Dr. Sorenson is professor of international studies at the U.S. Air Force Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base.
Many factors shape the role of the military in the political life of a country: the status of the armed forces relative to the population (heroic saviors or marauding bands, for example), the societal commitment to democratic values, the military role in nation-building, geopolitical issues, and, most significant, the vision for both the military and the polity of the proper place for the soldier in national governance. This article considers how three factors operate in shaping civil-military relations in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya: (1) the role of the military in political affairs, governing directly, or shaping the governing process behind the scenes, (2) the part that the armed forces play in nation-building; and (3) the military embrace of the language of nationalism to further their particular interests.
The role of the professional military in developing states depends on many things: its position relative to other societal elements, its general status in society and its role in gaining independence, among other things. In many postcolonial emerging nation-states, the military is the lead agency in the struggle for independence and thus well-positioned to lead independence, particularly if the post-independence political space is relatively vacant. As Cook reminds, the military officers who often led the independence movements in developing countries were not only "high modernizers" who placed a premium on science and technology. They were also imbued with the view that only those who were steeped in science and technology had the right to rule, a criterion often met best by the military.2 In newly free countries, the officers of the armed forces usually possessed high levels of education (often obtained in the former colonial country), along with the organizational skills and societal integration mechanisms to rule directly or indirectly. Moreover, the military can be very effective at mobilizing the symbols of nationalism to include their role as creator and guarantor of national identity.
In elite-dominated societies, the armed forces may constitute the primary elite or may head anti-elite forces because they often recruit from outside traditional economic and tribal elites and, for dispossessed groups, represent an alternate route to power and prominence. In Syria, for example, the military was an alternative to the agricultural and urban elites that dominated post-independence Syrian political space.3 Many citizens below elite status join the military in hopes of improving their social and economic status. As they rise in the ranks, they may join or form revolutionary organizations, particularly as they socialize with other discontented military officers, which can reinforce their own grievances. Elites usually form their consensus through shared experiences — for example, by attending the same military schools and maintaining the bonds established during their careers.4 Thus the military became an agent for revolution in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Algeria, to name a few of many examples. In other cases, the military was the primary force behind nation-building, often first creating a new vision of nationhood (Kemal Atatürk's post-Ottoman vision of Turkey is one of the best examples), and then serving as a reinforcement mechanism for that image. Such reinforcement may come either by direct rule (sometimes with uniforms replaced by suits and the title "president”) or by maintaining control just behind the curtain of civilian leadership.
Militaries in developing countries often view themselves for varying reasons as modernizers. Military officers are more likely to have had some military education outside their own countries, either in the West, of the former Soviet Union or, increasingly, China. They encounter modernity in these countries, often forcing them to acknowledge the conditions in their own countries and to try to remedy them through modernization projects. As providers of national security, the military often view the conditions of their countries as inadequate to provide the basic foundations for security (a robust industrial base, an adequate educational system, or a population capable of being mobilized for defensive sacrifice). Because of these concerns, the professional military are not always willing to let politicians run their countries. They remain prepared to either rule directly or to exercise influence via their positions close to the seats of power.
In many developing countries, the military often led the independence movement against a colonial power or led significant campaigns against foreign enemies. Many sub-Saharan militaries bask in the glory of "liberator," while nationalist leaders like Kemal Atatürk defended their countries from both external threats and internal traditions. Such traditions form the foundations of military rule, which often lasts long after the memories of colonialism are gone. Even when the military steps down from direct rule, they often remain in the wings, ready to take over or to work behind the scenes to have civil leadership removed, as they did in Algeria in 1991 or in Turkey on several occasions. These "heroes of liberation" often rely on revolutionary narratives to recreate their legitimacy and style of rule. For example, Egyptian President Huosni Mubarak, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1952 revolution; said: "The graduation of this new batch of military-academy cadets coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the glorious July Revolution that was carried out by a group of loyal sons of Egypt, Armed Forces officers who were motivated by strong patriotic feelings and lofty loyalty to the people to make their blessed revolution."5
It follows that the language of these professional officers is the narrative of nationalism. Their service is to the nation, their patron and employer, and the custodian of their identity. They wear the national flag on their uniforms; their martial tradition salutes and preserves the symbols of national mythology. They festoon their parade grounds and national headquarters with symbols of a glorious past cannon and portraiture from famous battles, medals preserved in glass cases. Their ability to transcend this and reach to something larger or more abstract than nationalism is limited, at best. In the Middle East, the professional military did not embrace warmly the ideology or constructs of Pan-Arabism (the Egyptian military was not disappointed to see the end of the United Arab Republic) and few officers have loyalty to Pan-Islamist ideas. Thus, most modern militaries have been in the vanguard against militant Islam, as in the cases of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.
Some theorists, inspired partly by the work of Samuel P. Huntington,6 argue that the professionalization of the modern military will create a force more occupied with preparing for the art of war than in political engagement. Defenders of this argument suggest that military modernization, professional military education, and procedures for recruitment of professional soldiers will keep the military in the barracks and out of the presidential palace.
