6 April 2010

New Approaches to Security and the Transformation of the Turkish Military - (Ret.) Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt

Since the stone age, security has always been on people’s agenda. Without doubt, the theory and practice of security has been continuously transformed in every era depending on nations’ concerns, interests and technologic advancements. In ancient times, people were probably not interested in global climate change. When we look at the history of approaches to security, states and groups of states have paid close attention to a wide range of concerns, such as war, cold war, asymmetric threat terrorism and, in our day increasingly important Cyber war.

The truth is history never repeats itself exactly. When deriving lessons from the past, a very good analysis of the factors that differentiate the past and the present has a vital importance. For example, following lessons it derived from the First World War, France prepared for WWII by constructing an incredible network of bunkers against German invasion, the backbone of defensive structure according to the principles of trench warfare. However, the German conception, Blitzkrieg, rapidly shattered French defensive line and reached the shores of the English Channel.

We can investigate “new approaches to security and the transformation of militaries” under three sections. In the first section, the historical development of security strategies will be considered. In the second section, we will investigate the future of the Turkish Armed Forces and finally, we will look at the future of security.

Turkey and the Transformation of Security since WWII

The end of WWII can be defined as the most important turning point of recent history. Russia and the United States essentially fought WWII as allies, and became adversaries at the end of the war, establishing the bipolar world. This period, marked by the division of Germany, the emergence of Russia as the Soviet Union and the establishment of NATO in opposition to the Soviets, initiated the Cold War, which allowed the bipolar system to last until the early 1990s. It also resulted in the birth of a very important approach to security.

NATO membership, following the Korean War, significantly changed Turkey’s approach to security, because nations no longer existed alone like stars in the universe, but were part of a greater system.

The logic behind security structures such as NATO, a grouping of nations, is directly related to threat assessment. Threat assessment during the Cold War was extremely simple. There was NATO on one side, and the Warsaw Pact on the other. According to threat assessment, the Warsaw Pact would attack and NATO would respond to this attack. According to this understanding, the Warsaw Pact is the aggressor and NATO is the defender. All security planning was dependent on this fundamental principle.

Another matter that should not the overlooked is the fact that intelligence is used for political ends from time to time. The driving powers of NATO (above all, the United States) tried to make the threat seem greater than it was with exaggerated approaches. Books were written to this end. According to these books, an attack by Warsaw Pact and Soviet forces could descend to the shores of Baltic Sea in a week. Yet the military effectiveness of the Soviet Union began to decrease towards the end of the 1970s. However, this fact was carefully avoided in NATO documents. The main reason behind this was to hold NATO together.

In 1990, NATO experienced a great shock following the collapse of Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and since the threat that was the NATO’s raison d'être had disappeared the existence of NATO began to be debated. After this turning point, as those who experienced it know, NATO offered two approaches. The first approach was the decision to reduce NATO headquarters personnel by 20%. The second approach was the inclusion of North African radical religious movements in threat assessments. These approaches are typically used by powerful nations. In fact, the famous historian Toynbee’s “Challenge and Response” thesis is the product of such logic. Furthermore, Huntington embraced this idea and used it as the basis for his “Clash of Civilizations.” The point that has been elaborated here is this: nations must evaluate national security from the perspective of their own interests. National security governance cannot be done with imported threat assessments. Every nation should construct its own threat assessments.

In fact, the United States has argued that its two interventions in Iraq were due to Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction; however, as the then US Secretary of State has admitted, this was not true. In this process the concept of security changed significantly. Territorial gains have faded into history. At present, the United States is planning to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the current situation, “national interest” has the priority over territorial gains in the current understanding of security. This is the biggest change. Towards the end of his life Ataturk described the annexation of Hatay as follows: “I am not interested in territorial expansion. I do not have a habit of breaking the peace. However, I will insist on my rights when they depend on treaties. I must exercise my rights. I promised in parliament that I will take Hatay. My nation believe in my words. If I cannot fulfill my promise, I cannot face the nation, I cannot stay where I am.”

