Comparing the Arab Revolts: The Role of the Military

Issue Date October 2011
Volume 22
Issue 4
Page Numbers 24-35
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The support of the armed forces is a necessary condition for a revolution to succeed. The 2011 Arab uprisings support this contention. The military’s role is examined in the six Arab states where significant bloodshed had taken place: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. They can be grouped into three categories defined by how the regular military responded to the revolt. In Tunisia and Egypt the soldiers backed the revolution, in Libya and Yemen they split, and in Syria and Bahrain they turned their guns against the demonstrators. These different stances by the armed forces largely explain the different outcomes of the revolutions.

About the Author

Zoltan Barany is Frank C. Erwin Jr. Centennial Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Armies of Arabia: Military Politics and Effectiveness in the Gulf (2021). His 2007 book Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military was republished in paperback by Princeton University Press in 2023.

View all work by Zoltan Barany