The Militarization of a Public Debate: A Discourse-Theoretical Analysis of the Construction of War and Peace in Public Debates Surrounding the Books of Three Turkish Military Commanders on the “1974 Cyprus Peace Operation”

Nico Carpentier, D. Beybin Kejanlıoğlu


This article focuses on a particular type of public debates, namely those that are related to war, and that thus have the potential to disrupt and damage democracy. More specifically, using Laclau and Mouffe’s (1985) discourse theory, we analyse the construction of war and peace in the public debates surrounding the books of three Turkish military commanders who fought in the Cypriot 1974 war, and who documented their experiences in a book: Muzaffer Sever (2012), Ali İhsan Gürcan (2013) and Haluk Üstügen (2015).

In this article, we first organise an extensive discourse-theoretical re-reading of the literature on war and peace, which supports the construction of a theoretical model of war and peace discourses. While war discourses arguably have five nodal points (Enemy-Self dichotomy; army as war assemblage; destruction and death; legitimations and aims of war; spatially and temporally restricted arena of intensified reality), we distinguish between two types of peace discourses: the photo-negativistic articulation of peace and the autonomous articulation of peace. The former’s nodal points are the inverse of those of the war discourse, while the latter’s nodal points are social harmony, economic equity and social justice; and the desire for, and the desirability of, peace.

This theoretical model is then deployed to structure a discourse-theoretical analysis of the public debates surrounding the three books. Here we firstly show the dominance of the war discourse (and its nodal points), which raises questions about the democratic desirability of these types of public debates. Secondly, our analysis also shows two significant nuances to this critical evaluation, as the public debates also provide space for dislocations of the war discourse and contain references to peace discourses (even though these are limited and often qualified).


Public debates; war discourse; peace discourse; discourse theory; Turkey; Cyprus; military commanders

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