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Thailand: Camouflaged Khakistocracy in Civil–Military Relations  

Paul W. Chambers

The history of civil–military relations in Thailand has paralleled the gradual post-1980 primacy of monarchical power over the country. Until 1932, the monarchy ruled absolute across Siam (Thailand). From 1932 until 1980, the military held more clout than the monarchy (though the palace slowly increased its influence after 1957). Since 1980, monarchy and military have dominated the country with the military as junior partner. The two form a khakistocracy: the military’s uniform color of khaki combined with the aristocracy (monarchy). Though there have been brief instances of elected civilian governments, all were overthrown by the military. In fact, Thailand likely holds the record for the highest number of military putsches in the world. Since the death of King Bhumipol Adulyadej in 2016, the clout of the armed forces has become more centralized under his successor and son King Maha Vajiralongkorn. At the same time, post-2019 Prime Minister (and post-2014 junta leader) General Prayuth Chanocha has sought to entrench military power across Thailand. As a result, in 2021, the monarchy and military continue to enhance authoritarian rule as a khakistocracy camouflaged behind the guise of a charade form of democracy. Civil–military relations represent exclusively a partnership between the monarch and the armed forces.

Article

Regulatory Governance: History, Theories, Strategies, and Challenges  

David Levi-Faur, Yael Kariv-Teitelbaum, and Rotem Medzini

Regulation, that is, rulemaking, rule monitoring, and rule enforcement, is both a key policy and legal instrument and a pillar of the institutions that demarcate political, social, and economic lives. It is commonly defined as a sustained and focused control mechanism over valuable activities using direct and indirect rules. Most frequently, regulation is associated with the activity of public independent regulatory agencies, designed to promote economic, social, risk-management, integrity, or moral goals. Since the 1990s, more and more states worldwide are establishing such agencies and placing more emphasis on the use of authority, rules, and standard-setting, thus partially displacing earlier emphasis on public ownerships and directly provided services. Alongside this rise of the “regulatory state,” the expansion of regulation is also reflected in the rapidly growing variety of regulatory regimes that involves nonstate actors, such as private regulation, self-regulation, and civil regulation. Regulatory regimes can be explained and assessed from three theoretical perspectives: public-interest theories, private-interest theories, and institutional theories. Each perspective shines a different light on the motivations of the five regulatory actors: rule-makers, rule intermediaries, rule-takers, rule beneficiaries, and citizens. Over the years, diverse regulatory strategies evolved, including: prescriptive strategies that attempt to mandate adherence in precise terms what is required from the rule-takers; performance-based strategies that set in advance only the required outcomes; and process-based strategies that attempt to influence the internal incentives and norms of rule-takers. Although it appears that regulation is here to stay as a keystone of society, it still faces fundamental challenges of effectiveness, democratic control, and fairness.

Article

The Republic of the Congo: The Colonial Origins of Military Rule  

Joshua Shaw and Brett Carter

The Republic of Congo secured its independence from France in 1960. The French colonial apparatus bequeathed an ethnically divided society. Native southerners dominated the sprawling civil service and, owing to their demographic advantage, elected Congo’s first two presidents, themselves both southerners. Native northerners, otherwise marginalized economically and politically, dominated the military’s rank and file. This cleavage has animated Congolese politics since. In 1969, a clique of northern military officers toppled the southern-dominated Brazzaville government. Among its members was former paratrooper Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled Congo for all but 5 years since 1979. His tenure has been marked by massive corruption, gross economic mismanagement, and persistent human rights abuses. Accordingly, despite its status as one of Africa’s leading oil producers, Congolese citizens remain among the world’s poorest. To secure his political survival, Sassou Nguesso has used Congo’s longstanding ethnic cleavage as a tool: by directing state resources to northerners and using the northern-dominated military to repress southerners, who, after enduring nearly 50 years of northern rule, are profoundly frustrated.

Article

Rwanda: Civil–Military Relations  

Marco Jowell

The army has been a central part of Rwanda’s political system from the precolonial period until the early 21st century and is intrinsically part of the construction and politics of the state. Civil–military relations in Rwanda demonstrate not only the central features of transitioning a rebel group to a national defense sector but also how some states construct their armed forces after a period of mass violence. Since the civil war and genocide in the early 1990s, the Rwandan military has been the primary actor in politics, the economy, and state building as well as in regional wars in central Africa and the Great Lakes region. Practical experiences of guerrilla insurgency and conflict in Uganda and Rwanda, postconflict military integration, and the intertwining of political and economic agendas with the ruling party have shaped civil–military relations in Rwanda and have been central to how the Rwandan defense sector functions. Contemporary Rwandan civil–military relations center around the two elements of service delivery and control, which has resulted in the development of an effective and technocratic military in terms of remit and responsibilities on the one hand, and the creation of a politicized force of coercion on the other hand. The military in Rwanda therefore reflects the pressures and dynamics of the wider state and cannot be separated from it. The Rwandan army is thus a “political army” and is part and parcel of the political structures that oversee and govern the Rwandan state.

