Istanbul on the Nile

Why the Turkish Model of Military Rule Is Wrong for Egypt

Courtesy Reuters

In the weeks and months since Egypt’s military officers forced then President Hosni Mubarak from power and assumed executive authority, the country’s military rulers have shown an interest in applying what many have taken to calling the “Turkish model.” Spokesmen for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), along with some civilian politicians, have floated the idea of replicating in Egypt today aspects of a bygone era in Turkish politics.

Despite some similarities between the Egyptian and Turkish armed forces, Egypt’s officers would be ill advised to try to emulate their counterparts in Turkey. Not only would they be bound to fail but, in the process, would make the struggle to build the new Egypt far more complex and uncertain.

Egypt’s military commanders are not so much interested in the latest manifestation of the Turkish model, in which a party of Islamist patrimony oversees political and economic reforms as part of an officially secular state, but rather an older iteration of it. This version of the Turkish model was a hallmark of Turkey’s politics from the time of the republic’s founding in 1923 until the early 2000s. It offers a template for civil-military relations in which the military plays a moderating role, preventing -- at times, through military-led coups -- the excesses of civilian politicians and dangerous ideologies (in Turkey’s case, Islamism, Kurdish nationalism, and, at one time, socialism) from threatening the political order.

Turkey’s political system had a network of institutions that purposefully served to channel the military’s influence. For example, the service codes of the armed forces implored officers to intervene in politics if they perceived a threat to the republican order, and military officers held positions on boards that monitored higher education and public broadcasting. Meanwhile, various constitutional provisions made it difficult for undesirable groups -- notably, Islamists and Kurds -- to participate in the political process.

The most prominent among the military’s channels of influence was the

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