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Indonesia is a highly revealing case study for pinpointing both the conditions under which militaries in postcolonial societies intervened in political affairs and the patterns that led to their subsequent marginalization from politics. It also demonstrates how militaries could defend some of their political interests even after they were removed from the highest echelons of power. Emboldened by the war for independence (1945–1949), the Indonesian military used divisions, conflicts, and instabilities in the early postindependence polity to push for an institutionalized role in political institutions. While it was granted such a role in 1959, it used a further deterioration in civilian politics in the early 1960s to take power in 1965. Military intervention in politics in Indonesia, then, has been as much the result of civilian weaknesses as of military ambitions, confirming Finer’s theory on the civilian role in military power quests. Military rule in Indonesia weakened first as a consequence of the personalization of the polity built by the leader of the 1965 takeover, General Suharto. After a decade in power, Suharto turned the praetorian regime into a personal autocracy, transforming the military from a political actor into an agent. When Suharto’s regime collapsed in 1998 after being hit by the Asian financial crisis, the military was discredited—allowing civilian rulers to dismantle some of its privileges. But continued divisions among civilian forces mitigated the push for the military’s full depoliticization—once again proving Finer’s paradigm. As post-Suharto presidents settled into the new power arrangements, they concluded that the military was a crucial counterweight against the possible disloyalty of their coalition partners. Thus, under the paradigm of coalitional presidentialism, rulers integrated the military into their regimes and granted it concessions in return. In short, while the post-1998 military is much diminished from its role in predemocratic regimes, it retains sufficient power to protect its core ideological and material interests.

Article

Nathan W. Toronto and Lindsay P. Cohn

There is more to conscription than the presence or absence of conscripts in a military force. A brief survey of the history of military recruitment suggests that economics, threat, and political heritage go a long way toward explaining why and how states recruit manpower and prepare that manpower for war. Understanding the sources and implications of different types of military recruitment, and how trends in military recruitment change over time, is essential for understanding conscription now and in the future. The French Revolution is often regarded as a turning point in conscription, with the famed levée en masse, which coincided with dramatic changes in warfare and how states mobilized their polities for war. Less well known is how rarely conscripts were actually used in the wars that followed the French Revolution. Rather than being a turning point in the history of military recruitment, the levée en masse was just another moment in the ebb and flow of how states recruit military manpower in response to economics, threat, and political heritage. A number of dimensions describe the extraordinary variety of compulsory recruitment systems. The two most important of these dimensions are whether conscription is institutionalized or opportunistic, and whether it is core or supplementary. The typology of compulsory recruitment systems that results describes a great deal of the varieties of conscription and, along with other dimensions, might give clues as to how states will recruit military manpower in the future.

Article

Romania has no tradition in militarism despite its history of authoritarian regimes in 20th century. The process of modernization and democratization that started in the middle of 19th century was interrupted for about half a century by the authoritarian regime of King Carol II (1938), followed by a military dictatorship during the Second World War, and continued with a Communist dictatorship until 1989. The transition to democracy started in 1990 from a very low level, Ceausescu’s regime being one of the fiercest dictatorial regimes. However, Romania succeeded in building up a functional democracy and market economy with Western assistance that transformed it into a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). One basic conditionality to the admission into NATO and the EU was putting the military under civilian control and building up democratic civil–military relations. Thus, Romania has no history of military involvement in politics. After three decades of transition, Romania implemented a complex mechanism of democratic control of the military. However, issues regarding the incomplete internalization of democratic norms of control of the military, resistance to change through the system of military education, an obsolete national security legislation, and some legacy practices related to rights abuses perpetrated by intelligence services need to be addressed in order to consider Romania a consolidated democracy.

Article

Military service and political participation have links going back to Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic. While bearing arms was for most of history a privilege reserved for stakeholders in the state, universal conscription later turned this notion on its head in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Instead of selecting stakeholders to serve as soldiers, the soldiers themselves became stakeholders as the right to vote was extended to include them in the democratic polity in several states. This quid pro quo arrangement paved the way for the extension of the franchise to large portions of the male population who had previously been excluded from voting by property qualifications. In some cases, it also resulted in limited franchise extensions for female voters. For minorities, conscription can be a curse or a blessing, depending on their ability to leverage it as a bargaining tool for citizenship or increased status. Some, such as the Druze in Israel, have been relatively successful, while the same strategy was less fruitful for African American veterans of World War I. While conscription has been criticized by economists, who tend to regard it as a form of taxation, for being unfair and inefficient as a recruitment tool for the armed forces, it has also been seen as a political instrument for promoting democracy, social cohesion, and as a safeguard against military coups. Many of these suggested benefits have failed to hold up to empirical scrutiny, but conscription remains a viable alternative for small states in urgent need of military manpower in times of heightened tensions, where some states have in the latter half of the 2010s reintroduced the draft after having suspended it. The growing tensions and deteriorating security situation in some parts of the world, such as the Baltic Sea region, have once more put conscription on the agenda. Consequently, an understanding of conscription’s role in relation to citizenship and democracy is as relevant as ever.

