Modernization, Democracy, and Islam

By Shireen T. Hunter; Huma Malik | Go to book overview

8
The Role of the Military

Elizabeth Picard

In the examination of the evolving role of the military in the economic and political life of the Middle Eastern countries and their popular image, the principal hypothesis of this chapter is that changes in those areas are rooted in recent history and are the result of certain watershed events. These events are the imperial conquest of the Middle East, the process of colonization and decolonization, and the impact of the bipolar international system of the post-World War II era and the East-West rivalry.

For most of the past fifty years, using a Weberian perspective, intellectuals and governments ascribed to the military a leading role in the modernization process. They viewed it as the main tool of a "new middle class" bound to give an impulse to national development; therefore, this chapter will analyze the military's role in light of the formation of Middle Eastern states and the transformation of their societies.1

Within this broad context, this chapter assesses the role of the military establishments in the reform process by looking at their recent record outside the purely military domain, and by examining their influence on, and participation in, the current attempts at modernization and democratization in the Middle East,2 and offers some hypotheses about the military's future role in view of the new global security priorities. In doing so, it focuses on some common features of the military in the Middle East—defined here as the region stretching from Morocco to Pakistan—and brings out the specific combination of domestic and international constraints that shapes the role of the military in politics in the Middle East Muslim states.

Clearly, the armed forces in Muslim countries share certain broad characteristics with other militaries in the world, such as social conservatism and resistance to invention and innovation, dealing with practical and ethical issues

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