Discuss the key actors that help explain why the protest were successful in removing the rulers in some Arab Spring countries, such as Tunisia or Libya, while the protests in countries like Bahrain or Syria failed to achieve the same outcome.
The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. These demonstrations initially varied in size and intensity. Dictators in some countries quickly found themselves overwhelmed by massive, popular uprisings, while others confronted only modest opposition.
Monarchism and oil wealth—differentiate those states that experienced full-blown uprisings from those that were the sites of more limited demonstrations. Of the region’s eight monarchies, only Bahrain experienced a substantial uprising. Of the region’s eight oil-wealthy regimes, two experienced uprisings—Bahrain and Libya. Of the six countries in the region that were both oil-poor and did not have hereditary monarchies, four experienced uprisings—Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen.
The presence of monarchism and oil wealth reduce the likelihood of an uprising by establishing barriers to protest escalation. In monarchies, those barriers are rooted partly in the regime’s structure. In these types of governments, the king sits outside the field of contestation, and legislative institutions are often composed of a wide-range of factions that balance against each other and compete in elections. This arrangement increases the credibility of reforms offered by the monarch, since he can cede meaningful powers without sacrificing his position, and discourages the opposition from making demands for radical change. As such, protesters are less likely to demand the removal of the monarch and more likely to call for internal reforms, since reforms are attainable without the demise of the ruler and the incompetence of elected officials often appears to be the source of most problems. Consequently, protests are more manageable and pose less of a threat to the regime. This dynamic was apparent in both Morocco and Jordan, where significant protest movements never developed coherent-enough demands to threaten the regime, and were quickly diffused by the monarch’s offers of reforms, which were often never fully realized.
In oil-wealthy regimes, the financial resources accumulated from oil create barriers to escalation by raising the costs of participation for protesters. Governments can rely on their resources to offer citizens financial incentives that help pacify them and thereby reduce the likelihood of an uprising. Several Arab regimes attempted to use this tactic as unrest swept across the region, by increasing public salaries and subsidies on staple goods. The resources available to oil-wealthy regimes, however, were typically substantial enough to matter.
Not all protest movements that threatened regional regimes produced political change. In fact, in only two countries—Egypt and...