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Stratejik Aratrmalar Dergisi / Journal of Strategic Studies 1 (1),2008,237-247 BEYKENT NVERSTES/ BEYKENT UNIVERSITY

THE MILITARY AS AN ONGOING NATION-BUILDER IN TURKEY


Sinan aya
ZET Trk Ordusu; btn gen erkekleri, hi ayrt etmeksizin, zorunlu hizmet uyarnca bnyesine ekip btnletirmekle; bir ulus inac ilevi ortaya koymaktadr. Burada insan kaynaklar asndan hibir ziyan sz konusu olmayp, btn potansiyel kymetler yerini bulmaktadr. Mterek biz duygusu tek askere kadar herkesi kuatmaktadr. Askerlik hizmeti etnik bilincin n plana kmasn engelleyerek btnletirici bir rol oynamaktadr. Dier yandan farkl blgelerden bireylerin sosyallemesi ve kiisel gelimelerinde de nemli bir ilev edinmektedir. Anahtar Kelimeler: Trk Ordusu, Zorunlu Askerlik, Ulus nas, Askerlik Sistemi, Eitim. ABSTRACT Turkish military serves as a nation-builder, absorbing and unifying all young males in the compulsory service with no discrimination whatsoever. All valuable potentials attain recognition, there being no place for waste, as far as human resources go. The we-feeling there extends out to each and every one of the soldiers. Military service plays an integrating role by diminishing ethnic consciousness. On the other hand it has crucial functions in socialization and personal development of people from different regions. Key Words: Turkish Armed Forces, Compulsory Service, Nation-building, Military System, Training.

1. INTRODUCTION In Turkey the compulsory military service gives everyone a chance to see a part of the country necessarily different from his hometown, where he serves in full integration with his peers from elsewhere. This ongoing process (which, even if by coercion, is mostly welcome by the vast majority anyhow) calls for

Yrd. Do.Dr. Beykent niversitesi Meslek Yksek Okulu. sinan.caya@yahoo.com

The Military As An Ongoing Nation-Builder In Turkey

and accepts all. The same clothing, the same food and the same shelters pertain to all. Though individuality is necessarily discarded, another virtue is stressed. Recognition through a genuine, self-experienced empathy of the others as equals, as comrades-in-arm. As Janowitz (1975: 432) points out the Turkish draft system contrasts with most of todays Middle Eastern countries and greatly contributes to national integration. He who serves shares the honour of participation. An alternative technical and complicated professionalism understanding could not have done this. It even would have caused a setback against it: The proposition can be offered that precisely because it was a draft force with a high turnover of personnel (rather than a long-term, standing-service force) that it served as an institution for building national cohesion. Other authors also stress the importance of the draft system in incorporating all citizens into the national scene . The army is one of several tangible manifestations of what it means to be a Turk, especially for the peasants and nomads. A second manifestation is the education system, which is reaching more and more people every year (Roberts et all, 1970: 71-72). 2. MILITARY SERVICE DIMINISHES ETHNICAL CONSCIOUSNESS The official policy makes no discrimination between ethnical and/or regional groups and even minorities. It should be pointed out that as a general principle western boys on the whole are more likely to serve in the eastern regions and vice versa. (the Turkish Police Force a similar rule holds true: A policeman is not appointed to his home-city, very big cities constituting an exception). Only youths from coastal regions are sent to the Navy. Many kinds of talents/crafts are widely utilized in the Army. Over two hundred professions are officially described: Barber, tailor, barman, waiter, hairdresser, carpenter, blacksmith, auto-repairman, hotel-receptionist, plumber etc. are some examples. Some minority youths, due to their traditional