Article

Costa Rica: Demilitarization and Democratization  

John A. Booth

An isolated Spanish frontier settlement with little or no significant mineral wealth, exportable crops, or exploitable indigenous population, colonial Costa Rica had only a rudimentary military. After independence in 1825, the population expanded and diversified as coffee cultivation generated growing wealth. Competing factions of the emergent coffee bourgeoisie fought to control the emerging state using elite-linked military officers to seize ruling power. Modernization and an external threat from Nicaragua and U.S. freebooters at mid-19th century led nation-building leaders to invest heavily in the army. Victorious in the 1856–1857 National War in Nicaragua, the military attained maximum size and power from 1870 to 1920 while oligarchic factions disputed ruling authority via fraudulent elections and coups d’état. Integration into the world economy deepened with banana production after 1890. Subsequent recessions and wars generated domestic economic inequality and a growing labor movement demanding reform. Civilian rule in the early 20th century was interrupted by the military regime of Federico Tinoco (1917–1919), whose atrocities led his civilian successors to almost dismantle the army. When a civil war erupted in 1948 against the divided, Communist-allied reformist government of the 1940s, the rebels defeated the army. The victorious National Liberation junta and new constitution abolished the army in 1949. Costa Rica committed to a police-based security model, nonaggression toward neighbors, and reliance on international alliances. Meanwhile, elites, spared the menace of military disruption, developed a successful electoral democratic regime. This has contributed to seven decades of political stability and allowed Costa Rica to invest successfully in economic development and its citizens’ welfare.

Article

Niger: Armed Force Politics and Counterterrorism  

Virginie Baudais

Since the independence of Niger in 1960, Nigerien armed forces have played a prominent role in the country’s history, either because of their recurrent “nonpolitical” interventions in the political arena or based on their involvement in the stabilization process of the Sahel and the fight against terrorism. Nigeriens have lived under civil, military, and authoritarian regimes, experienced four coups d’état (1974, 1996, 1999, and 2010), four political transitions, nine presidents, and have voted on seven constitutions. The Nigerien population lived under military rule for 23 out of 60 years following independence. Thus, Nigerien contemporary politics cannot be analyzed without a sound understanding of the Nigerien Army, how the institution became an “entrepreneur politique,” and how institutional, economic, and social factors may encourage the intervention of a nonpolitical institution in the political arena. Politics and the military are definitely connected in Niger. Each coup has had a different motive. The 1974 military coup is one of the many successful military seizures of power that occurred in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. This first “praetorian” intervention resulted from intramilitary and domestic factors and lasted 17 years under the rule of Seyni Kountché and his successor Ali Saibou. The second intervention in politics occurred in 1996 and also resulted from institutional factors and the inability of the newly elected authorities to overcome their divisions. The 1996 coup d’état was a classic case: a time-limited military intervention using violence to convert itself into a civilian regime. In 1999 the army overthrew a military regime, whereas in 2010 militaries put an end to the democratically elected president’s shift toward authoritarianism. In 2010, the shift in the security situation in the Sahel marked the armed forces’ return to strictly military functions, such as national defense and security and providing support for external operations. Consequently, the security situation in the Sahel strip deteriorated and the major economic and social challenges of the poorest country in the world were neglected. This has led to recurrent political and social tensions that reinforce the fact that addressing the basic needs of the people is as, important as Niger’s security policy.

Article

Spain: The Long Road from an Interventionist Army to Democratic and Modern Armed Forces  