However, Kamrava finds that the introduction of military professionalism in the greater Middle East has not led to "…the military's depoliticization and increased subordination to civilian control."7 He notes that even in democratic countries (Turkey and Israel), the high public status of the military keeps it in the political forefront, whereas in autocratic states, the military frequently were the political glue that held the country together because the officer corps created and owned the national mythologies of revolution and independence. Moreover, military professionalization in many Middle East countries has meant "…not an abrogation of political responsibilities, but rather the appointment of more competent commanding officers...," particularly after humiliating defeats like the 1973 war.8
Regimes in developing states are too frequently the targets of military coups, successful or not. Successful coups often bring periods of direct autocratic military rule, while unsuccessful coups often result not only in a crackdown on the military officers responsible for the effort, but also a more general period of repression from a regime that has had its potential vulnerability put on public display.
There are many reasons for coups, including competition from rival elites or ethnic groups, a military view that the ruling regime is corrupt, or conditions of national poverty. Huntington argues that it is the last reason — countries with a per capita GDP of $1,000 or more do not have a successful coup, and countries with per capita GOP of over $3,000 do not have coup attempts. Successful coups (in Nigeria, Haiti or Sudan, for example) occur in countries with per capita GDPs under $500.9 However, in North Africa, it is arguably the case that coups came because those in uniform could claim that the occupants of the palace were paying insufficient attention to the military vision of service to the nationalist ideal.
The Military and Democratization
In some developing countries, the military may control the organs of power for years or decades. In other cases, though, after initially assuming power, the military may retreat to the barracks and support a democratic transition. Even if they abandon the presidential palace, however, the military may play significant roles in non-security affairs: civil construction, internal policing and economic activities (in Egypt, the military operate factories producing civilian goods). The question is how the military fits into the wider political sphere: does it dominate it or is it just another player? As Goodman notes,
If neither the state bureaucracy nor the military gains added political advantage from military involvement in civic action, internal security, education or economic activity, then the military's successful undertaking of these tasks can strengthen democracy. If, however, the military gains a privileged position within the political system because of such activities, then the democratization process is likely to suffer.10
Keeping the Military in the Barracks
There may be several reasons that soldiers leave the barracks to take over the presidential palace: either they believed military service was a fast road to political power, or they joined the military to engage in the profession of soldiering and would only take power if they believed they were the "savior of the nation" in bad times.
However, if regimes want to minimize the possibility of a military takeover or undue military influence over political affairs, they may have to engage in bargaining with the armed forces to minimize their political involvement. Such rewards may range from symbolic gestures (presidential appearances on the reviewing stand for military parades or honorific titles for military heroes, for example) to more tangible rewards, like weapons systems.
While nations arm for many reasons, including military threats to national interests, weapons may also represent a reward system for military officers to keep them from traipsing into national politics.
Military excursions from the barracks can move soldiers into the economic realm as well as the political. Professional military involvement in commercial spheres is well documented in China, Latin America and elsewhere. There are at least two reasons for such involvement, according to Mani, the perceived need to control economic resources for the benefit of the armed forces as an institution or for the personal enrichment of individual officers. As he further observes, "enclave building" in entrepreneurship "…enhances the political power of the military institution and its officers, making them less dependent on and therefore less accountable to
civil and political society."11 Such enclaves existed in particular in Algeria.
MILITARY STATUS AND ROLES
In early Islamic times, Arab conquerors developed a special status in the lands they took; as Bonner notes, "The Arabs remained, ideally and also to a large extent in reality, a privileged, urban-dwelling warrior group."12 Kennedy observes that while the Arab armies had considerable status within society, the state paid their salaries. This simple fact perhaps prevented the rise of a landed military aristocracy not dependent on the state for sustenance, as occurred in Western Europe.13
In North Africa, all the current regimes have deep roots in the anti-colonialist movements that still confer political legitimacy today. Not all of this legacy flows to the national military, however, because soldiers (or revolutionaries who became soldiers) were not always the drivers of independence, as they were in Algeria. The Algerian national military museum sanctifies the legions of revolutionaries who defeated numerous foreign enemies, especially the French, and then donned uniforms to become the nucleus of the Algerian military. The situation was different, though, in Tunisia, Morocco and Libya. The independence struggles in Tunisia and Morocco were led by civilian leaders, and were far less violent and protracted than was the revolution against France in Algeria. In Libya, the Sanusi monarchy that ruled between 1951 and 1969 was not a part of liberation, as Italy had been defeated largely as a colonial power by the victorious allied forces and not by Libyans. While Muammar Qadhafi claimed credit for ending King Idris's reign on nationalist grounds, Qadhafi's dismantling of state institutions left little room for Libya's military to join the anti-colonial bandwagon.
Contestation for Legitimacy
In all North African states, rival elites, along with mass groups, vie for the right to represent the population, with the military an active party in all competitions, along with Islamists and non-military nationalists. While Islamists offer to bring answers to complex social questions and a sacred defense against the perceived influence of alien secular ideas, the military bring unity, defense of the realm, and a connection to a nationalist past and current identity.