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specialist-occupations, may even end up better off than the bulk of the privates. It is a possible scene to encounter a Greek or an Armenian or a Jewish origined lad in the bar of an officer club ( orduevi) as a barman or a receptionist etc. for instance. Many gypsy youths also obtain comfortable positions due to their traditional musical talents. Here is a case history now: When I was a lyce student, we had an Armenian friend named Aret. His mother sometimes used to come to our dormitory to fetch him clean laundry. She had a special way of calling out his sons name, elongating the second syllable while strongly stressing the letter r: A-reeet. Some boys even used to tease him (in a good-humoured manner) imitating his mothers way of uttering this name. Years later, when I was a sub-lieutenant (reserveofficer), I was once drinking tea in an officer club. I then happened to hear that characteristic call from the voice of an old lady! I felt as if I were again an adolescent in my former dormitory. Surprised, I wondered if Arets mother was in that same location now, by any chance! In fact, there she was, sitting in the same lounge a few meters away! Aret himself, also a sub-lieutenant now, was in charge of a section of that officer club. It is interesting to note that the role of armies in integrating and unifying ethnicities and even races, seems to be a true case for other countries, too. Armed Forces in America, where racial and ethnical tensions are high in the civilian society, also dilute such tensions. As Moskos and Butler (1996: 2) express; a visitor to an army dining facility is likely to see a sight rarely encountered elsewhere in American life: blacks and whites commingling and socializing by choice. As a rule of thumb the more military the environment, the more complete the integration. Interracial comity is stronger in the field than in garrison, stronger on duty than off, stronger oh post than in the world beyond the base (Moskos and Butler 1996: 2).

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3. EACH SOLDIERS VALUE IS RECOGNIZED PER SE AND IS EMPLOYED Command of foreign languages, nowadays including Balkanic languages with a view for a position in Bosnia or Kosova, also come into play for procurement of special duties in the Army. As another related case history, the story of Mahmut could be of some interest: He was a friend of mine while I was a freshman in the university. The son of an ambassador, Mahmut knew English and German perfectly. He was not a hard worker, though. Fond of an easy life, he built a low average in his courses and got dismissed at the end of the year. He could have deferred his military service and re-enter any other university in any other major and earn a reserve-officer status after graduation. This, he did not choose to do. Instead, he went to the Army service. He became a sergeant (avu) coming out of his basic training in the sergeant-courseprogram (avu talimgh) and ended up in Brussels in the NATO Headquarters, due to his foreign languages! He became a hero in our eyes because he chose to be a draftsman and also because he made his way to Brussels! After completing his service, he returned to the university, thanks to an academic amnesty. Now there wasnt a trace of frivolousness in Mahmut. He was a very responsible, hard-working and successful student. No wonder. The Army had done him a lot of good, as an anonymous folk poem ( mani) dictates: Tomatoes in the gardens/ Theyre used to make salads/ Let the rascal go to army/ To attain his wisdom! (Bahelerde domata / Ondan olur salata/ Varsn gitsin askere/ Akllansn kerata!). Such privileges during the army service are only cases of de facto discrimination but not real discrimination or favouritism of any kind. [In sociology there exists the concept of de facto discrimination. This concept

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emerges due to the needs of certain situations. For instance, if a minimum tallness of 1.67 meters is stipulated to become a police-officer, those candidates who do not meet this particular requirement, are not admitted to this profession (Mutlu 1996)]. In a similar manner, being tall is actually a virtue in the army. Militarypolicemen (inzibat) are recruited from among tall draftsmen. To enter some special units where being presentable in appearance matters (protective forces of National Palaces, Atatrks Mausoleum, The Guarding Regiment of the State President etc.), a private must be tall. Obviously, the more education one has, the better off he/she is almost anywhere, the army being no exception. On the anakkale Front, Colonel Mustafa Keml once saw a script in a beautiful calligraphy from the Holy Koran on the ramparts. He found the soldier who had written this script and said that such a talented man should not die in action. In spite of the soldiers objection, his commander sent him away from the front. This soldier later became a famous master calligrapher (std hattat). His name is Macit Ayral (summarized from Ulu December 4, 1998). (Ironically, in contrast to that, the Nobel Prize holder young scientist J. Mosely was a signal officer in the opposing British Army at the same time. He unfortunately got killed in action). 4. A RELIEF FOR THE OPPRESSED, FOR THE DEPRAVED Cultural deprivation (which has usually correlation with low financial income) may also, for that matter, indirectly work to the detriment of an individual in many cases all over the world. Even the casualty rates in action can be related to socio-economical status. As Schaefer and Lamm (1983: 200-201) let us know; a research carried out by Zeitlin and his co-workers in 1973 in the State of Wisconsin confirms this idea: 15% of the fathers of all high school seniors were poor. But, 27 % of the fathers, who had lost sons in Vietnam were poor.

