Lecture Series with Prof. Ahmet Kaya
Prof. Ahmet Kuru began his lecture by specifically outlining that Turkey has to be studied in a comparative context. Neither the strength of the military, not its recently waning influence in Turkish politics is unique. In the 1970s, the military establishment dominated many regimes throughout the world, before they evolved into democracies. When Turkey had democratic elections in 1973, Spain, Portugal, and Greece had military regimes. Yet as the latter three countries moved into freer forms of government Turkey has been stuck in its partly free status since the 1980 military coup.
According to Prof. Kuru, the idea that Turkish society is inherently militaristic is problematic. Another misleading perception is to regard the military generals in Turkey as the defenders of the national interest, while regarding the politicians as seekers of their self-interests. The military is the most respected institution in Turkey but that does not mean that the public wants it to interfere in politics. In fact politicians with military backgrounds are very rarely successful in Turkish history.
Prof. Kuru argues that the allies in civilian bureaucracy and society provide the military with institutional autonomy and political power to avoid “Islamic reactionism,” “Kurdish separatism,” and “communism.” Yet the Turkish military has not been a reluctant political actor. Instead, it has kept civilian allies by exaggerating these three sources of threats.