Military Autonomy and Balancing in Political Crises: Lessons From the Middle East

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This article argues that autonomous militaries can play a balancing role during major internal political crises. However, when militaries’ autonomy is curtailed by political leaders before the crisis, militaries cannot maintain the political balance between rulers and opponents, thereby increasing the risk of armed conflict. The article first explains the main concepts relevant to the discussion (autonomy, political crisis, balancing role), exploring their possible interlinkages and presenting several hypotheses. Subsequently, it discusses four relevant cases from the Middle East before and during the Arab revolts of 2010–2011: Egypt in 2011 and Lebanon in 1958, which demonstrate the balancing capacities of autonomous militaries during major political crises, and Lebanon in 1975 and Syria in 2011, which reveal that nonautonomous militaries cannot play a balancing role in such circumstances. The article concludes with several observations regarding the military’s balancing role during major internal political crises in divided and homogenous states.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)126-147
Number of pages22
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Middle East
  • civil–military relations
  • coups and conflicts
  • political science

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Safety Research


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