Mohaned Al-Hamdi | Kansas State University

Military Spending and Democratization in the Arab World

Different approaches have been used to explain why there is a large “Democratic Deficit” in the Middle East. Some scholars tried to dissect the region to argue that the democratic deficit is not a general Middle East phenomena but a specific Arabic problem. While much research has been done, all prior studies have ignored the military aspect of democratization. Some scholars in the field points out to almost all the factors used in the literature to discuss the lack of democracy in the region, but they fail to mention the military factor. With authoritarian regimes’ attempts to stay in power, they made all institutions, except the military, so weak that they had only nominal power in changing the status quo. In investigating the effect of ME on the level of democracy in the Arab World. We have two basic research questions: How does military expenditure affect the level of democracy in the Middle East Countries? How does democratization affect ME?
ME increase could indicate a reliance on the "security guarantee" provided by a "well financed" coercion apparatus. Also, it might indicate that the government senses that providing the military with better pay and equipment makes the military a ‘double-edged sword’ that needs to be balanced by allowing the public to have more of a voice in determining the policies of the state. We expect a negative relationship between democracy and ME as the authoritarian regimes want to keep the status quo by making the military “happy.”
The second hypothesis deals with the effect of the military in deciding the policies of the state. Using the Military Population Ratio (MPR) will allow us to test the effect of the level of democratization through the channel of "equitable distribution of income" We expect to see a negative relationship between ME/GDP, ME/CGE, and democracy. As the countries of the Arab World live through enduring authoritarian regimes, there are fewer constraints on the government to allocate resources to the military as compared to democratic governments.
We also test the "alliance" factor on democratization, through military aid. By using military aid, we can see if such aid, which allows the country to allocate more internal resources to civilian needs, gives the regime more leverage to remain authoritarian. We expect to see a negative relationship between democracy and military aid. In the region, international players give military aid to autocratic regimes to maintain the stability of the region.
For the opposite causal direction, we expect to see a positive effect of democratization on ME/GDP and ME/CGE in the short-run and a negative effect in the long-run. As a country starts democratizing, there will be some unrest in the country. To keep the country stable, government may increase ME to deal with the situation. When the democracy matures, these social movements disappear, and the need for the military as an internal coercive apparatus decreases, thus we expect a decrease in ME. We expect that military aid will have a negative effect on ME. As more resources for military use come from outside, less internal resources are needed to be allocated for the military. We expect the MPR to have a positive effect on ME, as more people are in the military. Hence, we expect a higher ME/GDP and higher ME/CGE with less democracy.