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November 24, 2005


Rex Brynen

I know Marouf fairly well (having been dealt with him extensively in various second track discussions during the Oslo era, as well as in his official capacity as peace process coordinator at the Jordanian MFA) and I'm not sure that I share your pessism as to al-Bakhit's influence on policy. I've always found him to be a flexible, open-minded, and creative thinker, and very far from the doctrinaire military/security apparatchik that some have read into his CV. He also had strong enough security credentials to be able to suggest innovative ways of approaching issues that civilian officials (less confident of their position) were unwilling to contemplate or discuss.

That having been said, the Zarqawi attacks are certainly going to spur the Hashemite monarchy's defensive reflexes, and are likely to have a chilling effect on public freedoms regardless of who holds the PMship.

hatem abunimeh

I have lately read in local Jordanian publications some bits and pieces about something new that I haven't heard about before in Jordan's history, it is called " Soft Security". I'm not really certain what this soft security entails but I have a sneaking suspecion that it is a lot less harsher than the straight forward security crackdown on any dissedent groups in Jordan. It remains to be seen but pro liberal voices better take a backseat for the time being because it looks like the Jordanian patriot act is in the offing, and with a provisin in it stipulating the indefinite detention of any person of interest for as long as it takes, without a charge or a trial doesn't look good at all.

Nur al-Cubicle

This statement by "a high-ranking Jordian source" is troubling:

...Jordan realizes now more than ever the importance of reforms, especially in the schools and in the mosques, are its best defense. Reforms, or purges? The schools?

History of a royal military dictatorship foretold:

Under the dictatorship, the effectiveness of parliamentary system was virtually abolished though its forms were publicly preserved. The law codes were rewritten. All teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath to defend the King. Newspaper editors were all personally chosen by the King himself, and no one could practice journalism who did not possess a certificate of approval from the palace. The professional associations were also deprived of any independence and were integrated into what was called the "cooperative" system. The aim was to place all Jordanians in various professional organizations or "corporations", all of them under governmental control.

Nur al-Cubicle

Forgot to post source:


David Kane


We're having a (perhaps pedantic) discussion over what you meant by the phrase "suggesting he may be more open-minded and liberal than his military CV would suggest".

I interpret you to mean:

All else equal, people who have served in the military are less open-minded and liberal --- small "l" classical liberal, not liberal/conservative in the US context --- than people who have not served in the miliary.

If this interpretation is not correct, could you please clarify? Some think that you mean just career military or just generals or just Jordanian generals or something else . . .

Thanks for your time,


the aardvark


I think your commenters at EB got it pretty much right. I was obviously talking about Jordan specifically, and about Arab militaries generically. If you knew anything about Arab authoritarianism and the long and nasty history of military rule across the region, you'd know what I was talking about. The comment had nothing to do with the American military.

Interestingly, the strongest counter-argument is that Arab military officers who have studied in the United States - a surprisingly large number - would be more liberal because of exposure to the American tradition, more travel to the West and greater experience of the world than their more parochial politician peers. I've never seen any systematic study of whether or not that's true - and I don't really buy it - but it's probably the strongest counter-argument.

David Kane

So, just to be clear, you believe that:

Among Jordanians, and all else equal, people who have served in the military are less open-minded and liberal --- small "l" classical liberal, not liberal/conservative in the US context --- than people who have not served in the miliary.

Just want to be certain about what you meant.

By the way, although I am sensitive to military issues, I think it is fair to say that I am not the only reader who will interpret statements like "Freedom is on the march... and soldiers are SO good at marching." as applying to a broader universe than just former Jordanian generals.


the aardvark

No, David, that's not right either.

What I meant was exactly what I said: when a military officer is put in charge of the government of an Arab country which is struggling with democratic reform, and which has no tradition of civilian control of the military or of democracy, in a region where military rule has been ubiquitous and devastating, with a mandate to pursue a war on terrorism on all fronts, it is not a good sign for those hoping for liberal reforms.

Everything else is your ventriloquism.

I also doubt that anyone else would have interpreted it the way you did, but if they did hopefully they now understand.

David Kane

Thanks for taking the time to clarify what you meant for me. As to how other people would have interpreted this post (in the context of your blog):

1) The vast majority of current and ex-military that I know would have interpreted the way that I did at first, as a comment on military men and women in general.

2) At least some, perhaps most, of the readers of EphBlog seem to have interpreted the way I tried to do the second time, as a comment on military men in Jordan and/or the Middle East.

It really does not take much of a ventriloquest to interpret your comment that the new Prime Minister "may be more open-minded and liberal than his military CV would suggest" in either of the above ways.

But thanks again for taking the time to clear up my confusion. I will take some time to think about the above claim and hope to comment on it later.

I know that you can hardly wait. ;-)

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