The political nutrients that feed these contesting parties vary from country to country. As Henry notes in his contribution to this volume,14 Morocco has deeper Islamist roots than do Algeria and Libya because the religious centers of learning in Qarawiyin in Morocco and in Zitouna (Tunis) survived colonial rule, whereas France virtually destroyed Algeria's Islamic foundations, and in Libya, the Sanusi Islamic order survived, only to be toppled by Qadhafi. Thus Islam was able to last as a moderate, acceptable and nationalist force in Tunisia and Morocco, but in Algeria the vacuum following the revolution allowed the military, with their revolutionary roots, to fill political space. This forced the Islamists either to compromise after a futile fight or to contest with extreme violence.
Civil-military entrée into politics in post-French North Africa is complicated by the continuing French tradition of the gendarmerie, or civilian soldiers. While the gendarmerie is technically not a part of the "armed forces," their organizational chain of command starts with the Ministry of Defense. In addition to civil police functions, the Algerian gendarmerie also polices the military.15 In Libya, the Italian Arma dei Carabinieri is the model (if not an exact copy); the Libyan People's Militia, with 43,000 troops, is almost as large as the 50,000-person Libyan army. Such paramilitary forces often have ties to the national military (shared equipment, intelligence and training, for example), and thus their entrée into civilian affairs may also pave the way for the national military to follow, should conditions or opportunity arise.
Civil-military relations in the Maghreb demonstrate many of the principles, prospects and problems outlined above, as the next section indicates. While there are commonalities across the four countries, the differences outweigh the similarities.
The foundation of modern Algeria lies in the popular revolt that ended many decades of French occupation, a revolution guided by the Algerian military (though some Algerian officers also had served in the French military). The legacy of that revolution lives on in contemporary Algerian political discourse, and, while Algeria is not a military dictatorship in the classic Latin American model, it has an authoritarian character that has only recently relented to allow for elections. For Lahouari Addi, the roots of Algerian authoritarianism lie in the populist ideology that the army upholds. After the demise of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), "The movement (FLN) was in a sense reintegrated or absorbed into the army in the form of a populist ideology…; the army thereby came to embody the historical heritage of the FLN."16
Algeria's first leaders came from military backgrounds and carried the legitimacy of the military into politics, economic development and foreign relations. For decades, almost every significant policy required military approval, as the military were networked into the ruling structure, a troika of state institutions: military, the party (the (NLF) and the bureaucracy. As Cook notes, "The Algerian military enclave, 'the real power in Algeria,' played a central role in state building. Yet officers can exercise power and influence from the relative safety of the barracks through an elaborate façade of democracy that nevertheless contains various means of political control."17 Among other advantages, the Algerian military have long been unified by their vision of Algeria as a modern state free and capable of defending its own interests,18 in contrast to other national political actors who have suffered from internal fissures. Algeria's military also took advantage of the destruction of the French colon elite, which controlled much of Algeria's economy, to move into the economic vacuum that their departure created. The Algerian military's role in nation-building was about more than giving Algerians a grant of independence and identity; it was also physical. The military took part in Boumedienne's ambitious construction projects, including the Trans Saharan highway and the Great Green Wall to halt the encroachment of the Sahara, along with building dams and providing earthquake relief.19 These missions helped the military to burnish the nation-building legacy that has sustained their position in Algerian political life.
With the opening of democratization in the early 1990s, the Islamist Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) gained popularity and won the first round of Algeria's 1992 parliamentary election. The military seized power before the second round of elections and re-established the old elite system with the army as its backbone.20 The reaction initiated an orgy of violence, claiming by some counts over 150,000 dead and many more wounded. The power of the military in all spheres of Algerian life grew in the decade of the 1990s as the army battled militants in many parts of the country.
While some portrayed the violence as popular resistance against the militamilitary-dominatedical system and the exclusion of Islamists from Algerian political life, the violence grew to such intensity that many citizens became victims, either caught in random crossfire or purposely targeted.
After the 1992 coup, the military ran the country, placing generals in key decision making-positions and selecting a president from either the army (retired general Liamine Zeroual, in 1994, for example) or the old military-revolutionary apparatus. The takeover was complete, with soldiers seizing the newspapers, townships, radio and television, and mosques thought to be controlled by the FIS. The military rounded up suspects and detained thousands without trial in secret locations; many who were arrested "disappeared" and remain missing today. The military supported Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 1999,21 which hampered his ability to appear to be something other than a military puppet. As a consequence, voter turnout dropped from previous elections.
The government claimed that almost 61 percent of eligible voters participated, while the opposition stated that between 70 and 80 percent boycotted the election.22 President Bouteflika faced the difficult prospect of reducing military power as he tried to implement reforms and bring an end to the conflict. One of his proposals was to offer amnesty to some of the Islamist combatants, a position that split the armed forces — some opposed the measure, while others supported it.
Bouteflika found the resistance so great that he had to replace six senior general officers to push the amnesty program forward.23 Bouteflika also discharged two other senior generals — Mohamed Lamari, a significant player in the decision to cancel the 1992 elections, and Larbi Belkheir, head of the presidential office — actions that sent yet another signal that Bouteflika wanted to appear less politically dependent on the armed forces. The president also responded with concessions when violence broke out in Kabylia, announcing that Tamazight would be recognized as a national language and taught along with Arabic in Berber areas. He also gave responsibility for handling affairs in Kabylia to Ali Benflis, a Berber and Bouteflika's rival in the 2004 presidential election. Significantly, he did not turn the crisis over to the military.
