between the West, particularly the US, and Muslim governments, searching for leadership by changing the shape of interstate affairs in the Middle East is not that easy. Of course it is not always possible to tread a new path between the established landmarks if you do not have the superior power to alter the established order of things. The incumbent Turkish government has now understood this with great distaste. The realization of this fact is reflected in the harsh rhetoric of Prime Minister Erdoğan accusing Israel and the US of disrupting Turkey’s plans in the Middle Eastern theater.

The incumbent Turkish government has realized that Israel is more than a state occupying a small piece of land. Its political, psychological and strategic ties with the West, especially the US, rendered it more powerful than it really is. Furthermore, its technological and armament prowess is enough to challenge larger but technologically less sophisticated regional armies, aside from its nuclear capacity. Israel’s security concerns have replaced any form of legal and moral restrictions.

The present Turkish leadership seems to have failed to read these facts clearly. The second fatal error on their part was the perception of Iran in the West. Iran, as a religious totalitarian regime, values its survival more than anything else. The survival instinct is not only related to the nature of the regime but by and large to the power holders who under normal circumstances would not acquire power had an uprising of the lower classes not have taken place under the leadership of the Shia clergy. Now these anachronistic social cohorts passionately cling on to both their leadership and the regime that affords them power and privilege.

In their quest for power and continuity, repressing the opposition and delaying liberalization and opening up to the world are critical. But more importantly, they must have deterrent power to evade being overthrown. So radicalizing society against fabricated enemies and acquiring long-range missiles and a nuclear arsenal is also vital. So far the West wants to convince the Iranians to stop short of producing nuclear bombs and to use its nuclear energy for peaceful ends. Iran resisted until the last moment, meaning that it became serious enough that the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions with the blessing of Russia and China, who had aborted previous efforts. It is at this moment that Turkey forged a deal with Iran, together with Brazil, to trade half of its low-enriched uranium for a higher grade equivalent in Turkey. However, Iran was intent on keeping an equal amount to itself for further enrichment outside international scrutiny.

Turkey and Brazil’s gallant efforts bore fruit after the West, plus China and Russia, gave up their hopes of reconciling with Iran. The Turkish leadership barely realized this change in attitudes. This meant a covert understanding to change the regime in Iran was reached among the leading powers of the world.

At a time when Turkey was needed to be a reliable ally to support this scheme and contribute to the isolation of radical organizations that were in alliance with Iran, it did the opposite. Turkey was defending Hamas and getting ready to invite Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah to pay an official visit to Ankara (which was later called off by the Hezbullah leader). In short, the Turkish government was acting contrary to what was expected of it.

What will happen now? I can bet that President Obama will invite Erdoğan to explain the situation (this already took place in Toronto). I am sure Mr. Erdoğan will heed Obama’s advice at a time when a referendum and national elections are so close. Secondly, the military brass will request that he drop accusations that Israel is behind the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and acknowledge that the latest surge in violence is not a Jewish plot but an internal matter . And Mr. Erdoğan will follow suit. Anyone want to place a bet?

04 July 2010, Sunday

A different agenda

Generals watched soldiers die, read the main headline of a daily on Monday. This ominous headline was followed by the following information: The ambush on July 19 was picked up by Heron unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs]; 30 institutions watched the ambush live simultaneously but did not respond. Seven soldiers were killed in action.

Indeed, the Hantepe military zone in Çukurca, Hakkari province, home to the 3rd Tactical Division, became the target of a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attack on the night of July 19. The Heron surveillance center at Batman notified the division of an impending ambush. The division commanders replied, ‘Everything is under control’ and [later] watched the ambush live. … No military support was extended to the ambushed unit. There was no helicopter or plane coming to the rescue even though weather conditions were favorable. The PKK militants left after they accomplished what they came for with relative ease. (Taraf, Aug. 2).

This is a recurring story. Units ready for battle are attacked despite timely intelligence warnings; aid does not come in time or does not come at all. Either readiness of the command structure is quite wanting or there is a deliberate choice to let PKK attacks take place. Combined with my personal encounters with soldiers who have served in the Southeast, one is tempted to think of a sinister plot. These ex-soldiers have repeatedly complained about the fact that their superiors have ordered them not to shoot or finish off PKK militants at times when it was possible to annihilate them. They sensed that there were high politics involved, but did not know for sure.

How could any person with a modicum of love for his fellow human beings or bearing a shred of conscience believe that an institution is more interested in being at the center of politics rather than heeding its professional responsibilities? That is why many people could not read any sense into these anomalies. The Hantepe ambush is just another one of such informed terrorist attacks that ended in the loss of life. Their deaths added more fuel to ethnic nationalism and hatred. But, and more importantly, the mission to annihilate the enemy within would ensure the armed forces remain a potent political force to protect the country as well as the regime.

Both protecting the territorial integrity of the country and the republic are stipulated in Article 35 of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) Internal Service Code and cited as justification in latter-day coup threats. The political parties are now flirting with the possibility of either changing or abrogating it altogether. This could be a positive step forward in reducing the military tutelage over the regime.

Militarism has not only defiled the collective mind by creating internal enemies that meant declaring a part of the citizenry a threat to the nation and the country. It also retarded democratic development and killed the potential of reconciling differences that are the essence of being a harmonious and stable nation.

It is quite obvious that the ruling elite have fallen victim to the security problem that is of their creation by pitting social groups against each other in order to preserve their privileged place in

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