New World Disorder

How would the United States orient security in the unipolar world created by the end of the Cold War? This matter’s importance was global. During this period, a bipartisan commission was set up in the United States. This commission published its report on 12 July 2000. In this report, the national interests of the United States were divided into four categories: vital interests, very important interests, important interests and secondary interests. Within this framework, five goals were identified as vital interests:

- Preventing nuclear, biological and chemical attacks against the United States or the forces of the United States
- Protecting allied nations
- Preventing the emergence of powerful adversaries or failed states on the borders of the United States,
- Protecting the stability and existence of the global systems of international politics, financial markets and the environment
- Establishing effective cooperation with the possible strategic adversaries China and Russia in accordance with the national interests of the United States

In addition to these five points, “Very Important” and “Important” interests were also defined. This category includes the prevention of WMD proliferation, ensuring respect for international law, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the prevention of genocide. We need to approach this report, which was published in 2000, critically.

- When we examine the list, the prevention of the proliferation of WMD, which was used as justification for occupation of Iraq some time after the publishing of the report, was not included in “vital interests.” Another weakness of the report is that it overlooked the US’s energy needs.
- Terrorism was not touched upon (one year after the report, the 9/11 attacks occurred).

This shows that the US’s mistake was caused by its overconfidence in the unipolar world structure that followed the Cold War. Security studies have shown, with examples, that overconfidence and arrogance can lead to miscalculations.

This paper’s author was working at NATO’s headquarters in Belgium during the pre-Khomeini Iran incidents. Every morning, briefings regarding developments in Iran were issued to then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Alexander Haig. After every briefing, it was said, “The Iranian military is loyal to the Shah, nothing will happen.” One day the Shah fled the country, and Khomeini returned. The next morning the commander told his SACEUR briefing officer. “Major, you have not provided the right evaluation to me about this matter.” The briefing officer replied “Sir, the information I have given you was wholly based on information that we received from US intelligence. You need to pose this question to them.”

No matter how strong your security evaluations are, you surely have some weaknesses. You should not ignore this fact. There is another issue that we need to touch upon concerning post-Cold War security. It relates to European nations,’ including other NATO members, perspective on military force in the post-Cold War environment. Nations considerably downsized their military forces following the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and the disappearance of a threat to Europe. Initially, this approach seems reasonable. However, force weaknesses that appeared after assuming responsibilities in Afghanistan, first by the US, then by NATO, have become most important item in the agenda of NATO. The most important item on the agenda of the NATO Military Committee during the last few years has been the need for the deployment of more forces in Afghanistan. This matter closely interests Turkey.

Changes in the Conception of Security in the Post-9/11 Environment

It was rapidly understood that the US intervention in Afghanistan would not yield results. Since then, US pressure on NATO yielded results, and NATO assumed responsibilities in Afghanistan. This decision was NATO’s biggest mistake ever. The current situation proves it.

Various nations took charge in Afghanistan. The soldiers that were send by these nations did not meet the required force levels in Afghanistan, thus, these states put limits, generally referred to as a “caveats” on their force levels. Another issue soon became apparent was the realization that the forces deployed were insufficient to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan. What should be done transformed into sending more troops. Here, the Turkish Armed Forces felt the most pressure. According to the US, Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) is a human storehouse. However, they were forgetting something. The TAF have been fighting terrorism since 1984. In this fight, the TAF suffered more than 5,000 casualties and it was fighting alone. The Turkish nation’s attitude towards martyrs in the fight against terrorism was “Long Live the Homeland.” If martyrs started coming back from Afghanistan, how could this be explained to the nation? This is why Turkey decided not to send troops for fight terrorism in Afghanistan. This resolve is unshaken.

