In my column dated Feb. 11 I attempted to analyze the Turkish military's morale from a historic perspective; I stated that the current argument, which is based on claims that the security institution's morale is low due to the ongoing coup investigations and trials that began in 2007 is largely unconvincing.
It's unconvincing because I went on to say this is This is due to because, I said, Turkish military's morale has always been low since the first, free and fair elections took place in 1950, marking the period of military coups, pre-emptied military coups from within the armed forces as well as massive purges. In the eyes of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the introduction of a multi-party system in Turkey in the early 1950s meant that it had to share the power with elected politicians, affecting its strategy of asserting its power on society from the top.
In my previous column, I gave the chronology of events starting from 1950 when the military either staged coups or faced purges and dealt with coups plans from within. In the same column, I concluded that it was a simple fact that the morale of the military has been low for decades and that it was the government's as well as Parliament's responsibility to save the military from themselves through structural reforms that they have neglected to introduce for the past several years.
Before elaborating on the recipe that I will give for the purpose of saving the TSK from itself, I will share with you statistics provided by the Association of Military Opposition to Military Coups (ADAM-DER) in a press statement released last Monday on the number of officers that were fired, including generals before a final court verdict was given. This statistics also support the idea that the TSK has been in a demoralized state since the first military coup that took place in Turkey in 1960.
According to ADAM-DER, composed of those left wing officers fired from the military after several coups, 235 generals, 4,171 officers were dismissed from the military after the 1960 coup, while around 600 officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) as well as military students were also dismissed from the TSK after the 1971 memorandum issued against the government. In order to prevent a coup from below the TSK fired 56 generals and 516 colonels in 1970. Following the 1980 military coup, 397 officers, 176 NCOs and 447 military students were dismissed. In the wake of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup, 900 officers and NCOs were let go.
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned figures, how one then can claim that only today is the TSK demoralized because there are around 400 retired and active officers including generals who are being tried over coup charges, while neglecting the effects of the past unpleasant practices of the TSK. Whereas, still, the TSK has, for example, 347 generals and admirals , according to a statement released by the Turkish General Staff on Feb. 4. In other words, the TSK that fired 235 generals at once after the 1960 coup has today more than enough generals and admirals to compensate its gap with those suspects over coup plan charges.
Therefore, the core problem that should be debated today in Turkey should be the urgency of a major overhaul of the TSK through reforms that will not only boost the military's morale and make it smaller and mobile, but also more effective so that it can concentrate on thwarting possible external threats.
The TSK needs to undergo a transformation from top to bottom. That should include closing down the military likes so that pupils at the age of 14 should enroll in ordinary high schools and that Turkish military academy's curriculum should be brought to the standards of Western military academies. Turkish military academy should accept more people coming from the civilian universities as officers to balance the military students. Legislation should be adopted to protect the soldiers from mistreatment by senior officers so that their rights should be guaranteed. Above all these measures, is the utmost necessity for the subordination of the TSK to the Ministry of Defense and that civilians should have the authority to run military affairs in coordination with officers, while parliamentary oversight of the military should be ensured.
In addition, Turkish military should be enabled to accelerate its restructuring in order for it to become a modern organization that concentrates on strategies in line with the developments taking place in the world from the security perspective. These reforms should be put into force through laws that will be adopted in Turkey's Parliament if Turkey wants to save the military from long-lasting low morale that poses a threat to Turkey's security.