Algeria now faces the prospect that the president after Boutifika will not be a former general. All the old revolutionary guard will be gone by then, and the newer generals, while recognized by a broad public spectrum for their role in combating violence, are still tarred with the reality that the military committed at least some of the violence itself.24
The foundations for nation – building in the post-revolutionary period were a strong state and a corresponding command economy, systems that fit the military sense of order and centralization. However, post revolutionary Algeria appears to be moving swiftly from an autocratic political system and a managed economy to a partial democracy and a market-oriented economy (even though Freedom House continues to rate Algeria as "not free" since the 2004 presidential election). It also appears that the role in the economy of military leaders ("godfathers," as Cook called the active and retired generals who had roles in securing licenses for businesses in exchange for a share of profits)25 is diminishing as Algeria engages in a modest privatization of its economy. Instead of generals, a new generation of technocrats — including — Ahmed, a possible presidential candidate — appears to have assumed more authority over the Algerian economy.
While the military still plays a role in Algerian political life, it is considerably less prominent than it was even in 2000.
Significantly, the military is no longer unified around a single party or party candidates.26 Thus an opportunity has opened for more truly civilian political actors to take the field. Moreover, the extensive war against insurgency has lessened dramatically, reducing the military's claim to a disproportionate role in public affairs. (The terrorist bombings in 2007 in Algiers, a truck bombing in July 2007, along with another against a coast guard barracks in September 2007 reminded Algerians that the terrorist threat is still there.)
Algeria's military operates primarily with old Soviet/Russian equipment, though as early as 1985, Algeria requested permission to buy American equipment; former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reportedly explored arms sales to Algeria in 2006. However, the largest supplier remains Russia, which signed a $6.3 billion arms-sales package with Algeria in early 2006 and was granted $7 billion more in Russian contracts in 2007. Whether that sale reflected Algerian security needs or was an additional inducement for the military to remain out of national politics is not clear. Algeria's national leadership still regards Morocco as a potential threat, remembering that there were clashes as early as 1963 (the "Sand Dunes" war), and in 1977 over the Western Sahara. So it is possible that Moroccan military modernization may drive Algerian arms purchases as much as domestic politics do.
The "father" of Tunisian independence, Habib Bourguiba, was a lawyer, not a military officer, and Tunisia's transition to independence and beyond reflects that civil-law tradition.27 Tunisia's separation from France was relatively free of conflict, thus negating the need for extensive military involvement. Bourguiba's elite came from the Neo-Dustur party, student groups and labor (the Union Générale des Travailleurs Tunisiens, or UGTT), rather than a revolutionary military that would become the national army, as in the Algerian case.28 When Bourguiba faltered (challenging Islamic traditions, for example), or when Tunisia's economy foundered, opposition generally came from the growing legion of Islamists rather than from the Tunisian military. As the influence of Tunisia's Islamic Tendency Movement increased, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Bourguiba's interior minister, engineered the tenure of the "president for life" and continued Bourguibia's isolation of both the military and religious elements from Tunisia's elite power structure after taking Bourguiba's place in 1987.
Bourguiba's vision of a modern Tunisia did not include prominent military participation, and Tunisia's military found itself outside the small political space at the top. Most of Bourguiba's advisers were political and economic reformers and liberalizers; the military, seen by Tunisia's reformers as a potential bastion of political and social conservatism, remained relegated to the political sidelines. One significant exception, though, emerged: the military maintains its own separate tribunals, which may try both military members and civilians accused of violations of national security. Tunisia's military have also tried to professionalize the officer corps, featuring considerable professional education, which, among other things, emphasizes a narrow role for the military.
Despite their image outside the military, the Tunisian armed forces have adopted the narrative of reform, opening doors in social development, for example, by integrating women into its functions. While women cannot serve in combat positions, they do occupy significant slots in military operations. The military trains air-traffic controllers, and one of the lead instructors at the school is a woman, who teaches both women and men.29 The Tunisian Air Force also trains Tunisian civilians in areas like aircraft mechanics and radar repair.
President Ben Ali has a background in the security service and, as mentioned, served as minister of the interior before replacing Bourguiba in 1987 Ben Ali also served in the military, rising to brigadier general). The elite who surround him appear to come more from the internal security services and Tunisia's commercial sector than from the military.
The military budget of Tunisia is quite small, only 1.4 percent of the national GDP for 2006 (compared to over 10 percent for Saudi Arabia, for example). Much of the national budget goes to education, social programs and the Ministry of the Interior, which controls the National Guard, the primary internal-security force. Moreover, members of the Tunisian military do not have the right to vote and do not have significant public stature.30 While military service is compulsory in Tunisia for those reaching age 20, it is only for one year.
The minister of defense has traditionally been a civilian appointee with little previous connection to the military. Minister of Defense Kamel Morjane is a civilian, a diplomat by profession, who formerly served as the UN assistant high commissioner for refugees.