On the other hand, for Afghanistan Turkey has been one of the most helpful nations since the very beginning. Its main mission for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) is in the Kabul region, and antiterrorism was not included in its mission statement. The Turkish Armed Forces successfully assumed command of this force during ISAF-II and ISAF-VII. Turkey assumed the command during these periods without help from other nations and succeeded.

Apart from the ISAF, the TAF assumed another important mission. This mission was the management of Kabul’s airport. This airport is Afghanistan’s only connection to the rest of the world. The airport is located in a pocket surrounded by Himalayas on one side and the Hindu Kush mountain range, and all of its facilities were destroyed and surrounded by minefields. The Turkish Air Force successfully managed Kabul Airport during ISAF-II and ISAF-VII. Among the nations that operate in Kabul and its vicinity, only Turkish soldiers are conducting foot patrols, since between Turkey and Afghanistan there is a cooperation rooted in historical realities. This cooperation began with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1922, before the official founding of the Republic of Turkey. Ataturk’s first decision appointed ambassadors to build bridges between Turkey and two other states. One of these states was Azerbaijan and the other was Afghanistan. The ambassador who was appointed to Afghanistan was one of Ataturk’s close friends. Furthermore, two groups were established to be sent to these nations. The first group was a medical team and second group was a security and military training team. These initiatives caused the extraordinary sympathy of the Afghan people for Turkey. Those, who went there under the circumstance of those days, devoted their lives to Afghan people and died there. Some of these people’s tombs are located and maintained in Kabul. The aim here is not only to remember the past, but also establish a perspective for today. For one day a report was mailed to Ankara from Afghanistan. The report was prepared by the Turkish unit deployed in Afghanistan and there were striking photos in it. The upshot of the report: some nations fighting terrorism in the southern part of the country, where the level of terrorism was high, attach small Turkish flags on their left shoulders to feel safe. This fact seems to need no further comment.

Two-Headed NATO and Turkey

The reality that has emerged is this: events in Afghanistan cannot directly affect Turkey. However, while global actors implement policies and strategies, the expectations
of these global actors, especially NATO and the US, may conflict with and even contradict Turkey’s interests. Since 9/11, according to public aspects of the event, the United States’ has approached the situation as counter-terrorism, and this approach has won important public support. Former US President Bush’s words, “If terror hit us at home, we will hit them where they live,” testify to this. At first glance these words seem meaningful. The US intervention in the Gulf War was initiated with the slogan, “Freedom for Kuwait.” However, it ended up meaning,“Freedom for Al Sabah and the Protection of US interests”. The intervention in Afghanistan began with the US slogan, “Enduring Freedom.” However, the initial expressions never corresponded to the desired results.

To this end, the attempt to use the NATO Response Force (NRF) to fight terrorism was initiated. The NATO Response Force is a force pool formed by member nations. Members allocate force to the pool according to their strength. Under normal circumstances these forces (in place forces) would not be deployed elsewhere, but remain in their home countries. When NATO need to intervene in a crisis, these forces are responsible for the initial intervention until the main force is ready. When the main force deployed, they immediately withdraw from operational theater. By definition, it is the force that enters and leaves the crisis region first. NATO Commander (SACEUR) have no authority over the use of this force. The authority belongs to NATO Military Committee and the supreme decision making body, the NATO Council. In both of these bodies, Turkey has equal rights and decisions are made unanimously.

At this point, this is the threat to Turkey. In 2007, SACEUR came up with a proposal to change the concept of the NATO Response Force. According to the proposal, the NRF role, first to enter and first to leave, would be annulled and this force would become SACEUR’s strategic reserve. Under these circumstances, Turkey’s opposition at the equally represented Military Committee and NATO Council would be be rendered useless. In practice, the NATO Commander could doubtlessly use this force anywhere. This would have meant Afghanistan. Under these circumstances, Turkey could be involved in terror in Afghanistan against its will. This proposal was not accepted due to Turkey’s objection.

