Soldiers of Democracy book cover image


Soldiers of Democracy?

Military Legacies and the Arab Spring

Sharan Grewal
Release Date: October 25, 2023

Why do some militaries support and others thwart transitions to democracy? After the Arab Spring revolutions, why did Egypt’s military stage a coup to end the transition? Conversely, why did Tunisia’s military initially support the transition, only to later facilitate the elected president’s dismantling of democracy?

In Soldiers of Democracy? Military Legacies and the Arab Spring, Sharan Grewal argues that a military’s behavior under democracy is shaped by how it had been treated under autocracy. Autocrats who had empowered their militaries produce soldiers who will repress protests and stage coups to preserve their privileges. Meanwhile, autocrats who had marginalized their militaries produce soldiers who support democratization, but who are also more susceptible to incumbent takeovers and civil wars. The dictator’s choice to either empower or marginalize the military thus creates legacies that shape both the likelihood of democratization and the forms by which it breaks down.

Drawing on over 140 interviews with civilian and military leaders, and three surveys of military personnel, this scholarly volume illustrates this theory through detailed case studies of Egypt and Tunisia. Grewal also probes the generalizability of the theory through a cross-national analysis of all countries between 1946-2010. Overall, he brings the military front and center to the study of democratic transition and consolidation.