Turkey’s Military Carves Out New Role In Libya, Leaves Domestic Power Struggles Behind

Essay: The upheaval in the Arab world is a reminder that the Turkish military -- a NATO member -- can play a major role in the region. The secularist military's political power at home has been greatly trimmed in recent years, but some look to th

Turkish soldiers in Ankara
Turkish soldiers in Ankara
Mehmet Ali Birand

ISTANBUL - Turkey is in the hot seat. Muammar Gaddafi's forces have long since given up hope that Ankara might help them. But the Libyan opposition is also restive, with demonstrators in recent days chanting slogans about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan disappointing them by not sending arms.

The Libyan rebels believe Turkey prevented them from receiving arms, which has hindered their fight against Gaddafi's army. Ankara finds itself caught in a unique quandary, as it tries to stop the war from spreading throughout Libya. It's a fight Turkey can't win

For this reason, Ankara is now emphasizing its contribution in humanitarian aid. The Turkish military ship that brought in hundreds of wounded from Libya for medical care was a highly successful PR operation, both in terms of Turkey's international profile and its position amongst the Libyan people. When you look at what's happening in the region, you can see that Turkey's armed forces is increasingly becoming more significant.

I have said this before and been criticized for it. Some accused me then of wanting the Turkish military to once again play a larger role in politics. But isn't it more apparent now how much this country needs a strong armed forces, one which is not politically interventionist, not bogged down in domestic politics and free from polemic exchanges?

When stripped of a political role, this institution is the most important card this country has within this region. The more we can strengthen and effectively use it, the more prestigious this card can become.

We need to know that beyond its sheer might, The Turkish Armed Forces is especially successful when it comes to education and humanitarian aid. We have seen this demonstrated on every mission from Afghanistan to the Balkans. Turkey needs to play this card well.

Changing dynamics within the military

No Chief of Staff has had it easy in recent years. Since 2003, there has been so much tension between the military and the government, such an uprooting of former habits and breaking of taboos, that whoever is heading the military has inevitably found himself faced with an almost impossible challenge. They are caught between two forces: the way they were raised and trained and the principles they believe in, and a changing Turkey and the decisive attitude of the AKP government.

Would the military keep up its former hard-line stance to protect secularism and territorial integrity, or would it adopt a new attitude? Former military chief of staff General İlker Basbug fought what appeared to be a major internal battle to protect his institution. He looked for any occasion to hold a press conference. He spoke out strongly, often flanked by two or three other top brass.

But that didn't change the course of events. The political leadership stuck to their guns. General Işık Kosaner took over at this difficult point. Retired generals, writers and academics, and many others were asking the same question: ‘What would he do? Was he going to hand the country over to these guys?"

Kosaner behaved with extreme realism. First off, he decided to protect his institution. He saw that further damaging the military-civilian relationship would be detrimental to the country as a whole. He paid no heed to provocations. He did not change his basic principles, but he adopted a fundamentally different approach. He did not step beyond the boundaries of the Chief of Staff's ‘area of duty." He didn't speak publicly, and made sure other generals didn't either.

It was a new working order, with new rules. Kosaner brought the Chief of Staff back to its original duties. It is thanks to this sensitive balance during this time of transition that there is no longer any public friction between the military and politicians. General Kosaner is doing the right thing. He is allowing neither his own institution nor the political leadership to be discredited. Perhaps some people see this as ‘the military laying low and biding its time to make its grand return". I believe that the Kosaner era will one day be known as the ‘restructuring" or ‘rehabilitation" of the Turkish Armed Forces.

Photo - Bootcrease

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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