Skip to main content Accesibility Help
×
×
Home

Exit, Resistance, Loyalty: Military Behavior during Unrest in Authoritarian Regimes

  • Holger Albrecht and Dorothy Ohl
Abstract

A few years into the most recent wave of popular uprisings—the Arab Spring—studying regime trajectories in countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Yemen still seems like shooting at a moving target. Yet what has not escaped notice is the central role military actors have played during these uprisings. We describe how soldiers have three options when ordered to suppress mass unrest. They may exit the regime by remaining in the barracks or going into exile, resist by fighting for the challenger or initiating a coup d’état, or remain loyal and use force to defend the regime. We argue that existing accounts of civil-military relations are ill equipped to explain the diverse patterns in exit, resistance, and loyalty during unrest because they often ignore the effects of military hierarchy. Disaggregating the military and parsing the interests and constraints of different agents in that apparatus is crucial for explaining military cohesion during such crises. Drawing on extensive fieldwork we apply our principal-agent framework to explain varying degrees and types of military cohesion in three Arab Spring cases: Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. Studying military hierarchy elucidates decision-making within authoritarian regimes amid mass mobilization and allows us to better explain regime re-stabilization, civil war onset, or swift regime change in the wake of domestic unrest.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Al-Ali, Zaid. 2015. “Analysis: Here Is How to Beat ISIL in Iraq.” Al-Jazeera. April 15.
Albrecht, Holger. 2015. “The Myth of Coup-proofing: Risk and Instances of Military Coups d’état in the Middle East and North Africa, 1950–2013.” Armed Forces & Society 44(4): 659–87.
Albrecht, Holger and Bishara, Dina. 2011. “Back on Horseback: The Military and Political Transformation in Egypt.” Middle East Law and Governance 3(3): 1323.
Aguero, Felipe. 1995. Soldiers, Civilians, and Democracy: Post-Franco Spain in Comparative Perspective. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Bahry, Luayy. 2000. “The Socioeconomic Foundations of the Shiite Opposition in Bahrain.” Mediterranean Quarterly 11(3): 129–43.
Bakke, Kristin, Gallagher Cunningham, Kathleen, and Seymour, Lee. 2012. “A Plague of Initials: Fragmentation, Cohesion, and Infighting in Civil Wars.” Perspectives on Politics 10(2): 265–83.
Barany, Zoltan. 2011. “Comparing the Arab Revolts: The Role of the Military.” Journal of Democracy 22(4): 2839.
Bassiouni, Mahmoud Cherif. 2011. Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry . Manama, online report (http://files.bici.org.bh/BICIreportEN.pdf), accessed December 16, 2015.
Bellin, Eva. 2004. “The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective.” Comparative Politics 36(2): 139–57.
Bellin, Eva. 2012. “Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism: Lessons from the Arab Spring.” Comparative Politics 44(2): 127–49.
Bou Nassif, Hicham. 2015a. “A Military Besieged: The Armed Forces, the Police, and the Party in Bin Ali’s Tunisia, 1987–2011.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47(1): 6587.
Bou Nassif, Hicham. 2015b. “‘Second Class:’ The Grievances of Sunni Officers in the Syrian Armed Forces.” Journal of Strategic Studies 38(5): 626–49.
Brooks, Risa. 2013. “Abandoned at the Palace: Why the Tunisian Military Defected from the Ben Ali Regime in January 2011.” Journal of Strategic Studies 36(2): 205–20.
Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce and Smith, Alastair. 2015. “Political Succession: A Model of Coups, Revolutions, Purges and Everyday Politics.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, online first (doi:10.1177/0022002715603100), accessed December 16, 2015.
Casper, Brett Allen and Tyson, Scott A.. 2014. “Popular Protest and Elite Coordination in a Coup d’état.” Journal of Politics 76(2): 548–64.
Chandra, Siddharth and Kammen, Douglas. 2002. “Generating Reforms and Reforming Generations: Military Politics in Indonesia’s Democratic Transition and Consolidation.” World Politics 55(1): 96136.
