Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Civil-Military Relations in the Arab-Majority World: The Impacts on Democratization and Political Violence

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Civil-Military Relations in the Arab-Majority World: The Impacts on Democratization and Political Violence

Article excerpt

Armed Politics in the Arab-Majority World

"We haven't seen the end of this yet ... there is a coming parliament, it may ask questions, and I wonder what will we do about that ... we have to prepare to confront this without negatively affecting us," said General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi to a group of military officers during a meeting. (1) The statement summarized the weariness of Arab militaries from elected institutional oversight. It reflects an environment in which the supremacy of armed institutions over other state institutions has been a legacy in the last six decades in most of the Arab-majority world. This legacy was briefly challenged during the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. But in most of the aforementioned countries, armed state institutions and armed non-state actors have reasserted their supremacy in an unprecedentedly violent fashion.

The saga of politicized, armed institutions in the Arab-majority world is not new. It manifested itself in a trend that started with Bakr Sidqi's coup in Iraq in 1936. The saga directly impacts national reconciliations, the functioning of state institutions, civil society, citizen security, democratization, and human rights. Within the "Arab Spring" countries, the prospects for social stability, and thereby economic recovery, will remain bleak if the relationship between civilian and armed institutions are not redefined and the armed institutions gradually brought under the control of democratic rules of political competition.

The article argues that the future of democratization and political violence in the Arab-majority world can be strongly affected by reconfiguring civil-military relations. The article addresses the nature of the militaries in the Middle East and North Africa, and overviews a series of the critical issues hindering progress towards balanced civil-military relations in the region. It concludes with the impacts of unbalanced civil-military relations on democratization and political violence in the region.

Militaries in Arab-Majority States: Natures and Behavioral Impacts

To date, the militaries' involvements in the politics of the Middle East and North Africa have yielded at least four models: a "guardian" model, a "dominant institution" model, a "sectarian-tribal" model, and a "less-politicized" model. Turkey's military establishment prior to the reforms of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) represented the first model: an armed institution that believes that it created the modern Turkish state. It also believes that it gave Turkey its modern identify and that its mission is to protect that identity in a supra-constitutional fashion. (2) The second model, the dominant institution one, is represented by the Egyptian and the Algerian militaries. In that model, the army neither created the state, nor gave it its identity. However, it is an intact, independent institution that believes in its superiority compared to any other state institution or non-state entity, including elected bodies, civilian judicial ones, and political parties/groups. That superior armed institution has specific privileges, which usually include a package of economic benefits and at least a veto in high politics. (3) A third model is a tribal-sectarian one. Here, the armed institution enjoys the same benefits found in the "dominant institutional" model, but is controlled by a specific faction/subgroup within a religious sect or a tribal coalition. The latter model is exemplified by the Assad regime in Syria and the Qaddafi regime in Libya. A relatively less-politicized model exists in Tunisia; almost a unique case in the region. Here, the armed institution does not fit any of the above models. But guarantees to sustain Tunisia's relatively apolitical army still need further developments. Coup-proofing measures, building a de-politicized professional identity, fostering the loyalty to the constitution as opposed to the direct commanders, transparency and oversight by elected bodies, and legal reform measures are all critical to maintain and enhance such a unique model. …

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