Value in Turkish model of civil-military relations
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The Arab Spring catalyzed dramatic transformations in the Middle East and initiated a long process that will eventually lead to new governing structures throughout the region. The prominence and growing influence of Turkey in the international arena has spurred some Western pundits, academics, and diplomats to advocate the “Turkish model” as a template for creating stable institutions in the Middle East states of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Civil-military relations factor prominently into this model. Before recommending the Turkish model to any state, it behooves the international community to thoroughly vet every component. Previous to 1997, the military occupied a central role in determining the political, economic, and social trajectory of the Republic of Turkey. This guardian role conflicted with Western notions of healthy civil-military relations emanating from Europe and the United States. Since initiating the EU accession process in 1997, however, Turkey has implemented drastic reforms bringing the Turkish model of civil-military relations into alignment with European standards. Political leadership, incarnated in the Justice and Development Party, has encountered significant resistance from civilian and military opposition in the process of bringing the military under democratic control. Nonetheless, under the political leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this resistance has been overcome. The Turkish model, as it exists today, evolved in response to unique historical and cultural contexts, continuing through great barriers. As such, facsimile transfer of the model to other states is bound to fail. However, lessons gleaned from Turkey’s difficult transition to more democratic controls over the military might inform similar transitions in Arab states. Careful analysis of the great obstacles political leadership has overcome in bringing the military under democratic civilian control may prove more valuable to Arab states than the Turkish model itself.