Militaries, civilians and the crisis of the Arab state

By Yezid SayighCarnegie Middle East Center

* This memo was prepared for “The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State” workshop held at the London School of Economics and Political Science Middle East Centre, October 10, 2014.  

The civil-military relationship has proven central to the politics of many Arab countries, both those that underwent transition in 2011 and those that did not. The attempt to renegotiate constitutional frameworks and set up new political arrangements under conditions of profound uncertainty notably intensified existing patterns in their civil-military relations, to the point of transforming them. Those transformations also come in response to the longer-building crisis of the state, structural trends of social transformation and changes in global military affairs and security agendas pre-dating the Arab Spring.

The breakdown of authoritarian control and transition in systems of governance weakened political and legal constraints on the military in the Arab Spring countries. In Egypt and Tunisia, characterized by relatively strong state institutions and highly formal militaries, this enabled the latter to play a major political role. In Libya and Yemen, with their weak states and mutual penetration by strong societal forces, in contrast, the uprisings deepened tribal and regional cleavages within the military, accentuating its paralysis and disintegration. The outcome, in every case, has gone beyond changes in degree, to usher in a qualitatively new phase in civil-military relations. Continue reading on The Monkey Cage.


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