When we consider NATO’s Afghanistan operation and Turkey’s position, NATO could ask, what must be done?:

- It is necessary to see Afghans with Pakistan
- Instability in this nation concerns not only these two nations, but whole region.
- Here the key state is Pakistan.

If developments in the region continue without resolution, Pakistan could come under the control of radical religious groups like Taliban, Al-Qaeda and others. Certainly, this is a scary scenario. Why it is scary? Such a development would offer a horrifying picture to front of all the world. This awful picture is that of, for first time in the history, a terror organization armed with nuclear weapons. In this situation instability would spread to India.

- NATO and the US’s ideas of counter-terrorism in the region should change entirely.
- Terrorists and people should be separated. The best example for this are Turkey’s practices in its fight against terrorism. These are also an example for Israel.
- Very serious, not cosmetic, steps should be taken to improve Afghanistan’s economic and social development. This has not yet been done.
- International support at highest level should be provided to bring stability to Pakistan. Disablement of Pakistan central government is the beginning of the chaos scenario.

“The struggle against terrorism should be global,” which leaders say, is an ungrounded statement. There are hundreds of agreements at the United Nations. However, the UN has yet to define terrorism. Thus, we find the division of “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” in all regions. At this point, an inescapable question arises. How do you fight something that we cannot define? Certainly, you cannot. These days the United States, while planning to withdraw its soldiers from Iraq, is trying to send soldiers to Afghanistan. This is a sign of failure.

We’ll complete our evaluation of Afghanistan by providing two examples from the past. These two examples are about leaders’ perspective on the future and they are quite striking. Eleven years after the First World War, Churchill said during a speech in Canada; “For the last fifty years, the hope for peace has never been this strong;” however, ten years after this speech, a new world war broke out and drug human history into disaster.

The second example is from Ataturk. Against the excessive English optimism we just described, Ataturk invited the British Ambassador Percy Loraine and made this evaluation: “Honorable Ambassador, I have been saddened by the statements of British officials. There is a danger and it is growing. Dark clouds in the European skies are getting thicker every day. According to my evaluation within four to five years, Italy and Germany will be united and a Second World War will break out.” The date of this meeting was July 1936. This evaluation is more than a prophecy. One year after Hitler’s rise to power and six years before the appeasement between Chamberlain and Hitler Ataturk made an even more striking statement to General McArthur, “Germany will soon be able build an army capable of occupying all of Europe, except for the United Kingdom and Russia.”

The scope of national security has changed. In addition to this change in scope, the dimensions of threat and security have spread to a wide range. In the current situation, the expression “security is everywhere or nowhere” has emerged. Institutions that are responsible for security have a more difficult job than they did in the past, because the concept has acquired a definition that goes beyond the interests of security forces.

New Dimensions of Security and Turkey

Naturally, analyzing the Iraq Wars by abstracting from the Middle East is inevitable. Within a period of ten years (1991-2003) Iraq experienced two US interventions. The aim of the first Gulf War was to liberate Kuwait, and the second Gulf War was to get rid of the WMDs in Iraq and oust Saddam. Results have shown that both justifications were not the real intentions of the US. However, there is a truth for Turkey in both interventions. Turkey is the country that has suffered most.

Today, public opinion understands “security” as security forces, such as the military (including gendarmerie), police, rangers, etc., and this is normal. However, many more influential actors that affect national interests have emerged, thus categorizing these have become a necessity. In some articles and books, such new actors and threats are presented in a fragmented fashion rather than as a whole. However, looking at the phenomenon as a whole will help develop the bigger picture. No doubt, the reality cannot be provided as a whole with no weaknesses and even mistakes. However, every approach that puts forward a differentiation helps us reaching a better understanding through interaction.