Article

The continued influence of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) on politics characterized the political history of the Turkish Republic, until such influence was first bridled and then ultimately broken by the Justice and Development Party governments during the 2000s. When the new regime was established in 1923, the military identified itself with its founding ideology, namely Kemalism, which was built on the ideas of modernism, secularism, and nationalism. Because the TAF assumed the roles of guardian of the regime and vanguard of modernization, any threat to the foundational values and norms of the republican regime was considered by the military as a threat to the constitutional order and national security. As a self-authorized guardian of the regime and its values, the TAF characterized itself as a non-partisan institution. The military appealed to such identity to justify the superiority of the moral and epistemological foundations of their understanding of politics compared with that of the elected politicians. The military invoked such superiority not only to intervene in politics and take power (1960, 1971, 1980, 1997, and 2007). They also used such identity to monitor and control political processes by means of the National Security Council (established after the 1960 military intervention) and by more informal means such as mobilizing the public against the elected government’s policy choices. In the context of the Cold War, domestic turmoil and lasting political polarization helped legitimate the military’s control over security issues until the 1980s. After the end of the Cold War, two threats to national security drew the TAF into politics: the rising power of Islamic movements and the separatist terrorism of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which posed threats to the constitutional order. Turkey’s EU membership bid is one of the most important aspects that bridled the influence of the TAF on politics. Whereas the democratic oversight of the military and security sector constituted a significant dimension of the EU reforms, events that took place around the nomination of the Justice and Development Party’s candidate, Abdullah Gül, for the presidency created a rupture in the role and influence of the military on politics. Two juristic cases against members of the TAF in 2008 and 2010 made a massive impact on the power of the military, before the ultimate supremacy of the political sphere was established after the coup attempt organized by the Gülenist officers who infiltrated the TAF during the 2000s.

Article

The Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), unlike their counterparts in many other parts of the Middle East, have never taken power in a coup. The military has no direct role in governance, but its shadow looms large in Jordanian politics, especially as the kingdom has been challenged by regional wars, internal conflicts, and (after 2010) by the domestic and regional effects of the Arab Spring (Arab uprisings). The only time Jordan came close to a military coup was in 1957, in an era marked by heightened pan-Arab nationalism and politicization of armed forces across the Arab world. But that coup was foiled almost as soon as it began, leaving the armed forces thereafter to cast themselves as the protectors not only of the country but also of the Hashemite monarchy. Jordan’s armed forces fought in multiple wars with Israel, including in 1948 and 1967, with a more limited role in the 1973 Arab–Israeli war. The military was also involved intensely in internal conflict, especially in 1970–1971, when King Hussein’s armed forces clashed with the guerilla forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Although they never overthrew the state nor established a military government in Jordan, the Jordanian Armed Forces nonetheless played a large role in Jordanian politics, society, and even in the economy. The military was also part of a broader array of security institutions, including the intelligence services, the police, and the gendarmerie. An aid-dependent country with limited resources, Jordan faced countless fiscal crises over the years, but its military and security budgets continued to grow. Hashemite kings have tended to dote on the armed forces, ensuring large budgets and the latest in arms and equipment. Even the regime’s attempt to cultivate a strong Jordanian national identity was deeply rooted in the images of the military, the monarchy itself, and the other key security institutions. But while the military’s influence loomed large in public life, it did not necessarily reflect a broad range of Jordanian society, being drawn heavily from Jordan’s tribal, rural, and East Jordanian communities, rather than from more urban, largely Palestinian-Jordanian communities. But in the era of the Arab uprisings across the Middle East (especially after 2010), military veterans—especially those with tribal and East Jordanian roots—played ever more vocal roles in Jordanian politics, remaining loyal to the monarchy, but also feeling empowered to lecture the monarchy about perceived flaws in social and economic policies. The personnel in Jordan’s military and security institutions, in short, were drawn from the same tribes, regions, and communities that were most fervently challenging the regime and its policies in the Arab Spring era, changing the nature of Jordanian politics itself.

Article

Jorge I. Domínguez

Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), founded in 1959, have been among the world’s most successful military. In the early 1960s, they defended the new revolutionary regime against all adversaries during years when Cuba was invaded at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, faced nuclear Armageddon in 1962, and experienced a civil war that included U.S. support for regime opponents. From 1963 to 1991, the FAR served the worldwide objectives of a small power that sought to behave as if it were a major world power. Cuba deployed combat troops overseas for wars in support of Algeria (1963), Syria (1973), Angola (1975–1991), and Ethiopia (1977–1989). Military advisers and some combat troops served in smaller missions in about two dozen countries the world over. Altogether, nearly 400,000 Cuban troops served overseas. Throughout those years, the FAR also worked significantly to support Cuba’s economy, especially in the 1960s and again since the early 1990s following the Soviet Union’s collapse. Uninterruptedly, officers and troops have been directly engaged in economic planning, management, physical labor, and production. In the mid-1960s, the FAR ran compulsory labor camps that sought to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals and to remedy the alleged socially deviant behavior of these and others, as well. During the Cold War years, the FAR deepened Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Union, deterred a U.S. invasion by signaling its cost for U.S. troops, and since the early 1990s developed confidence-building practices collaborating with U.S. military counterparts to prevent an accidental military clash. Following false starts and experimentation, the FAR settled on a model of joint civilian-military governance that has proved durable: the civic soldier. The FAR and the Communist Party of Cuba are closely interpenetrated at all levels and together endeavored to transform Cuban society, economy, and politics while defending state and regime. Under this hybrid approach, military officers govern large swaths of military and civilian life and are held up as paragons for soldiers and civilians, bearers of revolutionary traditions and ideology. Thoroughly politicized military are well educated as professionals in political, economic, managerial, engineering, and military affairs; in the FAR, officers with party rank and training, not outsider political commissars, run the party-in-the-FAR. Their civilian and military roles were fused, especially during the 1960s, yet they endured into the 21st century. Fused roles make it difficult to think of civilian control over the military or military control over civilians. Consequently, political conflict between “military” and “civilians” has been rare and, when it has arisen (often over the need for, and the extent of, military specialization for combat readiness), it has not pitted civilian against military leaders but rather cleaved the leadership of the FAR, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), and the government. Intertwined leaderships facilitate cadre exchanges between military and nonmilitary sectors. The FAR enter their seventh decade smaller, undersupplied absent the Soviet Union, less capable of waging war effectively, and more at risk of instances of corruption through the activities of some of their market enterprises. Yet the FAR remain both an effective institution in a polity that they have helped to stabilize and proud of their accomplishments the world over.

Article

Two opposing arguments are heard in the political and academic discourse in Israel regarding the status of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). One claims that the IDF possesses too much power and that military thought governs political thought, thus it is “a military that has a state.” The other contends that the military is oversupervised by civilian groups. However, both arguments are correct if we relate each to a specific domain of civil–military relations. Since its establishment in 1948, the IDF has become increasingly subordinated to civilian control. During the 1950s, it was a military that dictated policies and often acted in direct defiance of the elected government; but since then, it has gradually lost much of its autonomy and become highly monitored by civilians. Areas that were conventionally considered to be within the military’s sphere of professional competence have become subject to civilian control. There has been increasing civilian intrusion into the military domain, starting with the monitoring of military operations during the 1950s, and culminating in the 2000s with increased monitoring of the IDF’s human and material resources and its activities in policing the Palestinian population. This process also signifies a transition from control performed exclusively by formal state institutions to increasing engagement by extrainstitutional actors (such as social movements and civil rights organizations) backed by the media and focused on issues ranging from recruitment policies and the investigation of operational accidents to actual military operations. At the same time, those ascribing too much power to the military are also right. Israeli political culture has been militarized from the early years of the state, except for a short period of demilitarization during the 1980s–1990s. Militarization developed from initially just prioritizing the military approach over political-diplomatic methods during the state’s first years, and continued with the predominance of military over political discourse after the 1967 War, and the religionization of politics since the 2000s. Throughout this process, the ongoing friction with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel’s wars in Gaza were presented as a religious war and the Palestinians were dehumanized. Thus, it is military thought that is powerful rather than the military organization itself, which has lost much of its former autonomy; military thought still governs civilian politics. Moreover, to a large extent, during the 2000s, not only did rightist and religious groups become the main promoters of militarization rather than the IDF and its officers’ social networks, but the new trends of militarization even clashed with the military command and its secular rationale, thus further challenging its professional autonomy.

