A Force for Bad: U.S. military aid, isomorphism and military power in Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Omar El-Nahry
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 14:10 to 15:00

Why does a democratic country that has elevated the promotion of democracy in the Middle East to one of its main objectives pay billions of dollars in military aid to repressive regimes and their militaries? In order to understand why U.S. military aid to Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain persists despite their involvement in repression after the Arab Sping, a novel way to look at the rationales behind military aid is needed. Instead of bolstering the military as an external fighting force or promoting democracy, military aid is a tool to achieve a different goal of U.S. policy in the Middle East: the maintenance of stability and order, It is a vehicle to create links between a powerful, in some cases the most powerful, institution within Arab states and the U.S.

By selling modern equipment, joint training and exercises, military aid creates isomorphic structures between foreign forces and the U.S. military and a ‘professional network’ between foreign officers and U.S. decision makers. This network facilitates the emergence of shared mind-sets, attitudes and personal links that play an important role in times of crisis – it serves as a cost-efficient way to ensure the continuity of crucial U.S. interest in the face of uncertainty. Paradoxically, militaries that are more involved in the politics, economy and societies of their countries, more likely than not posing an obstacle to democratisation, are more likely to receive military aid dollars than the ‘professional’ forces the very same assistance programmes are designed to support.

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