Jordan Table of Contents
Because such heavy reliance was placed on the military to safeguard the monarchy, the composition and attitudes of armed forces personnel have been of vital importance to Hussein. Recruitment policies and promotion of senior personnel were subject to the approval of the king. During the early years of the Hashimite regime, a traditional system of recruitment was followed that grew out of British practices associated with the formation and maintenance of the Arab Legion. The legion was officered, trained, and financed by Britain. The enlisted personnel were all locally recruited villagers and tribesmen. Most British officers detached to serve with the legion were contract employees of the Transjordanian government; others were simply seconded from the British army.
Initial public reaction to the Arab Legion was indifferent or at times even hostile, and recruiting was difficult. The military establishment, however, soon developed high standards of organization, discipline, and training. Tribal uprisings and raiding practices were suppressed, and criminal activity by restive tribal elements diminished. Civic assistance activities enhanced the legion's public image, and it evolved into a proud and respected professional force. Its well-trained regulars gained a reputation for firm and effective action, as well as for discipline and justice in dealing with the civilian population. As a result, recruiting became easy, with the further incentive of generous pay scales in the enlisted ranks in relation to other Middle Eastern armies.
The flow of volunteers made it possible to impose a system of selection that strengthened confidence in the army as a stabilizing factor in defense of the monarchy. As Glubb later wrote, "The character and antecedents of every recruit were checked by the police before his acceptance. Then again, in the Arab Legion, a confidential report was submitted on every officer and man every year." This careful screening to exclude potential subversives and those of doubtful loyalty was expensive and time-consuming. But support of a monarchy was at stake, and the background investigation of even the lowest recruit was an important detail in the process. The long-term success of the effort was evident in the devotion the armed forces demonstrated to Hussein through three decades of conflict with Israel, internecine Arab strife, and repeated assassination attempts.
The system produced good soldiers, as the legion's record of performance amply demonstrated, and this tradition has persisted. Jordanian troops have proved to be tough and resilient fighters. Men of bedouin origin, long accustomed to living in a harsh physical environment and enduring Spartan conditions, showed a particular affinity for and pride in military service. For many years, the system of carefully selected volunteers resulted in an army in which the bedouin element constituted the vast majority, particularly in infantry and armored units. According to Glubb's account, nearly all of the legion's troops before and during World War II were recruited from the bedouins of southern Transjordan. After the war, enlistment of bedouins of northern Transjordan as well as residents of the West Bank was also encouraged.
Following the dissolution of the National Guard in 1965, many of its Palestinian members were accepted into the Jordan Arab Army after careful security screening. Palestinians formed about 40 percent of the armed forces. The Palestinian component fell to 15 percent during the 1970s, when the country was wracked by internal turbulence (highlighted by the assassination of the prime minister in 1971 and the coup attempt financed by Palestinian bribes in 1972). As many as 5,000 Palestinians were estimated to have succumbed to PLO pressure to defect during the 1970-71 civil war, but approximately 20,000 remained loyal to the king and the armed forces. Although no official statistics were available, observers believed that the proportion of Palestinians in the armed forces had risen to between 30 percent and 40 percent by 1986. Observers expected this percentage would probably continue to rise as a result of conscription and as doubts over Palestinian loyalty further subsided. Although education standards among the bedouins had risen sharply, there continued to be a premium in the late 1980s on the educational and technical attainments that Palestinian recruits could more readily offer.
Families of traditional background still dominated among senior military officers. The principal tribes were well represented, but a balance was deliberately maintained so that no one group enjoyed a prevailing influence. A significant portion of lower echelon officer positions, excluding first-line combat units, were held by Palestinians. In the upper reaches of the officer corps, however, Palestinians still constituted well under 10 percent.
Data as of December 1989
Jordan Table of Contents