1,055,000 men strong, the largest standing force in NATO after the U.S., and the biggest army in Europe, the Turkish army is nevertheless affected by a deep paranoia. This institutional “mental disturbance” may well be a remnant of the early days of its foundation (early 1920s) when it had to fight against European powers to defend and reunify whatever was left of the Ottoman Empire.
“Circled by hostile neighbors” who are looking for the slightest opportunity to dismember the country, the army manifests an equally strong anxiety toward the “internal enemies” who may divide the nation and disintegrate the state.
According to a recent article signed by Mr. Mustafa Akyol in Turkish Daily News, a new and rather unusual internal enemy has joined the army’s “most wanted” list; the post-modernists!
The “War” Against Post-modernism:
Mr. Akyol reports that in a recent speech the new Commander of Land Forces, Gen. Işık Koşaner, has listed all the enemies of the Turkish armed forces; the usual groups such as “separatists,” religious orders, plus a new “unpatriotic” group, the post-modernists.
The high-brow general openly stated: “The propaganda network that consists of a postmodern clique of some media, academics, finance circles and NGOs are working in order to weaken and disintegrate national unity and national values.” He also added that these “postmodern” traitors are “manipulated by global powers.”
Wow. This means that a Turkish professor in a university who sympathizes with, say, Jean Baudrillard rather than Auguste Comte might find himself to be on the “traitor” side. And if he travels to somewhere to join a conference sponsored by some “global power,” his “treason” will be confirmed. Similarly, media pundits who toy with postmodern ideas could also be on the black list of the military.
This sounds very bizarre, to be sure, but like all other ideological rigidities of our military, it is based on some logic. Atatürk, as we know, was a modernist leader. He, at least in rhetoric, founded Turkey on the supposedly unshakable truths of “science and reason.” His doctrine soon became The Truth for the state and nation. And his politics was based on the modern notion of the all-sovereign nation state.
Postmodernism is a philosophical trend which challenges all these notions. First of all, thanks to thinkers such as Thomas Kuhn or Paul Karl Feyerabend, “science and reason” as objective guides have been shaken. Scientific theories, as these philosophers have shown, are indeed influenced by culture. From that premise, postmodernism launched its strongest attack on the notion of The Truth, and, instead, introduced relativism. Now there is your truth and my truth, but not The Truth. (I am not a postmodernist, by the way, am just reporting.).
On the political level, postmodernism, at least according to our generals, corresponds to the rise of globalization and the decline of “independence.” Unlike the fully independent modern states of the early 20th century, now the whole world is connected and inter-dependent.
If you are detached observer, you can look at all this and say, “well, if that is where the world is going, then Turkey should adapt itself.” But if you are the Commander of Land Forces, you apparently don’t say that. You think that the world is creating ideas and trends that conflict with Atatürk’s sacred principles. So, you think, not just the world but also your citizens who prefer to stay tuned with the world, are your enemies.
Nothing can be clearer than this to show that the Turkish Republic is basically an ideological state — not a democratic one. It was founded to serve and protect a political doctrine, not the individual choices of its citizens. With his speech, Gen. Işık Koşaner reminded all of us of that bitter truth….
It is regrettable to see how much the Turkish armed forces are still involved in politics. Despite all the reforms in recent years and the strong desire by the majority of Turkish population to join the European Union, Turkey still has a huge “democratic deficit”.
Let’s also wish Mr. Akyol safety and security. Although he is not a postmodernist and is “just reporting”, I don’t think Gen. Işık Koşaner and his colleagues appreciate his work.
For Further Information:
A very informative and interesting blog on Turkish politics, in general, and the Turkish armed forces, in particular, is kept by Mr. Erkan Saka, a PhD student whose dissertation thesis focuses on Turkish Journalism and the European Union. To read, please click here.
Picture: Atatürk surrounded by a group of teachers from a billboard ad by the Turkish Armed Forces in support of the “Teacher’s Day”