Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring

Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring

Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring

Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring


Following the popular uprisings that swept across the Arab world beginning in 2010, armed forces remained pivotal actors in politics throughout the region. As demonstrators started to challenge entrenched autocratic rulers in Tunis, Cairo, Sana'a, and Manama, the militaries stormed back into the limelight and largely determined whether any given ruler survived the protests. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, senior officers pulled away from their presidents, while in Algeria, Bahrain, and Syria, they did not. More important, military officers took command in shaping the new order and conflict trajectories throughout that region.

Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring explores the central problems surrounding the role of armed forces in the contemporary Arab world. How and why do military apparatuses actively intervene in politics? What explains the fact that in some countries, military officers and rank-and-file take steps to defend an incumbent, while in others they defect and refrain from suppressing popular protest? What are the institutional legacies of the military's engagement during, and in the immediate aftermath of, mass uprisings?

Focusing on these questions, editors Holger Albrecht, Aurel Croissant, and Fred H. Lawson have organized Armies and Insurgencies in the Arab Spring into three sections. The first employs case studies to make comparisons within and between regions; the second examines military engagements in the Arab uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria; and the third looks at political developments following the cresting of the protest wave in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and the Gulf. The collection promotes better understanding not only of the particular history of military engagement in the Arab Spring but also of significant aspects of the transformation of political-military relations in other regions of the contemporary world.


Politics in any society involves the management of coercive power. Therefore, the interactions between the armed forces and other actors, organizations, and institutions of the political system have important consequences for the stability and survival of all forms of political regimes (Croissant and Kuehn 2015). In authoritarian regimes, the “civil-military problematique” (Feaver 1996) is particularly pertinent: autocracies tend to maintain a much larger coercive apparatus than democracies do, of which the military is the largest and most powerful. While most dictators rely on the police and specialized internal security agencies for everyday repression, the military is the final guarantor of regime security against vertical threats that arise from the citizenry (Svolik 2012). However, a strong military is a double-edged sword for authoritarian leaders. A more powerful military is more effective in repressing political conflicts between the ruling elite and the masses but at the same time may create threats to regime survival that emerge from within the regime coalition, as is demonstrated by the high frequency of coups in autocratic regimes (Frantz and Ezrow 2011; Croissant 2013a). Moreover, a strong military is in a better position to demand substantial political and economic concessions in exchange for its role in maintaining the regime (Acemoglu and Robinson 2006:219; Bhave and Kingston 2010).

Therefore, no authoritarian government can hold on to the reins of power without the expressed consent of military leaders. This is especially . . .

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