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Article

Armies in Politics: The Domestic Determinants of Military Coup Behavior  

Ekim Arbatli

Military coups happen for various political, economic, and historical reasons. A vast literature investigates the external factors that affect coup vulnerability, including interstate wars, security threats, regional spillovers, and foreign economic linkages. An even more impressive number of studies, going back almost seven decades, focuses on the domestic causes of military coups. These causes of coups can be classified under two broad headings: background causes and triggering causes. Background causes are those structural determinants that generally increase coup vulnerability in a given country and create motives for coup attempts. The most prevalent background causes concern the regime type and characteristics, historical legacies and cultural diversity, and economic conditions. The triggering causes are temporally and spatially more specific conditions that determine the opportunities for coup plotters. Various types of political instability and violence, such as popular protests and civil wars, can become important triggers. Additionally, the characteristics of the military organization and the effectiveness of coup-proofing strategies fall under this category. An extensive review of the cross-national civil-military relations literature reveals that very few of the proposed determinants survive empirical scrutiny. Three findings stand out as consistently robust predictors of coup activity. First and most notably, there is broad consensus that the “coup trap” is an empirical reality: coups breed coups. This finding is bolstered by the fact that military regimes are especially vulnerable to coup attempts. Second, income and wealth have a strong negative correlation with coup probability. All else equal, poor countries are more coup prone than their richer and more developed counterparts. Last but not the least, political instability and violence increase coup likelihood, although scholars differ on which exact type of instability or popular unrest is the most significant. Many other oft-cited factors such as colonial legacy, culture, ethnic fractionalization, resource wealth, and economic crisis are not consistently robust in global samples. This observation highlights the need for more metastudies to separate the relevant variables from idiosyncratic effects.

Article

Fiji: The Militarization of Politics in a Small-Island Developing State  

Vijay Naidu

The Republic of Fiji is a small archipelagic state of less than a million people in the southwest Pacific. It has a relatively minuscule military force in global terms but is the largest among the island states of Oceania. The size of the Republic (formerly “Royal”) Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) in the early 21st century is due to its role in peacekeeping for the United Nations. The Fijian military became entangled in Fiji politics having usurped political power on four separate occasions in the last 30 years, and it can be unequivocally said that there has been a militarization of politics. At first, the military’s involvement in national politics was on the behest of defeated politicians but, 30 years later, the military itself has become a major political player. This is most evident by the fact that former military commanders and coup. The military has becoming a powerful player in Fiji politics has occurred in haphazard but overwhelming ways. Fiji politics has an ever-present “elephant in the room” which is the RFMF.

Article

Historical Legacies of Political Violence  

Jacob Walden and Yuri M. Zhukov

Legacies of political violence are long-term changes in social behavior and attitudes, which are attributable—at least in part—to historical episodes of political conflict and contention. These legacies can potentially reshape the subsequent political and social order. Their catalysts can range from armed conflict, mass repression, and genocide to oppressive institutions and interpersonal violence. The lasting effects of violence include changes in political participation and preferences, intergroup relations, economic activity and growth, and public health outcomes. Estimating these effects presents a methodological challenge, due to selection, posttreatment bias, and the difficulty of isolating specific mechanisms. These challenges are particularly acute given the long time span inherent in studying historical legacies, where effects may be measured generations or centuries after the precipitating event. Understanding these legacies requires distinguishing between persistence mechanisms, where effects of violence continue within an individual directly exposed to violence through trauma, and the secondary transmission of effects between individuals through family socialization, community and peer influences, institutionalization, and epigenetic and evolutionary changes. Research on this subject remains nascent—across many disciplines—and inconclusive on whether violence fosters mostly negative or positive forms of social and political change.

Article

National Secession  

Philip G. Roeder

National secession seeks to create a new sovereign state for a nation residing on its homeland that is currently located inside another sovereign state. This goal distinguishes national secession from regional secession, autonomy, and decolonization and shapes the strategies, operational objectives, and tactical choices of the leaders of national-secession campaigns. Explanations for the success of some campaigns—particularly, success at getting on the global agenda—have focused on the identities, grievances, or greed of their members. Explanations for why some campaigns have turned to protracted intense violence have focused on these motivations and on tactical-logistical opportunities. The existing literature suffers from its failure to agree on theoretical and conceptual fundamentals. As a consequence, empirical studies focus on very different universes of cases and operationalize key variables in diverging ways. The existing literature frequently does not consider how the goal of national secession constrains the strategies, operations, and tactics of such campaigns. And so, it often fails to consider whether studies with another dependent variable can be extended to the study of national secession. Explanations stress indeterminate or substitutable causes and remote constraints on most national-secession campaigns—causes and constraints taken “off the shelf” from theories about conflicts operating under very different strategic and operational constraints. Missing from these explanations is the authenticity and realism of the programs for national secession in the assessments of the populations that each program presents as a nation with a right to a sovereign state of its own. Explanations and recommendations for responses by common-state governments, their allies, and the international community often fail to understand the centrality of the war of programs between national secessionists and common-state governments and the ways this constrains what compromises are possible and what responses are most likely to lead to domestic and international peace in such conflicts.