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The casualty of the poor were disproportionately higher. Hoult (1979), Mayer (1955) and J. Willis (1975) arrived at similar conclusions in their work. Sons of well-to-do families would usually end up as officers and be less exposed to dangers than the enlisted men. Still, depraved and oppressed youths are better off in the military than everywhere else. [In the movie The First Blood this is expressed in the words of the frustrated ex-veteran (played by Silvester Stallone). There he was somebody, not a bum. Millions worth of equipment was confined to him. There was good friendship relations]. This is especially true in Turkey within the draft system. For many who feel as if they were outcasts (those who are poverty-stricken, those coping with problems, those coming from broken homes etc.) the service functions as therapy. The feeling of belonging develops maybe for the first time. Acceptance and respect is attained from inside the organization as well as from outside. [Writer and poet Salih Bolat had an interview with literary critique Selim leri on a television screen about the place of trains and railroads in literature. Bolat, the son of a railroad man, said at one point that formerly steam trains used to blow their whistles while passing throgh towns. Intermittent blows were those of freight trains. Passenger trains whistle was somewhat longer. But a train carrying soldiers would have a long, proud and somewhat bitter whistle, a sound which strikes the hearers with awe and which ransoms deference]. The following long case-history drastically illustrates how the concept of comradeship coupled with compatriotship and seniority working together in the military environment, outweigh an otherwise too strong and deeply embedded negative attitude like class-consciousness [Those who come earlier to service are senior to new-comers. Privates with no rank insignia are differentiated in this regard. When any two soldiers of equal standing come together one is in the leader, the other is in the follower position]:

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After completing his basic training in Manisa, private Yaar was appointed to a military establishment in stanbul, for the rest of his service. The date was the end of 1999. He was a darkly complected young man with bushy eyebrows. Here, they made him responsible from a certain corridor in the main building. He had to mop the floors, wipe the window panes, dispose the waste baskets. Though a naturally smart young man, he was illiterate. (His ending up in stanbul instead of a forsaken military troop elsewhere in the provinces, can be taken as a sub-theme as to verify the idea of justice in the military). Nowadays illiterate soldiers constitute a very small minority and the formerly common Ali-schools (Ali, a proper name, in those years came to designate an illiterate recruit) are abolished long ago. (One of Yaars favourite topics of conversation with other soldiers was his super-human efforts in locating his place of appointment in stanbul. Since he could neither read nor write, this proved to be quite an adventure for him!). A special, intensive evening program was arranged to give Yaar and a few other soldiers the basics of elementary education. Further studies for selfimprovement were said to be their own responsibilities. Unfortunately Yaar was little interested in further study. A major was in charge of a department occupying two adjacent rooms opening up to Yaars responsibility zone, his very corridor. And this officer at first tried to motivate Yaar with the following promise: When you obtain full command of reading, I will find enjoyable novels for you like the the Love of Baltac Pasha for Cathrin Baltac was an Ottoman pasha and Cathrin the Queen of Tsarist Russia. Are you not interested now, Yaar? [The novel Baltac ile Katarina, written by Murat Sertolu was a serial novel in 1970s emitted in a conservative newspaper, which many provincial readers used to enjoy. It is a fanciful historical novel dealing with the Prut Battle in

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1711 between Tsarist Russia and the Ottomans. Grand Vizier Baltac (The nickname means the axe-carrier) Mehmet Pasha was in charge of the Ottoman army. According to Turkish historians point of view, though he was in a position to crush the Russians; for the sake of the the beautiful Tsarin, imploring him for forgiveness, Baltac got generous and spared the Russians, contending with a little profitable peace treaty]. Alas, even such promises did not help much! Yaar was from a village of Kahraman Mara. He had grown up as an orphan. Moreover, he had had to take care of his two much younger brothers. Contenting with the little aid from distant relatives (themselves up to neck in poverty-stricken conditions); he had indulged in casual labor work whenever he could, including shoe-shining and drum-playing in wedding and circumcision ceremonies. Finally the neighbours incited him to get married in young age and move into the house of his fatherin-law as an igveysi (The literal translation is self-explanatory: It means an internal groom). Yaar had begot three children before he got conscripted to the army. On the verge of the Ramadan festival, the chief NCO of the support services company (where Yaar belonged to) informed the neighbour officers in the headquarters about Yaars distressful home conditions. He urged them all to allocate the traditional charity donations for this particular nefer (plain soldier), who cleans their offices every single day. (Most were already aware of his poverty; Yaar wasted no chance to broadcast it). [Once in an interview in a certain room he said to the present officers the following: The army feeds me. This is O.K. But one needs some cash for other needs. At least enough to buy the razor blades at the canteen ! complain about his stingy father-in-law, either]. A certain reserve-officer (sub-lieutenant) was especially moved by the tragic life story of Yaar. He donated a substantial sum off his January salary to Yaar. He did not neglect to

