New officers’ new creed: Ready, aim, democratize .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ANKARA - A changing mindset in the Turkish military has been the most important factor in ending the country’s era of military coups, according to former Chief of Staff Retired Gen. Hilmi Özkök.

Debates over the Turkish military’s attitude toward democracy flared up following the arrest of Cumhuriyet columnist Mustafa Balbay, who had published an article titled "Young Officers are Disturbed" in 2003. Özkök was the head of the Turkish military between 2002 and 2006.

"The young generation in the military thinks differently, they are more democratic," Özkök told daily Milliyet. "They receive a very good education," he said, adding that it often includes knowledge of a foreign language that enables them to more closely follow world developments.

"In the past, the approach to those who served in NATO would be different," Özkök said. "However, serving in NATO opens up the horizons for military officers."

Military coups are also related to a country’s level of development, Özkök said, adding that Turkey has experienced progress in terms of its economy and its education levels. "Countries that have developed in terms of economic and social areas do not experience military coups," he said.

Özkök said technological developments are another factor in bringing an end to military coups and underscored the role of the Internet in information sharing. "Currently, nothing can remain unknown or be kept secret," he said.

Social awareness

Social awareness about the democratic process has increased in Turkey too, Özkök said. "We have witnessed the change at Republic rallies. People set their stance in a direct and democratic way." Responding to claims that members of the Ergenekon gang staged the rallies, Özkök said there might have been some different groups involved, but that they were few in number.

Using the "Transformation Command" within NATO as an example, Özkök said scientific studies that help people "learn from the past" are also an important impeding factor in terms of military coups.

Prosecutors in the Ergenekon case said yesterday that Özkök may be required to testify soon. They plan to question him on whether he knew about the alleged plots against the government during his term in office and, if so, what measures he took against them.

Özkök was criticized for his moderate stance against the government in the "coup diaries" purportedly penned by former Sea Forces Commander Özden Örnek. His name has also loomed large lately, after notes attributed to arrested journalist Balbay were found in a police raid as part of the Ergenekon investigation. Özkök has said he would make a deposition, either as a witness or a suspect, if prosecutors requested that he do so.