Professional assessment of defense needs is the principal factor shaping the organization and operational capability of the armed forces. Coordination with civilian authorities and defense planning are becoming more robust with foreign assistance. The military is bound by a professional ethic that emphasizes political neutrality and ethical or legal norms. The military justice system is distinct from the civilian justice system, but there are occasional reports of civilians tried in military courts and uneven enforcement of rules of engagement. The military education system is robust, is seen as key to an officer’s career, and inculcates values of deference to civilian authority.
The armed forces do not block the involvement of civilian authorities in managing the development of military capabilities, but there are few civilians with the competence to do so. The National Security Council notionally enables joint reviews of threats and military responses, but lacks both a strategic defense review based on a set of baseline documents against which to make assessments and the civilian cadre to conduct it. Defense needs are the defining factor in the design and management of military capabilities, and politics play little role.
Personal, family, and communal ties have little to no effect on command and control in the armed forces, although mentoring relationships reinforce personal connections within the military that do affect promotion. The National Guard and Presidential Guard were formed independently and do not fall under the military chain of command. Prior to 2011, they received better training and equipment, but these differences have become less important since then, and the roles of each in relation to the armed forces have become better defined. The structure of the military chain of command is largely focused on defense needs, but the armed forces lack a chief of staff who coordinates between the different services. This may be because civilian authorities are hesitant to centralize command in a single military officer.
A recruitment and human resources management system has been institutionalized for some time, but the burden of conscription generally falls on impoverished interior regions, although recruitment and promotion is more transparent and effective at noncommissioned and commissioned officer ranks. A long history of engaging with international partners on systemic functions such as planning, oversight and evaluation, and data management suggests that the defense sector is open to foreign advice.
The armed forces enjoy strong corporate identity and dependable institutional cohesion and independence from influences outside their formal chain of command. However, senior commanders fear that involvement in internal security could undermine cohesion in the ranks. The perception that orders must be legitimate is highly important to the armed forces, and is based primarily on ethical or legal norms such as defense of the state, political neutrality, and adherence to regulations. This is seen not to include defending particular leaders, political parties, or social groups.
Professional merit carries great weight in command appointments and officer promotions, especially at ranks lower than general officer, and clan or regional affiliations are of diminishing importance. Parallel loyalties almost never influence the formal military hierarchy, which is observed as a matter of course. Perceptions of bias or inequality in pay, promotion, and mission assignments do exist, but there is no perception that social, religious, or political factors have an effect.
The armed forces generally consider presidents and defense ministers as competent, patriotic, and deserving of obedience, and generally follow the orders of civilian authorities even when these lack military experience. The rank-and-file often regard their conditions of service as inequitable compared to those in the civil service and somewhat noncompetitive with those of civilians. Providers of foreign military assistance actively promote professionalism and officers who receive foreign training and education are more likely to self-identify as professional.
The 2014 constitution clarifies that military courts deal only with military offenses committed by service personnel, and this separation is maintained in practice. However, Parliament has not yet reformed the military justice code to exclude civilians from the jurisdiction of military courts, which have been used, less and less often since 2011, to target political opponents. Military courts also deal with cases involving terrorism or threats to the security of the state, even if the defendants are civilian. Military personnel are subject to civil courts for violations of civil law committed while off-duty.
Military judges are independent of military superiors and are subject only to the rule of law and conscience, but there is little opportunity for judicial review and military judges tend to be conservative in establishing new norms. Rules of engagement are clearly documented and incorporated into training, but enforcement is not ironclad, with occasional reports of smugglers or protesters being shot without repercussion. The military prides itself on discipline, patriotism, and adherence to laws. Legal controls on warfare are based on international law, taught in military schools, and generally adhered to in practice, but there are few means of ensuring the military follows international treaties and conventions during operations.
The Tunisian Red Crescent coordinates with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide the armed forces with training in international humanitarian law, but it is unclear what practical effect this has. Providers of foreign military assistance have generally reinforced the military’s adherence to human rights and other legal codes of conduct or rules of engagement. However, some providers emphasize these principles only in training and education programs lasting longer than a few weeks.
Merit generally determines entry to military schools. Personal ties or other social connections previously played some role, but this has diminished since 2011. Officers believe that military education is one of most important means of career advancement, and invest considerable time and effort in obtaining diplomas necessary for promotion or desirable assignments. The armed forces devote a substantial amount of their meager resources to education, and a strict schedule of educational programs at basic, speciality and advanced, staff, war college, and strategic levels defines eligibility for promotion. Most officers also undergo some form of foreign military education, primarily in the United States and France.
The military education system reinforces civilian control over the military by inculcating respect for civilians and civilian authority, especially at the staff college. Officers and noncommissioned officers alike are distinguished by their hard work and knowledge owing to an effective military education system, which contributes to the military’s corporate identity and officers’ sense of professional identity. Ministry of Defense personnel deliver the majority of military education courses, but civilian engineers and technicians provide instruction at military technical schools and training centers. Tunisian and foreign civilian experts also deliver courses at the National Defense Institute, which are attended by armed forces officers and senior civil servants.
Courses offered to enlisted personnel may provide technical skills transferable to the civilian workplace, but this is less true for officer education. Nonetheless, the general quality of military education enables numerous officers and noncommissioned officers to work in civilian sectors in Tunisia and abroad after leaving service.
Q1 - Military Competences
Q2 - Corporate Ethic
Q3 - Military Justice
Q4 - Military Education