Democracy and Guns: Civil Military Relations and Reforming the Armed Forces

23 November, 2021

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has published Democracy and Guns: Civil Military Relations and Reforming the Armed Forces by Abdel-Fattah Mady. The book (436 pp.) provides an analytical presentation of seven countries whose political and military leaders largely succeeded in addressing the obstacles imposed by structural contexts similar to those currently faced by several Arab countries. They were able, through specific decisions and policies, to achieve the two goals of removing the military from power, and the establishment of democratic civilian control over the armed forces. The author presents his conclusions in a practical guide that serves to assist Arab politicians and military people who wish to imbed democracy, modernize their military institutions and reforming the security sector.

Examining the civil-military relations of seven different country experiences, the book addresses two central questions in order to understand the requirements for the transition from military to civilian democratic rule. First, when will the military give up power? This entails looking at the circumstances and factors that allow the military to leave power, or to be forced out of it and be prepared or compelled to accept the transition to democratic civil rule. Second, when will the influence of the military in politics be limited? In other words, when and how is civilian democratic control of the armed forces established? Or what strategies, policies, and mechanisms were used to achieve the rule of law and elected civilian institutions over the armed forces, and to address their influence in politics, while simultaneously strengthening the military institution, maintaining its unity, modernizing it, and enhancing its professionalism?

The answer to the two questions in this book contributes to building awareness and experience in Arab countries, especially those in which the military and security institutions play pivotal roles in the consolidation of authoritarian regimes. The goal here is not just to extract general rules from the experiences of others. It is also to understand and absorb the structural contexts, or the conditions to prepare the political space for the democratic forces to work.

Theoretical and Conceptual Introduction

The first section of the book deals with civil-military relations from various conceptual and theoretical aspects, in the first three chapters. Civilian control of the armed forces - the subject of this book - is democratic civilian control. So, Chapter One deals with the multiple dimensions of democracy, defining the main characteristics of the democratic system, and the position of military institutions in the contemporary democratic state. The second chapter deals with theoretical contributions about the military's interference in and exit from politics, and on civil-military relations. The chapter also introduces a number of important democratization concepts and concludes that addressing civil-military relations are an integral part of the process of consolidating the democratic system. Chapter Three completes these contributions by examining the concepts of “Security Sector Reform-SSR” and “Security Sector Governance-SSG”.

Case Studies

The second section, comprised of chapters 4-10, studies seven cases, looking at Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Portugal, South Korea and South Africa. In each case, the author examines nature of military rule, the mode of transition of the regime to democracy, and the process of establishing democratic civilian control over the armed forces. Presenting these cases in a case study approach is important due to the importance of examining the historical and contextual backgrounds in each case, as well as the development of positions, programs and policies, and understanding the challenges and problems.

Findings and Conclusions

In the third and final section, the book takes a comparative look to provide specific answers to its two questions. The eleventh chapter presents the ways in which the transition from military rule to civilian democratic rule was completed, as well as the role of external factors, with emphasis on the relationship of armies to power in different geographical areas. The twelfth chapter details the contents of civil control over the armed forces and its various dimensions to answer: Who performs it? And when? What strategies are used? What are its internal and external contexts?

The conclusion of the book presents the most prominent results in a practical guide that is suitable to assist Arab politicians and soldiers who wish to establish a democratic system, reform civil-military relations, and modernize their military institutions.

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