Chulov, Martin and Hawramy, Fazel. 2014. “Iraqis Raise Questions over Army’s Collapse as Jihadi Advance Ssows.” The Guardian. June 17.
Cordesman, Anthony and Al-Rodhan, Khalid. 2006. Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric Wars. Westport, CT: Greenwood International.
Decalo, Samuel. 1990. Coups and Army Rule in Africa. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Desch, Michael. 1999. Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Driscoll, Jesse. 2015. Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Durac, Vincent. 2012. “Yemen’s Arab Spring—Democratic Opening or Regime Endurance?” Mediterranean Politics 17(2): 161–78.
Feaver, Peter. 2003. Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Gambill, Gary. 2002. “The Military-Intelligence Shakeup in Syria.” Middle East Intelligence Bulletin 4(2), online (http://www.meforum.org/meib/articles/0202_s1.htm), accessed December 16, 2015.
George, Alexander L. and Bennett, Andrew. 2005. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: MIT Press.
George, Princy. 2014. “Analysis: Why has the Iraqi army struggled to counter ISIL advance?” IHS Jane's 360. June 15, 2014. (http://www.janes.com/article/39259/analysis-why-has-the-iraqi-army-struggled-to-counter-isil-advance), accessed January 11, 2016.
Gerring, John. 2007. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gordon, Sasha and Zimmerman, Katherine. 2012. Yemen Order of Battle . At criticalthreats.org, accessed December 16, 2013.
Hale, Henry E. 2005. “Regime Cycles: Democracy, Autocracy, and Revolution in Post-Soviet Eurasia.” World Politics 58(1): 133–65.
Hirschman, Albert O. 1970. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Holliday, Joseph. 2012. Syria’s Armed Opposition. Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of War.
Human Rights Watch. 2012. World Report 2012: Yemen. New York: HRW.
Hunter, Wendy. 1997. Eroding Military Influence in Brazil: Politicians against Soldiers. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
International Crisis Group. 2005. Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge. Brussels: ICG.
International Crisis Group. 2012. Yemen: Enduring Conflicts, Threatened Transition. Brussels: ICG.
International Crisis Group. 2013. Yemen’s Military-Security Sector Reform: Seeds of New Conflict? Brussels: ICG.
Kamrava, Mehran. 2000. “Military Professionalization and Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East.” Political Science Quarterly 115(1): 6792.
Knights, Michael. 2013. “The Military Role in Yemen’s Protest: Civil-Military Relations in the Tribal Republic.” Journal of Strategic Studies 36(2): 261–88.
Kuran, Timur. 1991. “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989.” World Politics 44(1): 748.
Krebs, Ronald R. and Rapport, Aaron. 2012. “International Relations and the Psychology of Time Horizons.” International Studies Quarterly 56(4): 530–43.
Lee, Terence. 2005. “Military Cohesion and Regime Maintenance: Explaining the Role of the Military in 1989 China and 1998 Indonesia.” Armed Forces & Society 32(1): 80104.
Leenders, Reinoud and Heydemann, Steven. 2012. “Popular Mobilization in Syria: Opportunity and Threat, and the Social Network of the Early Risers.” Mediterranean Politics 17(2): 139–59.
Levitsky, Steven and Way, Lucan. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Levitsky, Steven, and Way, Lucan. 2012. “Beyond Patronage: Violent Struggle, Ruling Party Cohesion, and Authoritarian Durability.” Perspectives on Politics 10(4): 869–89.
Little, Andrew T. 2015. “Coordination, Learning, and Coups.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, online first (doi:10.1177/0022002714567953), accessed December 16, 2015.
Lutterbeck, Derek. 2013. “Arab Uprisings, Armed Forces, and Civil-Military Relations.” Armed Forces & Society 39(1): 28–52.
Lyall, Jason. 2014. “Why Armies Break: Explaining Mass Desertion in Conventional War.” Presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Chicago, August 29 – September 1.
Makara, Michael. 2013. “Coup-Proofing, Military Defection, and the Arab Spring.” Democracy and Security 9(4): 334–59.
