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Military Cooperation Between Democracies and Autocracies in the MENA: The Rise of Authoritarian Interventionism?

Comparative Politics
Conflict
Democracy
International Relations
Security
Hanna Pfeifer
Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Hanna Pfeifer
Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

Abstract

The liberal world order is often described as the post-World Word II set of international institutions built up primarily by the US and aiming at the promotion of liberal values such as human rights, democracy and freedom as well as prosperity through economic and political cooperation and peaceful relations among states. The end of the Cold War has been marked by a phase of liberal hegemony under the leadership of the United States; many international organisations and influential international security practices were initially shaped by the promotion of liberal norms and values and an attempted enlargement of the “democratic zone” in the world. Yet, liberal hegemony has always had its dark sides, including what has been called liberal interventionism by the West. In recent years, however, actors in the field of international security have multiplied and intervention arrangements go far beyond the “concert of democracies”. This paper is interested in the military cooperation between Western democracies and Arab states that are classified as autocratic. More specifically, it analyses how Arab monarchies, in particular from the Gulf, intervene side by side with western democracies. It argues that this cooperation may give rise to what could be called authoritarian practices of intervention: they become increasingly opaque, thus evading public and democratic control and undermining international norms. The paper proceeds in three steps. First, it describes the cooperation arrangement in three military interventions (Libya 2011, Syria/Iraq since 2014, Yemen since 2015). Second, it analyses the division of labour between democracies and autocracies in these interventions, arguing that this new form of intervention may contribute to the proliferation and normalization of authoritarian practices and further undermine liberal norms. Third, however, the paper tries to put this claim into perspective by comparing these interventions with “classical” liberal interventions with regard to their normative problems.