The behavior of security forces during the Arab Awakening has shaped the evolution of each uprising; unsurprisingly then, the long-term transitions also depend on their political systems’ capacity to rein in and reform the security sectors—the military, internal security apparatuses, and paramilitary forces—that have grown too big, too powerful, too brutal, or too autonomous. And while opportunities for security reform exist in transitioning countries, regimes that have withstood the political tremors are learning other lessons from the uprisings.
Excepting Bahrain and Oman, Gulf monarchies have experienced relatively mild popular pressure because of a less acute and more manageable set of economic and political challenges—in large part due to oil wealth, but also because of their political cultures. These regimes care little that their counterparts in the Middle East (similarly invested in internal “coup-proofing”) have otherwise succumbed to the wave of popular uprisings—suggesting that emphasis on security, once believed a guarantor of survival, was actually a contributing factor of their demise. Rather, Gulf monarchies have responded by increasing reliance on the security systems by strengthening patronage networks that link the ruling family to the officer corps and retired security personnel.
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