I won’t claim to be any sort of expert on Turkish politics, but I do know that Turkey is generally considered one of the most successful democratic-secular Arab states. But that secularism is under threat with the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, who sound like a hyper-Islamic version of the Republicans or our Conservatives.
The government has been pushing hard for more religious-based rulings and laws, while the liberal military (yeah, it apparently exists) is opposed and is attempting to defend secularism in the country. In the past the military has repeatedly staged coup d’etats to (ironically) calm increasing political violence (typically between left-wingers and Islamists).
Rather than overthrow the current government, though, the military commanders have now essentially gone on strike in protest.
On Friday, Chief of Staff General Isik Kosaner resigned, as did the heads of the Turkish army, navy and air force. Never before have so many top commanders of the Turkish military walked out together.
Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a coalition of conservatives, reformed Islamists and Islamists, came to power in Turkey in 2002, relations between the AKP and the military have been tense. But thus far, the military has played along. By staging a walkout at the leadership level, the Turkish army has finally told the AKP, “We are done playing with you. Set up your own team—if you can.”
It’s an interesting situation. Typically the military of a country is supposed to be sharply loyal to the government (elected or not), but in this case they seem to have the job of bringing a bit of rationalism back to the country whenever things get a bit too messy.
With all the unrest in the Middle East though, let’s hope that things calm down.