After a century long rift, Turkish foreign policy pivoted both to East and West, allowing Turks to establish new and much deeper relationships with the countries of the Levant. Like a long gone friend’s return bearing gifts, Turkey greeted her Arab neighbors not only with precious experience of how to succeed in industrialization and democracy, but most importantly, how to end military rule.
Turkey’s relationship with her Arab neighbors in the post WWII -era has been very limited. Turks were not very keen to get involved with the Levant, and thus distanced themselves from that part of the world and followed a foreign policy of facing only the West. In the meantime, a turbulent century full of civil wars, military coups, Ba'ath party oppression, dictatorships and civil uprisings overwhelmed the Arab lands. Turkey on the other hand, thanks to her Western allies, developed a stable democracy, established a culture of credible work ethic and gained a voice in the Western world as a NATO ally. However after almost a century of separation, under AK Party governance, Turkish foreign policy started to establish new relationships with the Arab world.
Neither Turkey nor any of the democratic countries of today came to this stage in an instant; we Turks also had our ups and downs in democracy, we also went through repeated military coups and interventions to civil authority and we have a history of losing politically active young people to the hangman because of military regimes. Then came a day in Turkish national life in which we demoted our defenders from their position as the governors of the Turkish people to a place of subordination to our elected civilian government. Turkey did not achieve the ideals of a republican democracy in one day, and we are still far from perfect. Nevertheless, the steps were there; Turkey found them, and they are there for our Arab neighbors too.
Seeing military personnel as national saviors
Following a long period of existence in rulership, the military has become an admired part of Arab society, not an alien force. Most people have at least one relative in the military services and military personnel have a payroll which would make many governmental officials envious. Therefore, military personnel are seen to be at the apex of the social pyramid in the majority of Arab societies which opens the door to voluntary enslavement by the military.
Transparent budget for the military
In the majority of the Arab Spring countries, the military also controls the economy. The military owns houses, businesses; it has cash in the bank and sometimes, it even owns the bank. The military must be demoted to be a branch of government service, subordinate to the people and should have a transparent budget, much as we see in the EU countries. Otherwise, just like in the example of the Sisi-led Egyptian junta, the military can simply alter the economy and bring down an elected leader through mobilizing a street mob of angry people. The Turkish economy went through a program of privatization, which has helped foster the idea of individual rule in a free market economy; this, in return, has been exceedingly useful in developing a civil society, which strongly opposes military interventions.
Education is the key
Possibly the most important step is education. Despite popular belief, the cases against military officials such as “Sledgehammer” and “28th February ” and the imprisonment of some military personnel with the claim of planning to launch a coup was not the reason to end military rule in Turkey. In the end, you cannot imprison an ideology; if the belief in the 'guardianship of the military' still existed in the society, these cases would only lead to the toppling of the government, no matter how many votes they received in the elections. But through anti-materialist education, Turkish civil society itself changed and lost its belief in military rule.
While the Arab world spent a century filled with strife, civil wars, insurrections, military interventions and dictatorships, the Turkish experience of Muslim democracy showed us one thing; before the fight for power, another battle must be fought - the battle for pluralism, appreciation for diversity and developing a deep and abiding respect for humanity. Arabs can also respectfully demote their military from their positions of power and make them subordinate to the elected civil authorities; it is a matter of the will do so and the necessary patience and requisite social education in order to accomplish this.
Adnan Oktar's piece on News Rescue: