Arab armies are closed and secretive actors. Yet they have been propelled to the forefront of politics in 2011, acting as midwives and active participants in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Their posture vis-à-vis incumbent regimes is crucial in other Arab countries too Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria as the wave of popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes has spread. In view of this, there is an essential need to understand what kind of actors Arab armies are. The nature of armies in authoritarian settings shapes the pattern of regime resilience or breakdown when faced with popular uprisings, as well as the prospects for transition in various countries in the Arab world.
1. Regime engineering in or control of the military
1.1. Taming/controlling the “beast”
1.2. Transforming the army and curbing potential challengers
2. Regimes facing mass mobilizations in 2011 and the moment of truth for armies: to shoot or not to shoot
3. The day after. Armies in transitional contexts: maintaining civil order or engaging in civil strife or wars
Conclusion: Are Arab armies up to the challenge?