Tunisia's military is equipped with old weapons, like the obsolete American-made F-5 "Freedom Fighters," around 140 old tanks, some patrol boats, and a handful of helicopters and C-130 transport (some converted for firefighting). Tunisian air force officers have expressed an interest in acquiring the American-made F-16 fighter, but there is no support either within the Tunisian government or from American officials in Tunisia.31 There have been very few military upgrades to current Tunisian military equipment and none are in the immediate offing. While Defense Minister Morjane makes his annual trip to China to discuss military matters, "…to review the various aspects of bilateral relations, especially in the military field, and means to diversify it, in line with the political will driving the two countries' leaders, Presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hu Jintao,"32 Tunisia actually buys 70 percent of its military equipment from the United States. For fiscal year 2008, Washington will continue Tunisia's eligibility to receive Excess Defense Articles (EDA) on a grant basis under section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA). This will allow Tunisia to modernize and refurbish its military, transform it into a peacekeeping force (Tunisia has already sent peacekeepers to Haiti, Cambodia, Somalia, Kosovo and Bosnia), and professionalize its ranks. The United States is also funding International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs to send Tunisian officers to the United States to learn, among other things, civilian control of the military. This is, in and of itself, no guarantee that Tunisian forces will adopt such lessons, but they, along with the non-political tradition of Tunisia's professional soldiers, should keep them out of politics.
The first leaders of postcolonial Morocco were not military officers. The military did not play a significant role in Moroccan independence, and when soldiers tried to enter Moroccan national politics by force in the 1970s, they found that the consequences were decisive and protracted.
Morocco's political elite revolves around the monarchy. King Hassan II fostered his own favored group representing economic (and largely agricultural) interests above nationalist positions. After his death in 1999, his son, King Mohammed VI, replaced some of the traditional elite with his friends, including newly empowered technocrats, and expanded his ruling circle to add members from civil society, including some formerly banned political and religious activists. Zerhouni describes a two-ring circle of elites: the inner ring comprises members of the royal cabinet; the military is relegated to the outer ring, along with representatives of "official" Islam and officers of public institutions.33 The position of the Forces Armées Royales (FAR) beyond the inner circle probably represents two constants in Moroccan political space: the minimal importance of security affairs in Moroccan political life and the unhappy relations between the FAR and King Hassan II following the 1971 and 1972 coups.34 Initially Hassan II tried to strengthen his control over the armed forces by bringing them into the royal patronage network, but after the coup attempts, the king tried to control the military by keeping them busy with security issues and exacerbating internal divisions within the ranks.35 He also abolished the Ministry of Defense, putting the military directly under his command, which would provide him a mechanism of oversight to minimize the risk of another coup. Now the military reports to the Crown through the Ministry of the Interior, which also oversees the paramilitary forces like the Border Police and coast guard. Hassan also instituted conscription, because during the coup years a large proportion of the senior officers were Berbers; conscription raised the percentage of Arabs in the FAR to around 40 percent. For Katsav, however, the Moroccan crown still needed soldiers in command positions, "…even if they only have power on paper and real power resides with the king himself"; unlike in the Gulf Arab states, the royal family was not large enough to provide governors and military commanders.36
For King Mohamed VI, relations with the military seem more stable than they were under his father. The king appears to understand that one part of his bargain with the FAR is to keep them equipped with modern arms. The Moroccan air force is getting two significant modernization packages, one an upgrade of its Mirage F1s, along with the projected purchase of the ultra-modern French "Rafale" fighter.
Morocco may be the first country to import up to 18 new Rafale fighters, one of the most advanced in the world.37 The Mirage upgrade involves fitting the aircraft currently in the Moroccan air service with the most advanced air-to-ground weapon in France, the AASM, along with other modernization, for a cost of over 420 million euros. The question arises as to why Morocco needs such advanced fighters. One stated reason is that the Rafale purchase came in response to a Russian sale to Algeria of 10 MiG-29 SMT fighter aircraft, negotiated after a March 2006 visit to Algiers by Russian president Vladimir Putin, which would add to Algeria's present fleet of 34 MiG-29's.38
It is certainly possible that Algeria's rivalry with Morocco over a number of issues (the Western Sahara, border demarcation and so forth) is one reason both nations are buying advanced weapons.
Still, Mohamed VI has not released the controls placed on the military by his father, and his brother, Crown Prince Moulay Rachid, appears to maintain more day-today influence over the armed forces, sometimes appearing in military uniform for formal military occasions. There is still no ministry of national defense or general staff, and the military does not have a formal role in economic development or nation-building. They do have a less formal part in the economy through reported corruption; according to Denoeux, senior officers have "…taken advantage of their positions to amass huge fortunes, including in the fishing industry."39 Where such corruption exists, it must be suspected that the regime may wink at it, viewing it as a side payment for military loyalty. However, in Morocco, the military has not been able to construct the commercial "enclaves" created by the Algerian military and thus has not been able to oppose the economic reform that has brought privatization, foreign investment, and the enhanced status of Moroccan and international technocrats at the expense of the old traditional economic bureaucrats.
