Bargaining in Institutionalized Settings: The Case of Turkish Reforms

When two parties are bargaining over an issue, how do they evaluate and define their preferred outcomes? Should bargaining positions best be analyzed in terms of strategic interactions and material interests, the persuasiveness of arguments, or the power of norms and ideals? Zeki Sarigil addresses these questions in a recent article in the European Journal of International Relations (16:3), which examines the bargaining involved in Turkish civil-military reform in the early 2000s. By examining bargaining over the function and composition of the Turkish National Security Council, Sarigil restricts the bargaining contexts to institutionalized settings, “in which a veto player strictly defends the status quo in a sensitive issue area” and thus tends to have more power during the bargaining.

In examining the case of Turkish civil-military reforms, Sarigil finds a surprising outcome: “despite the existence of a strongly pro-status quo veto player [the military], the bargaining processes led to a new status quo in Turkish civil-military relations, increasing civilian control of the military.” After examining records of the bargaining and interviewing high-ranking military officials, Sarigil argues that analyses based on strategic interaction, material interests, or persuasiveness of arguments cannot explain the outcome of the reform process. Instead, normative and ideational concerns — specifically, military officials did not want to lose legitimacy by being “perceived as an obstacle to Turkey’s century-old Westernization process” – carried the most power, and explains why the military conceded to a new status quo, civilian supremacy in the National Security Council. Sarigil thus offers us a new understanding of bargaining processes in institutionalized settings — power, material interests, and persuasive arguments are not always the determinants of bargaining outcomes.

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