Rafa Martínez and Fernando J. Padilla Angulo

During the transition from ancien régime to liberalism that took place in Spain during the first third of the 19th century, the military became a prominent political actor. Many soldiers were members of the country’s first liberal parliament, which in 1812 passed one of the world’s oldest liberal charters, the so-called Constitution of Cádiz. Furthermore, the armed forces fought against the Napoleonic Army’s occupation and, once the Bourbon monarchy was restored, often took arms against the established power. Nineteenth-century Spain was prey to instability due to the struggle between conservative, progressive, liberal, monarchical, and republican factions. It was also a century full of missed opportunities by governments, constitutions, and political regimes, in which the military always played an active role, often a paramount one. Army and navy officers became ministers and heads of government during the central decades of the 19th century, often after a coup. This changed with the establishment of a parliamentary monarchy based on a bipartisan system known as the Restoration (1874–1923). The armed forces were kept away from politics. They focused on their professional activities, thus developing a corporate attitude and an ideological cohesion around a predominantly conservative political stance. Ruling the empire gave the armed forces a huge sphere of influence. Only chief officers were appointed as governors of the Spanish territories in America, Africa, and Asia throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This went unchanged until 1976, when Spain withdrew from Western Sahara, deemed the country’s last colony. The power accumulated in the overseas territories was often used by the governors to build a political career in metropolitan Spain. Following the end of the Restoration in 1923, the armed forces engaged with the political struggle in full again. After a military-led dictatorship, a frustrated republic, and a fratricidal civil war, a dictatorship was established in 1939 that lasted for almost 40 years: the Francoist regime. Francisco Franco leaned on the military as a repressive force and a legitimacy source for a regime established as a result of a war. After the dictator passed away in 1975, Spain underwent a transition to democracy which was accepted by the armed forces somehow reluctantly, as the coup attempt of 1981 made clear. At that time, the military was the institution that Spanish society trusted the least. It was considered a poorly trained and equipped force. Even its troops’ volume and budget were regarded as excessive. However, the armed forces have undergone an intense process of modernization since the end of 1980s. They have become fully professional, their budget and numbers have been reduced, and they have successfully taken part in European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and United Nations (UN)-led international missions. In the early 21st century, the armed forces are Spain’s second-best valued institution. Far from its formerly interventionist role throughout the 19th century and a good deal of the 20th, Spain’s armed forces in the 21st century have become a state tool and a public administration controlled by democratically elected governments.

Article

Venezuela: Coup-Proofing From Pérez Jiménez to Maduro  

Deborah L. Norden

From the middle of the 20th century, Venezuela’s governments have demonstrated surprising immunity to successful coups. The more than 40-year Punto Fijo democracy (1958–1999) boasted free and competitive elections even while the vast majority of Latin American governments fell to military rule. Two decades later, the beleaguered government of Nicolás Maduro withstood not only national, but international demands for a military coup under conditions of virtual economic collapse and extreme political crisis. This resilience is largely a function of successful coup-proofing—deliberate government policies to both reward military loyalty and defend against possible dissent. The Bolivarian leaders of the early 21st century—Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro— built on a combination of strategies previously utilized by either the Pérez Jiménez military regime (1948–1958) or the Punto Fijo democratic regime, notably expanding such elements as politicization and the creation of competing militarized forces (counterbalancing) to fit with the revolutionary model that the chavistas sought to pursue.

Article

China: Party–Army Relations Past and Present  

Sofia K. Ledberg

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a key political actor in the Chinese state. Together with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese state institutions, it makes up the political foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the early years after the founding of the PRC in 1949, the military played an important role in state consolidation and the management of domestic state affairs, as is expected in a state founded on Leninist principles of organization. Since the reform process, which was initiated in the late 1970s, the political role of the PLA has changed considerably. It has become less involved in domestic politics and increased attention has been directed toward military modernization. Consequently, in the early 21st century, the Chinese military shares many characteristics with the armed forces in noncommunist states. At the same time, the organizational structures, such as the party committee system, the system of political leaders, and political organs, have remained in place. In other words, the politicized structures that were put in place to facilitate the role of the military as a domestic political tool of the CCP, across many sectors of society, are expected to also accommodate modernization, professionalization, and cooperation with foreign militaries on the international arena in postreform China. This points to an interesting discrepancy between form and purpose of the PLA. The role of the military in Chinese politics has thus shifted over the years, and its relationship with the CCP has generally been interpreted as having developed from one marked by symbiosis to one of greater institutional autonomy and independence. Yet these developments should not necessarily be seen as linear or irreversible. Indeed, China of the Xi Jinping era has shown an increased focus on ideology, centralization, and personalized leadership, which already has had consequences for the political control of the Chinese armed forces. Chances are that these trends will affect the role of the PLA in politics even further in the early decades of the 21st century.

Article

Colombia: Civilian Control and Militarized Repression  

William Aviles

The relationship between the Colombian armed forces and civilian leaders within the state has been marked historically with the continuity of civilian control and the general avoidance of military coups or regimes. After a series of major civil wars during the 19th century, civil–military relations were guided by the need to preserve the power of economic and political elites, with the military consistently acting as a central pillar in the survival of this elite. Interestingly, in the context of civil–military relations in Latin America, Colombia has been a model of how a regime can pair formal “civilian control” with intensive levels of state repression and violence against opposing forces within civil society. This model has been maintained during periods of relative political stability as well as during periods of widespread internal conflict. Thus, illustrating the limits that formal institutional arrangements within the Colombian state have led to shifts in the behavior of its military.