Hot War Cold War Asymmetric Threat Ideological Differentiation Terror
Armed Forces Military-Political Cyber War Rightist Global
Economic Pressures Leftist Local
Political Pressures Radical Groups
International Sanctions Mafia-like formations
Bilateral Sanctions Drug trafficking

Psychological Operations Human trafficking
Pressures by Groups of States
Intentional NGO Pressures
Exploitation of Social Differences
Initiatives that Disturb Stability
Ethnic, Religious, Social Provocations
Movements to Construct Minorities

When this table is examined, the easiest sections to understand are the first two sections: hot and cold war. Today, hot wars (like the Gulf Wars) have become the exception. Cold wars have lost their global reach to a great degree. However, on the regional level, such tensions exist in bi- or trilateral relations. Another issue that needs to be discussed is the section “Asymmetrical Threats,” located in the center of the table. The threats that are described here threaten many states one way or another. In this scope, it is impossible to point out which states are being targeted by the twelve asymmetric threats identified. Some assumptions can be put forward. The author of this paper defined these threats and practices in various speeches for the first time as “Dark Wars,” since all of these activities are covert activities. For example, the Cyber attack on Estonia in 2008 crippled Estonia, which was using internet communication. Daily life, including banking sector, came to a halt in Estonia. According to estimates, internet communications totally collapsed. Estonia’s internet life is the busiest in Europe. As a result, cyber warfare is the most important war method of the future.

Now, according to the asymmetric threats table, which of the defined threats does Turkey face? Certainly, it is not possible to indicate exactly which of twelve threats target Turkey. However, if the people who live in this country would carefully consider developments, they would see some of the realities. Only this example can be given: what caused the collapse of the Turkish economy in 2000-2001. How did billions of dollars leave Turkey in one night? Isn’t this “some kind of a dark war?”

Greece and Turkey

From the perspective of Turkey’s security, without a doubt Turkish-Greek relations come to the fore. Greece acquired the most advantageous position in its history by becoming an EU member along with the South Cyprus administration. The European Union showed its position towards Turkey by accepting the South Cyprus Greek administration, which had rejected the Annan Plan, into the EU. This approach is impossible to justify with acceptable reasons. In the EU reports, while it is foreseen that Turkey will “resolve border disputes with its neighbors” (and Turkey does not have border disputes with any of its neighbors), it ignores the problem in Cyprus, the EU’s interesting approach to the Cyprus issue has been recorded by history.

Greece desires to increase its territorial waters to 12 miles. What this means is that the Aegean Sea would become a Greek sea. Turkey’s “decision of casus belli” regarding this initiative froze these desires. However, it is strange to observe that there are some circles, even in Turkey, that desire the annulment of this decision. Another Greek claim is that Turkish fighter planes are violating Greek airspace. This claim has no backing in any international document. Turkish fighter planes are entering Aegean international airspace for training purposes and according to Greek claims our planes cross the FIR line, justifying their claim that Greek airspace has been violated. FIR line stands for flight information region and Greece has no sovereignty over it. Greece’s judgement that the FIR line is in its national airspace has no legal basis whatsoever.

Another issue is related to airspace of islands. According to international rules, the airspace of islands is limited to borders of territorial waters. Since the territorial waters of islands are limited to six miles, the airspace of islands are also limited to six miles. Although these are the facts, Greece claims, “Yes, the territorial waters of the islands is six miles, but their airspace is ten miles.” This initiative has no legal basis. In addition to the three main problems I’ve mentioned, there is a claim about the Economic Exclusive Zone. A line is drawn from Rhodes island to Kastelorizo (Meis) island, which is practically just a rock formation, and this line is extended to the middle of Mediterranean, and then it is claimed, “This region is our Economic Exclusive Zone.” This is an attempt to confine Turkey, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, to the Gulf of Antalya.

When this basic strategic approach is considered, it can be seen that problems between Turkey and Greece will continue to affect Turkey’s security assessments. This situation has the potential of triggering security problems between Turkey and the EU.

