Mar 05, 2014
The Popular Committees of Abyan, Yemen: A Necessary Evil or an Opportunity for Security Reform?
In early 2011, Yemeni youths took to the street to demand the downfall of the regime and much-needed democratic reforms. This eventually led to the removal of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power later the same year. The political turmoil associated with the uprising has resulted in an alarming deterioration of the security situation throughout the country, most notably the seizure of two major cities in the southern governorate of Abyan by Ansar al-Shariah (AAS), an offshoot of al-Qa`ida. Backed by the Yemeni government, the Popular Committees (PCs), local armed resistance groups, pushed AAS out of major cities in Abyan.
Mar 12, 2014
Libya on the Brink: Insecurity, Localism, and the State Not Back In
The Libyan uprising launched almost three years ago has yet to produce the promised transition to a new post-Qaddafi political order. The moment of unity generated by toppling the tyrant has fragmented due to the fact that, unlike Tunisia or Egypt, no state apparatus existed to take over from the victorious rebels. Transitional authorities under the National Transitional Council (NTC, March 2011-August 2012) were too weak to govern and acquire legitimacy. Their successor 200-member constituent assembly, the General National Congress (GNC) elected in July 2012, has not fared much better due to dysfunctional politics, factional disputes, pervasive distrust, a legacy of institutional destruction, and sporadic resistance by former members and supporters of the toppled regime, as well as historical, regional, and tribal cleavages.
Mar 13, 2014
South Korea’s Immature Professionalism in the Security Sector
It is widely accepted that South Korea has successfully consolidated democracy. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama cited South Korea as an exemplary case of economic growth and democracy in his famous speech at Cairo University on June 4, 2009. Two years later, when Egypt underwent a civil uprising that brought to an end the country’s decades-old Mubarak regime, he lauded South Korea’s democracy once again, suggesting that “Egypt could transform itself into a democracy on the model of Indonesia, Chile, or South Korea.” By 2013, however, alleged election fraud in South Korea had damaged the international reputation of its mature democracy. The Democratic Party—the country’s main opposition—publicly called the 2012 presidential election unfair because the National Intelligence Service (NIS) had manipulated public opinion prior to the election, leaving disparaging comments about opposition candidate Moon Jae-in on popular websites.
Mar 18, 2014
Obstacles to Civilian Control of the Security Sector in Thailand
Over 30 military coups and coup attempts have taken place in Thailand since 1932, when absolute monarchy was overthrown, the latest of which was in 2006. Clearly, achieving democratic civilian control over Thai security forces remains a daunting challenge. When we talk about Thai security forces, we are referring to the country’s army, navy, air force, police, and paramilitaries. The army is much larger than the other services, although the police force is also quite sizeable. Soldiers and police have tended to obey elected civilian authorities due to partisan connections or simply because the appearance of compliance is convenient. But in actuality the security forces are generally insulated from the sanction of elected governments.
Mar 28, 2014
Democratization and Building a Democratic Army: Lessons from South Korea
Democratization in a country is not just about electing new leaders through free, fair, and competitive elections; it entails a much more comprehensive political overhaul, including deposing ruling elites from the previous autocratic regime, building workable democratic institutions with a new constitution, reaping support from pro-democracy civil society groups, and managing national security and order. Possibly the most significant factor in the success or failure of a state’s democratic transition and subsequent consolidation is establishing a firm and democratic control over the armed forces. Without depoliticizing the once-politically dominant military and making top military officials politically neutral and subordinated under democratically elected leaders, the post-democratization political process of a nation is destined to be highly unstable and most likely will derail from the route to democratic consolidation.
Apr 03, 2014
Challenges to State Building after the Fall of Qaddafi
The fall of the Qaddafi regime and the loss of the state monopoly on violence gave way to a duopoly of power in Libya whereby rudimentary “national” forces—under the control of the National Transitional Council (NTC) from March 2011 to August 2012—were established in competition with the non-state “Revolutionary Brigades,” which had borne the brunt of the military struggle against Qaddafi’s forces. Since then, the Revolutionary Brigades have sought to assert themselves in the political arena.
Apr 08, 2014
Maliki and the Security Sector in Iraq
Burak Bilgehan Özpek
It would be unfair to argue that democracy fails to provide stability in divided societies or that democracy cannot work in Iraq. Instead, the term “democracy” should be redefined to take free market principles into consideration. As the Iraq case shows, any political group, party, or figure can manipulate the democratic system if the state apparatus controls the distribution of economic resources. If, as in the case of Iraq, a political arrangement, constitution, or power-sharing formula results in a specific group gaining control of the distribution of economic resources, this imbalance will be reflected in the composition of the security forces as well as in their mission and activities, and it will likely result in the emergence of (armed) actors in opposition to them.
Nov 19, 2015
Egypt’s Military Business: The Need for Change
The Egyptian state today faces one acute crisis after the other. To be fair, the Egyptian military cannot be held responsible for creating these crises. However, it is unlikely that Egypt will be able to resolve them unless and until the armed forces divests itself of the power and the privileges associated with the immense economic power and privileges it has accumulated.
Jan 21, 2016
The State and Security in Asia
While there are a surprisingly large number of regionally-based political initiatives of one sort or another, some with a specific mandate to address security issues, East Asia’s potential to act collectively is a function of the countries that compose it. The willingness of the members act in concert is constrained by some very specific, historically contingent factors that continue to cast a long shadow over contemporary events. Trying to make sense of why it has proved so difficult to resolve or even talk about some of the region’s most enduring security problems involves looking at the general trajectory of historical development that has made East Asia a region like no other.
Jan 28, 2016
Myanmar: The Transition from Social Control to Social Contract
This essay demonstrates that the new Myanmar leadership’s intent to enter into a social contract with its citizens requires an analysis of the mechanisms of social control, which is the evolution of the means of power rather than its nature. The essay examines how the model of totalitarian normality has functioned in practice in Myanmar for over five decades marked by ongoing ethnic conflicts, sectarian violence and ruthless repression of civil society. By closely observing the normalization process lying ahead, the essay explores the complexity of the change process to civilianize Myanmar.
Feb 23, 2016
Explaining the Military's Ruling Ambition in Egypt and Thailand
Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge
The military took advantage of political crisis to remove civilian governments in Egypt in 2013 and Thailand in 2014. This essay discusses three important features of the Egyptian and Thai political systems that have fostered the military's ruling ambition in both cases.
Jan 25, 2017
Big News! Conscription in the Gulf
The introduction of the draft in Gulf monarchies — after decades of sovereign statehood — presents an interesting puzzle. What are the reasons behind the newly implemented conscription? What broader implications does this phenomenon have for the Gulf? This essay addresses these questions.
Jun 06, 2017
Updating Algeria's Military Doctrine
Francis Ghilès and Akram Kharief
Algeria today possesses a number of assets that endow it with the potential to be a regional power and to serve as an anchor of stability. After Algerian security forces succeeded in crushing the decade-long Islamist insurgency and in the context of rising regional instability, American and European officials came to regard Algeria as being a potentially valuable security partner in the Maghreb and the Sahel. However, as this essay shows, Algeria’s military doctrine must be updated for this partnership to truly flourish — and for Algeria itself to thrive.
Jun 27, 2017
The Influence of North African Militaries in Foreign Policy-Making
This essay looks at five North African states, arguing that the armed forces — for a variety of often case-specific reasons — are actually not as politically powerful and thus influential in foreign policy-making as one might expect. It first discusses the political strength of the military establishments of five North African states — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt — and then investigates the difference, if any, that the recent Arab upheavals have made in their involvement in foreign policy-making.
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