Erdogan versus the generals

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting what no other Turkish leader has in over a century: To come into direct confrontation with the military establishment and to survive it, at least for now.

Whether this is an act of bravery and vision or folly stemming from arrogance remains to be seen.

Without doubt, today, when the new leadership of the military is expected to be announced, will be crucial, but it will not herald the end of a crisis kick-started by the prime minister in order to demilitarize politics by prosecuting 250 officers for unlawful actions seen as undermining parliament.

The mass resignation of the leadership of the Turkish armed forces last Friday was a concession of a first tragic defeat for the military establishment since April 1909, when the modern Turks under War Minister Mahmud Shevket Pasha launched an attack against Constantinople in order to quash an amateurish uprising by the old regime and ultimately exiled Sultan Abdul Hamid II to Villa Allatini in Thessaloniki.

It is widely believed that Erdogan based his aggressive policy toward the military establishment on the support of the people, on their demand for the democratization of their country, for a ?new social contract with the people.? This may be the case, though often the strength of popular will or the power of the masses is highly overrated.

However, the real pillar of Erdogan?s strategy is Turkey?s impressive economic growth over the past few years. As long as this trend persists, the Turkish premier can, in theory, rest easy. But growth over the long term has never existed and cannot exist when there have already been some negative indicators in regard to the Turkish economy. No politicians, though, will choose to look at the downside of a situation. They all forge ahead with optimism, even if they are headed toward destruction.

As far as Greece?s interest in what goes on across the Aegean is concerned, we cannot forget that any confrontation between Erdogan and the military almost inevitably leads to stronger rhetoric from the Turkish prime minister regarding relations with Greece and Cyprus, and this is something we have already witnessed this summer.

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