The vicious cycle of militarism in Turkey

How nationalist policies perpetuate authoritarian rule and undermine peace.

"Our helicopter is shot down; we hear from another country. Our ship is raided, and we hear from another country. Our UCAV is shot down, and we hear from another country again. The US says 'self-defense'. On the other hand, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs tries to gloss over what happened by saying 'different technical evaluations'. Will you, as the state's rulers, defend our country's rights with such shy statements? Will we shape our foreign policy based on 'what the US says, what Russia says, what Italy says'?"

The fact that the tweet and "opposition" of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition party, against the military operation against Rojava, in which dozens of residential areas, electricity, water, and oil facilities were bombed, is not disturbing to the AKP, but whipping it into a frenzy, has significant meaning.

By inviting the government to an even more militarist, even more nationalist, even more maverick aggression, Kilicdaroglu (and, of course, Aksener et al.) fulfills the requirements of having returned to the state, as we reported in the previous article.

In this respect, Kilicdaroglu is conducting a perfect "opposition" in favor of the government while sending a message to the Kurds, who supported him in the last elections, "Be careful, never trust me again". But Kilicdaroglu's return to the state will not only work against the Kurds.

We are getting the sequence wrong. The general opinion is that Turkey can only democratize after the AKP government is gone. However, the opposite is more likely. Without relative democratization of Turkey, and therefore without an objective, courageous, principled, and peaceful opposition to solve the fundamental problems, especially the Kurdish issue, the chances of the AKP leaving power are very slim.

Those who create the expectation that the door to democracy can only be opened once Erdogan is gone do not want to see or show that those preparing to replace Erdogan are busy sharpening their lines.

Moreover, while the current nationalist-militarist policies produce future actors, there is no such productivity for the opposition. On the contrary, since the opposition bigwigs, including Kilicdaroglu, who have internalized the AKP hegemony and thus their defeat, not be motivated other than preserving their seats and their small power, they are providing logistical support to the AKP by eliminating any new or possible counter-actors that might offer hope.

Let's go back to the initial question. Will democracy come when the AKP goes, or will the AKP go when democracy comes?

The lifeblood of the current government is nationalist-militarist discourse and policies. Suppose the AKP did not leave even in the May elections after tens of thousands lost their lives in the earthquake, the economy collapsed, and the social opposition almost exceptionally became a stakeholder for the first time. In that case, it will hardly leave after this, of course, acting on the experience gained from all these troubles.

In Carl Schmitt's conceptualization, the main target chosen by the government to maintain the conditions of a "permanent state of emergency" at home seems to be the Northern Syria. Contrary to some assessments, even if the PKK disarms, the conditions for a "Kurdish peace" will not be met. This region is a new area where the nationalist-militarist discourse and armaments are "justified."

Calls for the PKK's disarmament are not part of the AKP government's medium and possibly long-term plans. As it will be remembered, in the recent past, there were calls for the PKK to "lay down its arms" and "bury them" on every occasion, but now such calls are rarely uttered.

This is because the AKP, knowing that such a call would lead to the conditions for laying down arms and thus to peace, is afraid that its authority in domestic politics, which it has secured through the current nationalist-militarist discourse and war policies, will be questioned.

Making a comparison between the benefits of war policies and the costs of a solution, the government's memory is dominated by the "defeat" in the June 7, 2015, elections in an environment of relative "peace" and the "success" in the November 1, 2015, elections in conditions of conflict. The close "peace" environment during the solution process in which "all kinds of nationalism were trampled underfoot" undermined the authoritarian AKP of that period, reflected in the June 7, 2015, elections.

Therefore, a "Kurdish peace" that would pave the way for Turkey at home and in the region seems to be the path of last choice for the AKP at this stage, only in case of necessity, when compared to the benefits of aggressive policies.

However, the AKP has primarily eliminated the opposition that would have forced it into such a necessity. When we look at the heavy pressures faced by the right-wing opposition, including the CHP, which has internalized defeat because of this and now shapes its entire discourse with the idea of defeat and has retreated to the state, and the democratic opposition, where even the most "neutral" tweets of MPs are subject to investigations and pending prosecution, there is no hope for Turkey.

However, the most fundamental way for the opposition to come to power is to force the current government to adopt peace policies and thus democratize. We can even go further and say that the only way for the opposition to come to power is to first make peace with the Kurds negotiable and then to force the conditions for it. Otherwise, with the current nationalist-militarist policies, the AKP and the forces it represents are unlikely to remain in power for many more years.

On October 1, there were debates about whether the attack on the Ministry of Interior by the PKK was the cause or the occasion of the operation against Rojava, the fact that Turkey targeted "all infrastructure, superstructure, and energy facilities belonging to the PKK/YPG in Iraq and Syria," as Hakan Fidan put it, can be seen as the beginning of a new stage in militarist policy.

Because "all infrastructure and superstructure energy facilities" is an open-ended phrase, it is impossible to go into the details of this, let alone question it, in the current pressure environment.

After October 1, the military and police steps taken by the PKK sent a clear message that any action the PKK takes from now on will be at the expense of Rojava on the outside and Kurdish politicians, journalists, and democratic mass organizations on the inside. Therefore, much more intense pressure awaits every actor who pushes the government for peace in the coming days.

"Crushing" and somehow eliminating the democratic opposition, which has shouldered the burden of being the only actor demanding peace in Turkey, means the perfect rose garden for the AKP or this line to stay in power forever and thus build the "conservative-nationalist Turkish society" of their dreams. The new constitution will probably be the first stage of this process, not the last.

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