Article

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

Since Lebanon’s independence in the mid-1940s, its military—the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)—has played a pivotal role in the country’s politics. The political role of the LAF in Lebanon might seem surprising since the Lebanese state did not militarize, and its political leaders have continuously managed to keep their military relatively weak and small. Indeed, in this respect Lebanon has been markedly different from its close neighbors (Syria and Israel), but also from several other Middle Eastern states (especially Egypt and Iraq), where the military, which was large and powerful, was continuously involved in politics. Additionally, both Lebanon and the LAF have persistently striven to distance themselves from regional conflicts since 1949, particularly in relation to the Palestinian issue, albeit not always successfully. Still, and despite these ostensibly unfavorable factors for the military’s involvement in politics in Lebanon, the LAF has played an important political role in the state since its independence. This role, which has been marked by elements of continuity and change over the years, included mediation and arbitration between rival political factions (in 1945–1958, 2008, 2011, and 2019); attempts to dominate the political system (in 1958–1970 and 1988–1990); intervention in the Lebanese civil war (in 1975–1976 and 1982–1984); attempts to regain its balancing role in politics (in 1979–1982 and 1984–1988); and facilitating the state’s postwar reconstruction (since 1991). The political role of the military in Lebanon can be explained by several factors. First, the weakness of Lebanon’s political system and its inability to resolve crises between its members. Second, Lebanon’s divided society and its members’ general distrust towards its civilian politicians. Third, the basic characteristics of Lebanon’s military, which, in most periods, enjoyed broad public support that cuts across the lines of community, region, and family, and found appeal among domestic and external audiences, which, in their turn, acquiesced to its political role in the state.

Article

When, how, why, and to what effect did the military involve itself in Serbia’s politics? Due to its decisive role in national liberation and state-building, the Serbian military has always enjoyed high societal reputation. Since the 19th century, the military also played an important role of a nation-builder and social elevator for the lower strata of society. However, Serbia also has a very long tradition of military involvement in politics with several coups that decisively shaped the course of national history. Since the outset of Serbia’s state-building in the first half of the 19th century, Serbia experienced four successful military coups and many occasions when its armed forces were used to quash domestic unrest. The reasons behind the robust involvement of armed forces in Serbian (and Yugoslav politics) have been diverse and ranged from an ambition to provide internal stability and defend national or corporate interests to a desire to change the country’s foreign policy orientation. Since the end of the Cold War, the military played an ambiguous role on some occasions undermining democracy, while on others being an agent of democratic transformation. Since 2006, the military of Serbia has been placed under civilian democratic control and seems to have internalized its role of a politically neutral and professional force with a mission to defend the country, support civilian authorities in the event of emergency, and contribute to international peace and security. Still, the ongoing democratic backsliding, the lack of clarity about the state’s strategic outlook, and the still unresolved status of Serbia’s former province Kosovo all preserve the potential for civil-military tensions in the future.

Article

David Darchiashvili and Stephen Jones

The balance between civil and military structures is central to understanding the development of Georgian statehood since the beginning of the 20th century. The first modern independent Georgian state was established after the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence in May 1918. In February 1921, the young republic was incorporated into the Soviet state and had no separate army of its own. Since regaining its independence in 1991, Georgia has experienced multiple administrations, and despite significantly different policies on the military, the overall pattern has been one of civilian (though not always democratic) control. Georgian militias and paramilitaries, between 1918 and 1921 and again between 1991 and 1995, played important roles in determining political power at times of revolutionary or constitutional crises. Since 1991 there have been three presidents - Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Mikheil Saakashvili - with strong executive authority. In 2013, the position of president was made semi-ceremonial and a prime-ministerial system was instituted. Since 2013, there have been multiple prime ministers. Bidzina Ivanishvili was the first and the most powerful. All of Georgia’s leaders have shifted from a Soviet to pro-Western orientation. Since the second half of the 1990s, the relationship with NATO has grown closer, which has had a major impact on the structure of the Georgian armed forces and on their relationship with Georgia’s civil authorities. The 2008 war with Russia had a major impact on the Georgian military, and, since then, the level of professionalization of the Georgian armed forces has increased dramatically. Samuel Huntington, Eric Nordlinger, and other Western students of civil-military relations have pointed to the important balance required between civil and military authorities for a stable democracy. Georgia still displays continuing features of nepotism, clientelism, corruption, and dominant political personalities, which has significant consequences for the independence of the Georgian military and for civil-military relations more generally. Western states such as the United States and Germany, and international organizations like NATO continue to urge reform and provide training to the Georgian armed forces

Article

Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Chad are some of least researched countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Since independence from France in 1960 these four countries have experienced two distinct yet interrelated struggles: the struggle for statehood and the struggle for democracy. Each country has experienced violent conflict between the central authorities in the capitals and security challengers on the peripheries. Prominent examples are the Tuareg uprisings in Niger and Mali, the various rebel insurgencies in Chad, and the conflict between black Africans and Arabs in Mauritania. The emergence of jihadi-Salafi groups in the West African sub-region affects all four countries and poses a particularly strong security challenge to Mali. All these conflicts are unresolved. The liberalization of the political sphere in the late 1980s and early 1990s has led to considerable political diversity across the Sahel. In Niger and Mali meaningful multiparty competition and basic civil liberties have taken root despite many setbacks. Civil society is strong and in the past has successfully mobilized against autocratic tendencies. In Mauritania and Chad, democratic institutions exist on paper as autocratic rulers have managed to stay in office. The national armed forces remain the preeminent political actors. Civil society is not strong enough to achieve political change for the better. Stagnant living conditions, social immobility, the ongoing war against Islamic terrorism, and weak accountability mechanisms remain the most important political challenges for the Sahel.

Article

Anita Isaacs and Rachel A. Schwartz

Since the mid-20th century, the Guatemalan military has played a prominent role in the country’s political life. Yet, this was not always the case. During Guatemala’s first century of independence, the armed forces operated largely as the pawn of personalist rulers and oligarchic elites, utilizing coercion to quell labor unrest and impose order in the countryside. Developments during the Cold War era, however, transformed the Guatemalan military into a centralized source of political and economic power and the key protagonist in domestic politics. Following World War II and on the heels of popular uprising, nationalist junior army officers ushered in a series of popular reforms, which included land redistribution. A 1954 CIA-orchestrated coup supported by the Guatemalan oligarchy and reactionary military factions toppled Guatemala’s “Democratic Spring,” reversed the reforms, and paved the way for four decades of hardline military rule. The subsequent rise of a leftist insurgent movement and the outbreak of armed conflict (1960–1996) gave the armed forces a pretext to dramatically expand their power. They consolidated formal political control over the Guatemalan state and pursued a counterinsurgent campaign, which escalated into genocidal violence in the predominantly Mayan indigenous highlands. Pulled between the political protagonism of civil war and the subordination to civilian rule required in liberal democracy, the Guatemalan military struggled to redefine its institutional identity with the end of armed conflict. It lurched reluctantly toward peace and democracy following a split in its ranks between a moderate institutionalist faction and right-wing groups wary of ceding political control. Despite peace accord provisions to reduce the military’s size and budget and to confine its institutional activities to external defense, military officials, particularly those from intelligence, continued to wield extraordinary control in the postwar era. Challenging the strictures of peace and democracy, they have fought to maintain key interests, notably impunity for war crimes, political decision-making influence, and wartime sources of illicit enrichment.

Article

Andrew Goodhart and Jami K. Taylor

For most of its history, the U.S. military has maintained a policy of exclusion toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people serving in uniform. The justifications for these exclusions have included the view that being homosexual or transgender is a psychological disorder, that it undermines military morale and effectiveness, and a fear that LGBT people would be vulnerable to foreign espionage. Explicit policies banning consensual homosexual sex—and excluding from service those who engage in it—date to the period between World Wars I and II, but de facto efforts at exclusion have existed since the early days of the republic. Regulations governing homosexuals in the military came under pressure in the 1970s and 1980s as societal views toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people changed, and those LGB service members discharged under the policy increasingly challenged their treatment in court. (Public pressure to change regulations governing transgender people in the military arose mostly in the 2000s, though litigation efforts date to the 1970s.) In addition to general shifts in public and legal opinion, the debate over LGB people serving in the U.S. military was affected by the experience of foreign militaries that allow LGB people to serve. United States law began to loosen formal restrictions on LBG people serving in uniform with the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 1994, but it still required LGB people to serve in secret. Changing public perceptions of LGB people and problems implementing the ban galvanized support for eliminating such restrictions. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT and removing all restrictions on LGB people serving in the military. However, transgender people do not enjoy the same rights. The Trump administration has revised Obama-era rules on transgender service members to enable greater exclusion. The issue is being contested in the courts and appears ripe for further political and legal dispute.