While the primary danger to the Crown from the military used to lie in a possible coup, there may be another security threat: Islamist infiltration. In mid-2006, Moroccan security authorities dismantled Ansar al-Mahdi, a Jihadist group, and discovered at least five soldiers in its ranks. The soldiers, who had expertise in explosives, claimed they were only in the Moroccan military band and had no ties to Ansar al-Mahdi.40 Still, a month later, Morocco ended the military conscription begun under Hassan II, constituting, according to one analyst, "…a move undoubtedly aimed at mitigating the vulnerability of the lower ranks to the influence of radical Islamists."41 It may also be the case, however, that the government ended conscription for the same reason the United States did in the 1970s–the growing unhappiness of conscripts fighting a frustrating conflict in difficult conditions. For Moroccan troops, in the Western Sahara.
Libya made the transition from independence to a religious-based monarchy (the Sanusi, led by King Idris al-Sanusi, a reluctant political leader at best), but a military coup in 1969 brought Muammar al-Qadhafi to power, sustained by nationalist claims that Idris had sold out to the West, particularly the United States and Britain. Britain actually created the modern Libyan military in 1940, even before Italy's defeat in World War II, at the instigation of Idris al-Sanusi, who pleaded with British officials in Egypt to create a Libyan force that could fight alongside the British to drive Italy out of the country. Thus, at the time of the 1969 coup, Libya's military was already tainted with the charge of colonialist collaboration.
Qadhafi, a captain in the Libyan army, promoted himself to colonel but did little else to advance the cause of the Libyan military, most likely because of its pro-Western origins and orientation. When Qadhafi created the Revolutionary Command Council as Libya's "executive branch," most of its members came from middle-class backgrounds and the less prestigious tribes, with few military officers included in the upper ranks. Qadhafi had a preference for civilian ministers; when he created the first ministries, 15 of the 17 ministers were civilians.42 In the 1970s, when Qadhafi abolished the ministries to create his vision of a stateless society, a potential avenue for military influence through the Ministry of Defense disappeared into the Jamahiriyya, where "People's Committees" tried to run almost every facet of the country. This unorthodox political experiment did not eliminate military influence but closed other avenues too ambitious (and sometimes aggrieved) officers to the point that the most determined or aggrieved had no alternative other than a coup. As economic progress stagnated, several coup attempts occurred in the 1970s. They failed but caused Qadhafi to increasingly staff the military and the other state security services with members of his own tribe in an effort to quell revolts against him.43
Qadhafi did try to buy the loyalty of his military by purchasing the most modern equipment he could find (he preferred European to Soviet weapons, but most European countries refused to sell him their arms). Following the 1973 war, he bought so many weapons ($28 billion in current dollars) that Libya had to impose military conscription to find enough soldiers to man them.44 However, as a consequence of the coups noted above, Qadhafi emasculated his military, reducing the size of its units and keeping it out of internal-security enforcement. Qadhafi also reportedly rotates his top commanders frequently to prevent coups and has various branches within the military conducting surveillance over other branches.45 In many ways, Qadhafi created the conditions for his military's poor performance in conflicts in Uganda and Chad, and with the United States. Notes Pollack,
…Libya experienced the effects of military politicization more deeply than any of the other Arab states….Qadhafi created overlapping chains of command, frequently and arbitrarily rotated key commanders, and favored loyal incompetents over capable, independent-minded officers for senior command slots.46
Qadhafi also created a People's Guard from some professional military units, further weakening his standing military. He indoctrinated the People's Guard with military doctrine loosely based on the old ideas of "people's war," further separating it from the professional army, which he modernized with standard military equipment (at one time, Libya's tank corps was the tenth largest in the world). The military also competes for influence with the Revolutionary Guard (Al Haras Assauri), created by Qadhafi after the coup efforts of the 1970s. The Revolutionary Guard was designed to control the Revolutionary Committees, thus taking them out of the traditional military sphere, while drawing down the standard armed force's troops and resources in favor of the Revolutionary Guards. Reportedly, Qadhafi recruited most members of the Revolutionary Guards from his own tribe. In addition, he created a Republican Guard, also mostly from his tribe, to protect his family and himself. As Vandewalle sums up Qadhafi's restrictions on his professional army, "…they were never allowed to develop a professional ethic that could have created a distinct corporate identity or distinct interests."47 This set of restrictions was multipurpose in nature, but it helped Qadhafi by preventing the military from developing corporate interests that a coup against him might have served. Still, there are senior Libyan officers who have taken advantage of their positions to skim funds through lucrative arms deals or through owners of firearms (like air cargo) that the Libyan military does business with. In at least one case, the regime removed a general from the military but apparently allowed him to continue his graft in private.48
Qadhafi's presumed successor, his son Seif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, may have an even more radical solution to the role of Libya's military than did his father, though the possibility of over-statement is always there. Seif, according to a reporter who interviewed him, said of Libya's armed forces, “‘The whole faith and strategy has changed,' (looking to his courtiers for nods of agreement). 'Why should we have an army? If Egypt invades Libya, the Americans are going to stop it.'"49 But there is another Qadhafi, Khamis, who commands what some regard as the best military unit in Libya, with over 6,000 troops. While Khamis gets less public attention than his brother, he is charismatic, in a reflection of his father, and may be more popular than Seif in Libya.50 That in itself may advance the power of the Libyan military should there be a succession struggle between brothers Khamis and Seif after Muammar's passing.