The Turkish Armed Forces

Turkey is located in a difficult region and in this region, only the powerful can continue to exist. Being powerful in this region means, above all, having deterrent armed forces. The Turkish Armed Forces have been moving in this direction in a planned and organized manner. This approach is necessary and healthy. When we examine the projects of recent years that have been completed or are on their way toward completion this can be seen. Looking at the Air Force, Navy and Army one can see how the Turkish Armed Forces are preparing for the future.

In the current environment, not only has the TAF’s view of the future changed, but so has that of all modern armed forces, for two reasons. The first reason is that security and areas of interest associated with it have expanded abnormally. Today, when Turkey is examined, the geography that extends from the Balkans to the Middle East, and from there to Afghanistan, has all been included in Turkey’s, and thus the TAF’s, area of interest. Naturally, in projections concerning the future, this matter must unavoidably be taken into account. The second important change is that the threats, risks and national interests that affect the Armed Forces concept, doctrine and restructuring have diversified to a great extent. As mentioned above, the simple understanding of defense and security planning during the Cold War period has been very much complicated in the post-Cold War and, especially, in the post-9/11 environment. When technological advances are included, the case becomes even more complicated.

Under the framework of above general understanding, some of the priorities of the structure of armies should be identified as follows:

a. Successful security planning depends on healthy projections. Without a doubt, determined threats and risks within projections should be free from prejudices and out dated approaches. The truth is this is not an easy task.
b. There is no single nation that has a defense industry capable of supplying 100% of the needs of a modern army. However, the level of the technological capabilities of a defense industry and a low level of foreign dependency determine the strength of the industry. In this matter, although Turkey has improved significantly, it cannot be said to be sufficient. The main reason behind this is the wrong approach to R&D. A weapon system is not a technology by itself. There are subcategories that compose such weapon system. R&D activities in a given nation and funding for this purpose should aim at obtaining these subcategories. Otherwise, when the need for a system arises, procurement of this system through R&D means the sacrifice of at least 10 years. However, if the sub-technology pool has been established, a good deal of the need can be satisfied. Missing technologies can be bought or produced jointly (joint venture). This approach should take hold in the defense industry.
c. The public constantly debates. Why don’t we establish a 100% professional Army? In order to maintain the Armed Forces’ current force numbers and become 100% professional, the current National Defense Budget should be increased two fold, which under current budget conditions is impossible. We must ask how sensible it is for those who do not know this fact to bring up the debate so often. However, a great effort is being made to employ specialized personnel for missions that require specialization. With the deployment of technological weapon systems, there can be reasonable force reductions. This approach can be called “Effectiveness through reduction.”
d. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. The Armed Forces is also a system. All the sub-elements of this system should have similar capabilities. The holistic structure of the Armed Forces should not be overlooked. No matter how many technological systems one has, these technologies will be used by humans. Any army’s generals, admirals, officers, NCOs, specialists, soldiers, civil servants and workers are the parts of a greater system. The training system of a modern Armed Forces should be very strong. In the last years, the biggest improvements have probably been made in the field of training.

This writing can be taken as a modest reflection on fifty-three years of observation, experiences and knowledge gathering in state service. The turning points in conceptions security began with the emergence of the Cold War following the end of WWII, since the twentieth century’s greatest shift in conceptions of security emerged during the Cold War. Shortly after the Cold War, the first Gulf War occurred. Then, in less than ten years, the 9/11 attacks initiated a new world disorder. These events were followed by the Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War.

There is a lesson that these developments have taught us. Mankind, since ancient times, has dreamed of flying. They dreamed of flying until the nineteenth century, and at the beginning of the twentieth century they succeeded. Fifty years later, they set foot on the Moon. It is not only in science and technology that steps are getting smaller, but also in conceptions of security that steps are getting smaller. Today will carry us into the future. Therefore, before looking at the future, we need to see today very clearly. History does not only not forgive those who wrongfully look at the future, but also those who are unable to see the present.

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