By Joel Richardson
With Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamist AK party having seized its third landslide election victory in Turkey, many throughout the international community have been watching to see what will be next on the Turkish agenda.
Now there are strong indicators in the Turkish media that Turkey is planning on literally doubling the size of its army – this coming from the nation that already has the largest army in Middle East and the second-largest army in NATO, second only to the United States. Presently, Turkey's army has over 500,000 troops. Its army is larger than France, Germany and England combined. And now Turkish media are reporting that they are planning on adding another 500,000 paid soldiers.
According to Egemen Bağış, a state minister and Turkey's chief EU negotiator, the purpose of the army is to kill two birds with one stone, overcoming two of Turkey's biggest challenges: terrorism and unemployment. This move would create half a million new jobs for Turkey while answering once and for all Turkey's problem with Kurdish separatist terrorists in the southeast.
Bağış spoke to journalists at the Turkish ambassador's office in Brussels. "The government is prepared to hire 500,000 people. ... This structural change will also contribute to our struggle with unemployment," he said.
Turkey's nation defense minister, Vedci Gonul, stated that the new army is "the future of Turkey." But he also said that the actual number of paid soldiers is yet to be determined pending a government study. According to Gonul, the creation of such a large army could take several years to complete.
A poll conducted shows that 80 percent of Turks support the idea while only 9 percent are opposed.
Despite the government's claims that the purpose of the army would be to address terrorism, skepticism concerning such a massive force is well-deserved. First of all, creating an army this size merely to address Turkey's terrorism problem, primarily from the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group in the southeast, would be like trying to kill an ant using a nuclear warhead. Secondly, such a move certainly will only reinforce the concerns of those who believe that Turkey has broad-ranging neo-Ottoman regional aspirations.
The silence of the Western media has been surprising. Imagine Israel announcing an expansion of its forces by 500,000 men to address its Palestinian terrorism problem. Yet the Western media has yet to comment regarding Turkey's grandiose plans.
Such an expansion would be particularly concerning in light of the Turkish government's recent swing toward Islamist political alliances. They have worked to significantly reinforce strategic alliances with both Iran and Syria, two of the most well-established state sponsors of terrorism globally, while significantly cooling its relationship with Israel and the United States. Despite this, the Obama administration this past January, sold the Turkish Air Force 100 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets. Turkey already manufactures it's own F-16s.
It is also essential to once again remind ourselves of the recent accomplishments of the Islamist AK party under Prime Minister Erdogan's leadership. In just the past several years, the AK party has edged ever closer to establishing a full-blown dictatorship, all in the name of democracy. Since 2002, they have managed to accomplish the following:
- occupy the presidency;
- occupy the seat of prime minister;
- gain a large majority of seats in the parliament;
- fill the judiciary with Islamist-leaning judges;
- behead the top echelons of the military;
- infiltrate the police force (over 70 percent of officers are members the Islamist Gulen movement);
- intimidate and imprison Turkish journalists (there are more Turkish journalists in prison than any other nation in the world – more than China or Iran).
In last month's victory speech, Prime Minister Erdogan couldn't have made his regional ambitions any clearer:
"Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul, Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, Jerusalem won as much as Diyarbakir."In a follow up commentary piece, J.E. Dyer, a retired U.S. Naval intelligence officer asked how the world would take it if Nicolas Sarkozy had proclaimed that a victory for him was a victory for Moscow as much as Paris, for Washington as much as Lyon, for Ankara as much as Marseilles. Dyer then very appropriately reminded us that such comments are, "imperialist at worst, absurdly arrogant at best – to speak of your electoral victories as conferring benefits on foreign humanity – especially on those once occupied by your nation in its days of empire."
For years, several others and I have been warning of Turkey's neo-Ottoman dreams and regional ambitions. And for just as many years, the compliant left-wing media has mocked the notion. Within the next several years, with doubling of the Turkish army, it appears as though there will be 500,000 more reasons to worry about Turkey's regional ascension.
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