Libya is attempting to modernize its economy, moving to privatization and a technocratic approach that favors specialists over state bureaucrats, including military officers. Libya's oil industry is now headed by former Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem, who has an American PhD; another of Qadhafi's sons, Mohammed, directs Libya's telecommunications industry, which has two companies competing against each other and has produced some of the fastest growth in telecommunications in the Arab world. Libya's oil sector is undergoing transformation as well, turning to international assistance to professionalize its operations, in contrast to other sectors of the Libyan economy that remain mired in bureaucratic red tape and corruption.51 While the Libyan military has not played a dominant role in the economy, it has had relations supporting the bureaucracies that run much of the state-managed system, but such reforms as privatization and foreign investment may reduce that role in favor of managerial professionals.
Libya is modernizing its military with the assistance of France, which is refitting Libya's Mirage F1 fighters with "Otomat" anti-ship missiles, and there remains the possibility that Libya, like Morocco, is shopping for the French Rafale fighter to ultimately replace its F1s. France was Libya's traditional arms supplier, and in negotiations with French diplomats, Qadhafi has apparently expressed interest in renewing those ties by both purchasing more modern equipment and having France refurbish existing weapons.52 The question is whether this modernization of what was once described as the world's largest military junkyard will keep Libya's military safely in the barracks and out of politics.
Civil-military relations vary considerably across the four North African countries under study in this article, though none is under military rule currently, and the role of the armed forces in national political space has lessened considerably in the countries where it was formerly either paramount or at least more significant.
Algeria is the most interesting case of political change. There, the military have largely returned to barracks life after ruling the country behind the scenes for most of the decade of the 1990s. A victory over violent Islamists was partly the reason for the retreat from national political power, but there may have been other pressures as well. This retreat to the barracks appears to be largely self-chosen by the armed-forces leadership. This seems to mirror the conditions in Turkey, where the military governs behind political façades when it believes that its concept of national core values is endangered (in both cases, by political Islamists) and then returns to its professional redoubt.
In Morocco and Tunisia, the military role in politics and the economy has been largely circumscribed by larger political forces. In Morocco, coup efforts in the 1970s earned the military considerable suspicion from the palace, and the restrictions that King Hassan II placed on the armed forces continues under King Mohamed VI. The military appears content to serve as defender of Morocco's national interests, which include service in the Western Sahara. The Tunisian military has not been extensively involved in national politics since independence.
Libya has also seen its military curbed after several coup efforts in the 1970s, and the stateless image of Qadhafi reduced the power of both the professional military and the ministry of defense. While Libya's is the only military in North Africa to engage in major campaigns outside its national territory (except for Morocco, for those who do not consider the Western Sahara Moroccan territory), it did very poorly against rival forces. Such outcomes allowed Qadhafi to further marginalize his military. Still, senior officers exert considerable influence, and Qadhafi needs their loyalty; this is probably the reason he has tolerated the existence of military enclaves that allow for personal enrichment.
Civil-military relations in North Africa have not resulted in military dictatorships in any of the countries under study. This is most likely a consequence of a combination of political traditions (both indigenous and imported) and the presence of strong rivals to the military within civilian leadership. It also appears to be the case that none of the armed-forces leadership in any of the four countries lusts after political power for its own sake but rather has intervened politically (in Algeria) or attempted to intervene (in Morocco and Libya) to prevent challenges to the military ideal of national and political identity.
Should an Islamist threat (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, for example) grow more serious in any of the four countries, and the soldiers in their barracks do not believe that security forces in the interior ministries can cope with threat, they may well attempt to contravene power.
1 This article represents the views of the author and not necessarily the views of any U.S. government agency. Some of the information obtained here came from interviews with individuals who wish to remain unnamed. I am indebted to Christopher Hemmer and Louisa Dris-Ait-Hamadouche for their valuable advice. 2 Steven A. Cook, The Unspoken Power: Civil-Military Relations and the Prospects for Reform. The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Analysis Paper No. 7, September 2004, p. 4.
3 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria: A Study of Post-War Arab Politics, 1945-1958. (Yale University Press, 1986); James L. Gelvin, Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire. (University of California Press, 1998).
4 Chris Kutschera, "A World Apart," Middle East, Issue 298 (February 2000), pp. 21-23.
5 Quoted in Steven A. Cook, The Unspoken Power: Civil Relations and the Prospects for Reform. The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, Analysis Paper 7, September 2004, p. 4.
6 Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations
(Harvard University Press, 1957).
7 Mehran Kamrava, "Military Professionalization and Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 115 (Spring 2000), p. 68.
8 Ibid., p. 81.
9 Samuel P. Huntington, "Armed Forces and Democracy: I. Reforming Civil-Military Relations," Journal of Democracy, Vol. 6 (October 1995), p. 15.
10 Louis W. Goodman, "Military Roles Past and Present," in Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, eds.,
Civil-Military Relations and Democracy (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 37.
11 Kristina Mani, "State-Making and Entrepreneurship in the Developing World," Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 33, No. 4 (July 2007), p. 591-92.
12 Michael Bonner, Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice (Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 60.
13 Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State (Routledge, 2001), p. 195.
14 Clement Henry, "The Dialectics of Political Islam in North Africa," Middle East Policy, Winter 2007.
15 King Hassan II created the Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie in 1957, but traditions of a civil police military in Morocco go back for centuries.
16 Lahouari Addi, "Army, State and Nation in Algeria," in Kees Koonings and Dirk Kruijt, eds., Political Armies: The Military and Nation Building in the Age of Democracy (Zed Books, 2002), p. 181.
17 Steven A. Cook, ruling but Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), p. 27.
18 Robert Mortimer, "Islamists, Soldiers, and Democrats: The Second Algerian War," The Middle East Journal, Vol. 50 (Winter 1996), p. 20.
19 Carlos Echeverria Jesús, "The Algerian Armed Forces: National and International Challenges." Working Paper No. 8/2004, Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales y Estratégios, January 4, 2004, p. 2.
20 Isabelle Werenfels, "Algeria: System Continuity through Elite Change," in Volker Perthes, ed., Arab Elites: Negotiating the Politics of Change (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004), pp. 173-174.
21 Ibid., pp. 175-176.
22 "Bouteflika Names New President amid Fresh Violence," Middle East News, April 21, 1999. The six opposition candidates claimed a figure of "under 23 percent." "While Refuting the Turnout Rate Advanced by the Interior Minister, the 'Six' Did Not Recognize the Outcome of the Vote," Algiers La Tribune (in French), April 16, 1999.
23 Author's interview, Algiers, February 2005.
24 Author's Interview, Algiers, February 2005.
25 Cook, Ruling But not Governing, p. 45.
26 Author's interview, March 2007.
27 Julia A. Clancy-Smith Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters, Algeria and Tunisia, 1800-1904. (University of California Press, 1994), Ch. 5.
28 Kenneth Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University Press, 2004), Ch. 4.
29 Author's interview, Tunisia, March 2004; Dwight Ling, Tunisia: From Protectorate to Republic (Indiana University Press, 1967); Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia; L. Carl Brown, "Bourguiba and Bourguibism Revisited: Reflections and Interpretation," The Middle East Journal, Vol. 55 (Winter, 2001), pp. 44-57.
30 Author's interview, 2007.
31 Author's interview, Tunis, March 2004.
32 "National Defence Minister Holds Talk with Chinese Opposite Number: Means to Diversify Bilateral Relations Looked At," Agence Tunis Afrique Presse, July 17, 2007.
33 Saloua Zerhouni, "Morocco: Reconciling Continuity and Change," in Volker Perthes, ed., Arab Elites: Negotiating the Politics of Change (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004), pp. 70-71.
34 The two coup efforts involved an attack against the king's palace, and an effort to shoot down the king's plane. The first unsuccessful effort resulted in the executions by firing squads of ten senior officers. The second effort involved an interception of the royal Boeing 727, flying in from a trip to France, by four Moroccan fighter planes, which repeatedly strafed the transport. The pilot, himself a Moroccan Air Force officer, falsely called out over his radio to the fighter pilots that they had killed the king, and thus there was no reason to down the 727 landed at their air base, but their commander immediately ordered into the sky once again, this time under strict instructions to down the 727. The crippled 727, meantime, with only two of the three engines still running, was just about to land when the fighters again attacked it, but the king and the plane made it safely to the ground. The next day the vice-chief of the Royal Moroccan Air Force was shot and killed by security forces while playing golf with the American air attaché. A number of Moroccan fighter pilots were also either executed or imprisoned for long terms.
35 Ibid., p. 70. King Hassan reportedly returned more control to the military in 1979, partly because of its initial ineffectiveness in the Western Sahara. Anthony H. Cordesman, A Tragedy of Arms: Military and Security Developments in the Maghreb (Praeger Publishers, 2002), p. 89.
36 Katsav, "Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East," p. 89.
37 Bernard Bombeau, "Modernizing Morocco's Mirage F1's, Air & Cosmos, June 29, 2007.
38 "Morocco to Receive New French Air-to-Ground Missiles," Casablanca Al-Massa, June 27, 2007.
39 Guilain Denoeux, "Corruption in Morocco: Old Forces, New Dynamics, and a Way Forward," Middle East Policy, Vol. XIV No. 4
40 Matthew Chebatoris, "Islamist Infiltration of the Moroccan Armed Forces," Terrorism Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, Vol. 5 (February 15, 2007), pp. 9-12.
41 Ibid., p. 11.
42 Dirk Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 84.
43 Ibid., pp. 100-01.
44 Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 (University of Nebraska Press, 2002), pp. 361-2.
45 Cordesman, A Tragedy of Arms, p. 193.
46 Ibid., p. 424.
47 Vandewalle, A History of Libya, p. 147.
48 Author's interview, 2007.
49 Andrew Solomon, "Circle of Fire: Letter from Libya," May 8, 2006.
50 Author's interview, 2007. Two other sons of Muammar Qadhafi have significant military positions: Mutassim is the national security advisor, and Saadi commands a special forces unit.
51 Warmer Political relations Should Help Libya's Efforts to Modernize Economy," International Herald Tribune, July 24, 2007.
52 "France Looks for Deals with Libya's Military," International Herald Tribune, February 5, 2005.