The civil-military relationship undermines the development of military capabilities. Civilians generally lack the requisite knowledge and training in defense affairs, sectarian and clientelist patronage networks often exercise undue influence in the routine functioning of the armed forces, and defense reviews conducted by the military do not include civilian actors. The armed forces engage in military strategic planning, doctrine development, and capabilities assessment, but not in defense policy or national strategic planning, which are deemed the purview of civilians in government.
Yet none of the competing sectarian political forces actively works towards the professionalization and capabilities development of the armed forces. This factionalism forces the military to elaborate national military strategies focused on minimal force upgrade planning instead of a long term vision for national defense. Personal, family, and communal ties play a critical role in shaping public sector appointments across Lebanon, but the armed forces are the least politically permeable of state institutions.
The state does not sponsor parallel military formations outside the regular chain of command, but Hezbollah operates an independent, asymmetric force with its own chain of command, in close coordination with Iran. Defense needs are the main consideration for the structure of the military chain of command. A fifty-fifty Muslim-Christian quota system exists in the officer corps, and care is given, informally, to balance top posts among sects, but this does not alter respect for the chain of command.
The system for human resources planning, recruitment, and career development is transparent but formulaic, a function of the military’s attempts to accommodate the country’s sectarian politics. This predictability often comes at the expense of officers being pitted against their peers in pursuit of limited suitable appointments dictated by the confessional quota system. The defense sector accepts advice from foreign providers of military assistance for improving systemic functions, to include a series of force planning and reform episodes, beginning in 2006.
The armed forces’ corporate identity is strong, especially in the combat arms, and it erodes only in the face of significant communal strife. This institutional cohesion is tied to political consensus on the use of the armed forces. The armed forces are democratic, though not necessarily liberal, meaning that orders are generally perceived as legitimate unless they put Lebanon’s stability or spirit of communal coexistence at risk. When in doubt, the military will choose inaction over action, making it, in effect, mostly compliant with norms of obedience.
Professional merit prevails in internal processes and is critical to command appointments, especially of elite units, but the confessional quota system also plays a role, particularly in the earmarking of posts by sect. The military balances meritocratic appointments against political pressure to maintain communal quotas. Factional and sectarian actors attempt to create parallel loyalties in the armed forces, as in other state institutions, but the military has generally been successful at deflecting these efforts, especially after the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian forces.
Military personnel deem processes for pay, promotion, and mission assignment to be impartial, but there are occasional instances of favoritism and a perception that corruption to supplement pay is tolerated in law enforcement and internal security forces but not in the military. The military as a whole prefers to distance itself from civilian authorities that it regards as sectarian, incompetent, or subject to foreign and partisan influence, and it will seek to evade orders it deems illegitimate or skewed politically or communally.
The jurisdiction of civilian and military courts is clear and maintained in practice, but civilians continue to be tried for national security or terrorism offences in military courts. However, this is the exception, not the norm. Military personnel sometimes complain that, although they are subject to the same civilian laws as citizens, they are the target of enforcement more frequently. At the same time, the armed forces have on occasion used the military courts to shield military personnel from civilian prosecution.
Judicial review plays only a marginal role in military justice. Military judges strive to uphold a professional code of military conduct, but many serve for short periods outside their primary specialty and rarely challenge the existing legal context. Rules of engagement are clear, enforced, and rehearsed according to annual training plans, but they are not frequently reviewed for currency. Abuses of power and extreme violations are rare, and occur largely due to force majeure, in high intensity or public order operations.
The armed forces see themselves as a bastion of legal and ethical norms, and respect for values is internalized within the force. Military conduct also stays within clear tactical and political limits. International humanitarian law is incorporated into training at all levels and in operational plans and orders, and is becoming institutionalized in military law and military schools, but near-constant operational deployment since 2006 has hindered this institutionalization since 2006.
Training in international humanitarian law is routinely conducted, and human rights training has become an integral part of external assistance programming and funded training engagements. This, combined with sensitivity to public opinion, explains the low civilian casualty rate during mass protests and civil actions. Providers of foreign military assistance strongly reinforce adherence to human rights and other legal codes of conduct, and soldiers that have violated these codes of conduct or rules of engagement have been held to account before they are allowed to participate in foreign training programs.
Entry to military schools is based on transparent criteria and merit, but there are reports of senior politicians circumventing this process to place clients in the military academy. The armed forces have cracked down on this behavior since 2017, but confessional quotas still impact placement in military schools. Military education, especially in France and the United States, is highly prized for professional advancement and promotion. The absence of institutional off ramps for less competent officers creates an expectation of automatic advancement to brigadier general and inflation in the number of officers above the rank of lieutenant colonel.
The armed forces have consistently increased funding for officer higher education, but officers are more likely to receive military education from foreign militaries or foreign civilian defense professionals than from nonmilitary institutions and experts within Lebanon. Military education espouses civilian values and respect for civilians at large, but clientelist, rent seeking competition among Lebanon’s political class undermines respect for civilian authority in the armed forces.
The military education system refers to General Fouad Chehab, the founding father of the military, as an inspiration for corporate identity, developing professionalism, cohesion, and the view that sectarianism, politics, and corruption have no place in the military. This professional identity is especially strong among young officers and noncommissioned officers. Lebanon has tried in vain to establish a national defense course, and some military officers and very few civilian officials attend such programs overseas.
A number of senior military officers have not attended a command and staff course, let alone a national defense course. Prior to 2000, the vast majority of skills learned in military education and training were of military, not civilian use, but expertise in leadership and technical fields with a civilian application has increased since. The military education system is developing more transferable skills as a result of foreign military assistance.
Q1 - Military Competences
Q2 - Corporate Ethic
Q3 - Military Justice
Q4 - Military Education