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However two days later Yaar approached him and notified him that he had sent the much-welcomed donation home to his brothers. He explained that now he had to make a phone call to ascertain that they had received the sum. The problem was that he was again broke and could not afford a long distance call. What if the sub-lieutenant would be kind enough to bestow him with the telephone money? Upon discovery of this shrewd, demanding attitude the sub-lieutenant immediately regretted his previous generosity, let alone agreeing to be further fleeced. Whatever Yaars opportunist outspokenness about his poverty and his readiness to maximize a possible golden-hearted benefactors financial aid may be; his poor and low socio-economical origins are only too obvious. [Moral/ ethical development is related to the social status. Certain social roles go with certain status holders. When the individual is conscious of the expectations of the social environment, he has to adjusts his steps as expected. Eventually, most of such outward behaviour is also internally adopted. This appears to act as a Rosenthal Effect/ self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon. Another argument for the mentioned greediness may be that the human nature is insatiable (especially in a capitalist culture). Henry Miller in his famous trilogy narrates his own youth and his strife for being accepted as a writer. In the last volume of the autobiographical novels (Nexus); he finally sells his first novel (if only under the name of his sweetheart, the unforgettable Mona) and before his trip to Europe, a tramp comes to him and asks for a dollar. The author takes out a dollar but puts it on the bench. Then he asks the tramp: Wouldnt it be more American to ask for more and to settle for less ?. The tramp observes this difficult man, this crazy philosopher, with utmost hatred. Then he snatches the money, runs away and swears at the author from across the road].

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Many months after Yaars arrival, a new recruit was assigned to the photocopy room nearby. One day the officer in charge of the department consisting of two rooms went there with a heavy bunch of official papers. Once the task was over, he felt obliged to talk to the recruit, out of thankfulness. The privates name was Mustafa. He was the son of a spare parts dealer for cars, a well-to-do man. With his expert knowledge and his yearslong-toil for his father Mustafa had his own claims over the shop, as well. And, where was that shop? In Mara, the home-city of our hero Yaar! Well then! Was Mustafa aware that other Maral (Maraian), his fellowcountryman? Yes, yes, they knew each other. Were they on good terms with each other? Yes, yes indeed! The officer thought that after all, Yaar was senior to Mustafa and this fact must have had a role in their relationships. A few tactful, insinuating questions seemed to confirm his thoughts. So much the better! Mutual advantages instead of a one-sided gain in friendship. Reciprocity saves the honour of a man and saves him from the suppression of all-queasy feelings of gratefulness. A final question from the officer was more like an ascertaining: Mustafa, the idea of compatriotship seems to be important in the soldiers home (asker oca), I suppose? Yes, my commander! In civilian life it is not the same thing, at least not to that extent! But it definitely something here in the army! So, in a military setting the social forces that can draw together two persons with two different backgrounds work like wonder! Elsewhere (even back home), the worlds of such two young men would have been wide apart. 5. CONCLUSION The compulsory military service welcomes and embraces all conscripts in Turkey. As the Turkish laws rightfully express it, the service is an obligation as well as a right for each young and healthy male individual.

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REFERENCES 1. JANOWITS, Morris (1975) Some Observations on the Comparative Analysis of Middle Eastern Military Institutions in PARRY, V.J. and YAPP; M.E. ed.: War, Technology and Society in the Middle East, Oxford University Press. 2. MOSKOS, Charles C. and BUTLER, John Sibley (1996) All That We Can Be, Basic Books, N.Y. 3. MUTLU, Kayhan ( 1994) Sosyolojide Etnik Sorun Kavram in Avrasya Dosyas, Cilt 1, Say 1, ankaya, Ankara. 4. ROBERTS. Thomas D. et all (April 1970) Area Handbook for the Republic of Turkey, The American University, Washington D.C. 5. SCHAEFER, Richard T. And LAMM, Robert P. (1983) Sociology, McGrawHill book Company, N.Y. 6. ULU, Hncal (December 4, 1998) Atatrk, Sanat, Askerlik in Sabah [Newspaper].

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