Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


The Arab uprisings demonstrated that a military's response to the domestic unrest had a significant impact on whether the protests were successful and triggered regime change. In Egypt and Tunisia, the militaries defected from the incumbent regimes, and as a result the ruling leaders were removed, whereas in Bahrain, the military defended the regime and used violence against protesters, which led to the continuation of the government's rule. Scholars identify numerous factors to explain Middle East and North African (MENA) military behavior during the Arab uprising but overall these arguments tend to overemphasize individual case studies and fail to provide a region-wide, systematic argument as to what explains regime defection or regime loyalty during the uprisings.

My dissertation explains the variation of MENA military responses during the Arab uprisings systematically through the creation of a dataset, called the MENA Military Index. This dataset comprehensively examines twenty variables across twenty-one MENA countries in order to better understand the factors that caused some militaries to defect, others to fracture, and others to defend ruling regimes. My dissertation finds that two conditions were needed in order for a MENA military to either defect or fracture during the Arab uprisings. First, a country had to possess certain institutional variables that paved the foundation for possible military insubordination such as rivalries between the military and the state's internal security forces, parallel security forces that counterbalanced the military, the military having the autonomy to make personnel appointments within the armed forces, and a system of military conscription. Second, during the uprising there had to be specific social conditions that encouraged military insubordination and raised the costs of state violence towards protesters, such as the protests being large, broad-based, non-violent, comprising of non-traditional demonstrators, and specifically aiming to win over the military. Only if these two conditions were met did MENA militaries refrain from using violence against protesters and either defect or fracture from the ruling regime.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.