GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Arab Gulf Military Institutions: National Development and Integration
Paper Proposal Text :
Military institutions in developing nations have since the 1950s had an important role to play in national development. They have also tried to play an integrative role in societies with ethnic, religious, and socio-economic divisions. In Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, military officers have acted as modernizing agents because of their corporate identity as an organized bureaucracy with hierarchy, mission, trained personnel, and a commitment to the defense of the state and its institutions.
In the Arab world, activist military institutions in the republican regimes of the 1950s and 1960s have established their own state structures for the supposed purpose of lifting their societies out of poverty, educating and modernizing them, and building necessary institutions that would help bridge vertical cleavages between classes, sects, and ethnicities. In so doing, republican military institutions have become enmeshed in day-to-day issues of governance that are not easily separated from politics.
By contrast, Arab Gulf military institutions for decades have refrained from seeking a role in national political development and have relegated that mission to bureaucratic state institutions that received their organizing and modernizing missions from legitimate and purposeful monarchical authorities bent on assuring stability and social peace. As the armed organs of monarchical states, Gulf militaries have acted as repositories of legitimate state power, dedicated to the tasks of defending the homeland and helping to assure domestic tranquility. They have had no need to divert their attention to domestic exigencies of governance or necessities of politics. In comparison to those in republican regimes where legitimacy is amorphous and fleeting, Gulf military institutions have dedicated their energies to building an esprit de corps and a professionalism that helped keep them out of politics.
Simultaneously, however, Gulf military institutions have acted as agents of national integration by bringing together members of different social groups, clans, and tribes; in the process helping the development of a broad-based modern nationalism within the individual countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council that transcends traditional identities of clan or tribe. Some Gulf countries have even instituted schemes of national service, through their armed forces, to give the youth a sense of belonging and build a sense of sacrifice for one’s nation- not locality, region, or tribe. Gulf males and females are partaking of these national service projects besides their occupations as students, lawyers, office personnel, and the like.
Importantly, the integrative mission of the individual Gulf militaries is very likely in the future to expand horizontally into a sense of belonging to a collective pan-Gulf national identity. Loyal as they are to legitimate political civilian authority, the militaries in this endeavor will certainly reflect the wishes of the individual courts and governments. But the establishment recently of a Gulf Joint Military Command that will integrate military units from all Gulf countries may point to a future in which military institutions see it in their interest and the interest of the states they serve to help the horizontal expansion of a Gulf spirit of nationalism. In that process, they may become essential agents of strategic change in the Arabian Gulf.
This paper will begin by briefly analyzing the literature on military institutions as agents of political and other change. It will then seek to explain the role military institutions have played in developing societies, using Egypt as an example of armed forces involved in national political and institutional development. It will then explicate the position of the military institutions in the monarchical regimes of the Gulf and how they have always supported legitimate political authority. But as modern institutions armed with the latest state-of-the-art equipment, they play a major role in modernizing their societies, educating their citizens, and deepening national integration. Finally, the paper will project the role of the Gulf’s armed forces domestically into what they could do to inculcate a sense of `Gulf nationalism’ in the future.