The Turkish top brass's self-inflicted wounds over the last several years range from the churlish, such as the refusal by some generals to shake the hand of President Abdullah Gul's headscarved wife at a state reception, to the deeply damaging, such as the 2007 release of an online statement registering the military's commitment to secularism and its opposition to Gul's candidacy for president. Despite what came to be known as the "e-coup," not only did Gul become president, but the AKP successfully used the incident to portray itself as a victim of military meddling and increased its share of the vote in the parliamentary elections later that year.
Some of the Turkish military's missteps, meanwhile, were the result of shocking negligence. In 2008, for example, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked the Aktutun border outpost, near the Iraqi border, killing 17 Turkish soldiers. Taraf reported that the military failed to respond to images from aerial drones that showed PKK guerrillas preparing to attack, raising troubling questions about whether the military could have done more to prevent the loss of life. The armed forces' reputation was weakened further by the release of photos showing the air force commander, whose services provided backup during the rescue attempt, on vacation playing golf the day of the bloody attack, seemingly oblivious to what had happened. "Resign, My Pasha," read the front-page headline in the popular Vatan newspaper, using the Ottoman term for military generals.
Even in terms of the various court cases against it, which have their strong skeptics, the military has miserably failed to keep up with the times. Take the most famous of these, the Balyoz, or "Sledgehammer" case, in which some 200 officers are accused of hatching a 2003 plot to topple the government. According to the indictment, the scheme included plans for the bombing of Istanbul mosques and the roundup of ideological opponents in sports stadiums. The military retorted that the prosecution's evidence is not part of a coup plan but rather from a simulation of a domestic security crisis. Both sides may be right. Turkish law since 1960 has given the military the malleable imperative to "preserve and protect the Republic of Turkey," and for decades part of the Turkish military's self-declared job description was to stand guard over the country's secular system and be as prepared for domestic threats as it was for external ones. What some see as coup planning the Turkish generals saw as a natural exercise in threat preparedness. What they had disastrously failed to recognize was that this part of their job was no longer critical, but, in today's Turkey, criminal.
The resignation of Kosaner and the other generals shows that the Turkish military is now a tool of state power, rather than the other way around. It's a great victory for Erdogan and the AKP, but it also comes with a heavy burden. By removing what has been described as the greatest roadblock to Turkey's further democratization, the AKP must now prove that it can deliver the democratic goods it has been promising. If it can't, it may find itself forced to find another punching bag.