Marinov, Nikolay and Goemans, Hein. 2014. “Coups and Democracy.” British Journal of Political Science 44(4): 799825.
McLauchlin, Theodore. 2010. “Loyalty Strategies and Military Defection in Rebellion.” Comparative Politics 42(3): 333–50.
McLauchlin, Theodore. 2015. “Desertion and Collective Action in Civil Wars.” International Studies Quarterly 59(4): 669679.
“Mosul falls to militants, Iraqi forces flee northern city.” 2014. Reuters. June 11.
Nepstad, Sharon E. 2013. “Mutiny and Nonviolence in the Arab Spring: Exploring Military Defections and Loyalty in Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria.” Journal of Peace Research 50(3): 337–49.
Ohl, Dorothy, Albrecht, Holger, and Koehler, Kevin. 2015. “For Money or Liberty? The Political Economy of Military Desertion and Rebel Recruitment in the Syrian Civil War.” Carnegie Middle East Center. November 24, online (http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/10/24/for-money-or-liberty-political-economy-of-military-desertion-and-rebel-recruitment-in-syrian-civil-war/ilqf), accessed December 16, 2015.
O’Donnell, Guillermo and Schmitter, Philippe. 1986. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Phillips, Sarah. 2011. Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis. London: Routledge.
Pion-Berlin, David, Esparza, Diego, and Grisham, Kevin. 2014. “Staying Quartered: Civilian Uprisings and Military Disobedience in the Twenty-First Century.” Comparative Political Studies 47(2): 230–59.
Pion-Berlin, David and Trinkunas, Harold. 2010. “Civilian Praetorianism and Military Shirking during Constitutional Crisis in Latin America.” Comparative Politics 42(4): 395411.
Przeworski, Adam. 1991. Democracy and the Market. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. 2011. “Kingdom Stands by Bahrain.” Statement by the Government of Saudi Arabia, February 20, online (http://www.saudiembassy.net/latest_news/news02201101.aspx), accessed December 16 2015.
Russell, D. E. H. 1974. Rebellion, Revolution, and Armed Force: A Comparative Study of Fifteen Countries with Special Emphasis on Cuba and South Africa. New York, London: Academic Press.
Sagristano, Michael D., Trope, Yaacov, and Liberman, Nira. 2002. “Time Dependent Gambling: Odds Now, Money Later.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 131(3): 364–76.
Schedler, Andreas. 2013. The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Seymour, Lee J. M. 2014. “Why Factions Switch Sides in Civil Wars: Rivalry, Patronage and Realignment in Sudan.” International Security 39(2): 92131.
Shapiro, Susan P. 2005. “Agency Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 31(1): 263–84.
Singh, Naunihal. 2014. Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Snyder, Richard. 1992. “Explaining Transitions from Neopatrimonial Dictatorships.” Comparative Politics 24(4): 379–99.
Staniland, Paul. 2014. Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Stepan, Alfred. 1988. Rethinking Military Politics: Brazil and the Southern Cone. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Svolik, Milan. 2012. The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Svolik, Milan. 2013. “Contracting on Violence: The Moral Hazard in Authoritarian Repression and Military Intervention in Politics.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 57(5): 765–94.
Trinkunas, Harold. 2005. Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Van Dam, Nikolaos. 2011. The Struggle for Power in Syria. London: I.B. Tauris.
Waldner, David. 2015. “Process Tracing and Qualitative Causal Inference.” Security Studies 24(2): 239–50.
Weede, Erich and Muller, Edward N.. 1998. “Rebellion, Violence and Revolution: A Rational Choice Perspective.” Journal of Peace Research 35(1): 4359.
Zisser, Eyal. 2001. “The Syrian Army: Between the Domestic and External Fronts.” Middle East Review of International Affairs 5(1), online (http://www.rubincenter.org/meria/2001/03/zisser.pdf), accessed December 16, 2015.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Albrecht and Ohl supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (5.5 MB)
5.5 MB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed