The recurrence of subaltern coups and the involvement of politicians in these usurpations of state power are key features of military interventions in Sierra Leone. The losers of the 1967 and 1996 general elections instigated and/or supported coups that toppled the elected governments, and the coups of 1968 and 1992 also attracted the support of many disgruntled politicians. The country’s first two coups and the 1992 coup were pro-SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) while the 1968 and 1997 coups were broadly supportive of the All People’s Congress party. Collusion between military factions and politicians permeates all ranks of the army but is particularly salient among senior officers, who share the same class location with politicians but not with armed subalterns whose ties to politicians are based not on shared class interests but on patronage and communal solidarity. Subaltern usurpations of state power in Sierra Leone reflect, inter alia, the extent to which senior officers have been clientelized by political incumbents and rendered less prone to stage coups in the contemporary period. Far more likely to attempt coups are armed regulars who, as a substratum, are unclientelizable, malleable, and often unpredictable. That the last three coups (1997, 1992, 1968) were carried out by this insurgent militariat is indicative of how senior officers have been displaced as major coup plotters since the 1960s. The underlying causes of these coups are rooted in state failures, low levels of institutional development, endemic corruption, politicization of the military, and the failure of the country’s political class to deliver development and good governance. Deterring coups in the future will depend as much on what politicians do as on what subaltern factions of the military are planning or capable of doing, but distancing politicians from the military and prolonging democratic rule are critical to reducing the probability of coups. Neither civilian nor military factions of the country’s political class are genuinely committed to democratic governance, but the two most important factors holding the military in check are the relatively long duration of constitutional rule (1998 to the present) and the global community’s hostility to military seizures of power. Four elections have been held since the last coup in 1997, with power twice (2007, 2018) alternating between the two main political parties. Elections are no longer precipitating coups, and the more of them that are held freely and fairly the better the prospects for military disengagement from politics and democratic maturation.
Sierra Leone: Military Coups and Dictatorships
Jimmy D. Kandeh
Tanzania: Civil–Military Relations and Nationalism
Daniel G. Zirker
Why have there been no successful military interventions or civil wars in Tanzania’s nearly 60 years of independence? This one historical accomplishment, by itself striking in an African context, distinguishes Tanzania from most of the other post-1960 independent African countries and focuses attention on the possibilities and nature of successful civil–military relations in sub-Saharan Africa. Contrary to most civil–military relations theory, rather than isolating the military in order to achieve civilian oversight, Tanzania integrated the military, the dominant political party, and civil society in what one observer called a combination of “political militancy” and “antimilitarism,” somewhat akin, perhaps, to the Chinese model. China did provide intensive military training for the Tanzanians beginning in the 1960s, although this could in no way have been expected to ensure successful integration of the military with civil society, nor could it ensure peaceful civil–military relations. Eight potentially causal and overlapping conditions have been outlined to explain this unique absence of civil–military strife in an African country. Relevant but admittedly partial explanations are: the largely salutary and national developmental role of the founding president, Julius Nyerere; the caution and long-term fear of military intervention engendered by the 1964 East African mutinies; Tanzania’s radical foreign policy as a Frontline State; its ongoing territorial disputes with Uganda and Malawi; concerted efforts at coup-proofing through the co-opting of senior military commanders; and the country’s striking ethnic heterogeneity, in which none of the 125 plus ethnolinguistic tribes had the capacity to assume a hegemonic dominance. Each factor has a role in explaining Tanzania’s unique civil–military history, and together they may comprise a plausible explanation of the over 50 years of peaceful civil–military relations. They do not, however, provide a hopeful prognosis for future civil–military relations in a system that is increasingly challenging the dominant-party state, nor do they account for Tanzania’s subsequent democratic deficit.
Argentina: The Journey From Military Intervention to Subordination
Argentina has moved through two defining eras. The first was one of military coups and dictatorships that repeatedly interrupted democratic periods of governance. The second has been one of uninterrupted democratic rule marked by firm military subordination to civilian control. From 1930 to 1976, the Argentine armed forces cut short the tenure of every democratically elected head of state. Eleven of 16 presidents during this period were generals. Military coups in Argentina were brought on by a combination of factors, including societal pressures, tactical and strategic blunders on the part of political leaders, and the military’s own thirst for power and privileges. Militaries would eventually leave power, but their repeated interventions would weaken respect for democratic processes. The last coup, which occurred in 1976, marked a turning point, giving rise to an authoritarian regime that spelled political, economic, and military disaster for the nation. So disgusted was the public with the dictatorship’s incompetence and brutality that it discovered a newfound respect for democratic rules of the game. The demise of the Proceso dictatorship helped usher in a long and unbroken period of democratic rule. Still, contemporary Argentine democratic governments have had to grapple with civil-military issues. Notable progress has been made, including the holding of human rights trials, the enactment of laws that restrict the military’s use in internal security, and the strengthening of the defense ministry. Notwithstanding a few rebellions in the late 1980s, the Argentine armed forces have remained firmly under civilian control since the return of democracy. Nonetheless, administrations have varied in their abilities and motivation to enact reforms.
Mali: The Hot and Cold Relationship Between Military Intervention and Democratic Consolidation
Florina Cristiana Matei
Many African countries are praetorian states in which the armed forces routinely meddle with politics, and hence defy civilian supremacy over the military. Mali—a noncoastal country in West Africa, with a population of 14.5 million inhabitants—is no exception. Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Mali has been a praetorian state, as the armed forces have frequently intervened in politics. As such, Mali has experienced four successful military coups (in 1968, 1991, 2012, and 2020). These coups have been caused by an array of interconnected and often overlapping factors, including the following: state formation and the relationship between the military and state institutions; legacies of the colonial times; the dynamic political and security context in north Mali; precarious state governance; history of military intervention in politics; and ineffective international aid and assistance. Mali’s on-and-off relationship with the military intervention in politics has had both positive and negative effects to the surrounding society. If the 1968 military intervention in politics was nothing more than a replacement of an authoritarian regime with another—equally deleterious to the country and its citizens—the other three interventions clearly illustrate how coups can both facilitate and jeopardize democratic consolidation. Certainly, the 1991 coup led to democratization while the 2012 and 2020 coups arrested democratic progress. As a result, Mali’s political institutions in the early 21st century are weak, corrupt, fighting one another, and incapable of governing while the security situation is perilous, despite more than seven years of external military and regional military presence.
Italy: The Military in Politics
The Italian case is virtually nonexistent in almost all the best general works on military intervention in politics, but understanding the Italian case could add much to the academic debate as the debate seems to be again investigating the role of the military in established democracies. The most important key to understanding the story of Italian civil–military relations is not military professionalism. Rather, a specific feature of these cases could lay in the reduced strength of the different players (the military, the civilians). These widespread and common weaknesses end up being a continuity along all Italian history: the first years of Risorgimento and Liberal Italy, fascism, the advent of the Republic and democracy after the end of World War II, and even in the post-Cold War decades. Because of this continuity, the work of historians could be most useful for political scientists. What is interesting is that whether the Italian military was strong or weak, it almost always managed to have its demands met by influencing, penetrating, and conditioning the political system. Almost always, the military did not need to intervene directly. And this is another reason to better understand this case without the influence of old, biased national stereotypes and as studied by Italian scholars but ignored in its subtleties by international scholarship.
The Bangladesh Army: What It Costs to Remain Apolitical
Smruti S. Pattanaik
In any nascent democracy, the military as an organized force is a dominant factor in politics. The nature of the relationship between different institutions, especially in fledgling democracies, decides the position of the military in the state. Compared to the political parties, the military is a cohesive force with a command structure that ensures orders are dutifully implemented. Often the military becomes part of contested politics and remains a dominant factor in countries that were previously under military rule. This could be for two reasons. First, their regime remains a reference point and is often compared to democratic regimes thereby creating a legitimacy factor. Second, the military is seen as savior and often portrayed as a fall-back option if a civilian system of governance is not able to deliver. Though many argue that military regimes are a thing of the past and their role is in fact in decline, this may not be true. Military institutions have adapted to change and the nature of their interactions with civilian groups has undergone a shift. However, use of coercion by military authority does not explain military dominance. Much is determined by the structural factors within which both the civil and military agents operate. In some cases, the military’s preserve is not only ensuring state “sovereignty” and its territorial integrity but also preventing a political catastrophe from happening during political transition. They are often referred to as guardians of the state. Study of civil–military relations in South Asia tends to follow a narrative that synthesizes and combines the structural and agency-related issues. Agency, however, is a dominant factor that waits for structurally enabling factors to contemplate a military takeover. In South Asia, and particularly in Bangladesh, any study of civil–military relations within the theoretical framework of a structure-agency divide is inadequate. Challenges in studying the structure-agency divide can be attributed to the larger-than-life image of the military agency. Military agents as actors, their political motives appear to be more important than the societal structure that influences decision. Social class, macroeconomic situations, the society-governing class interface, and lopsided institutional developments also shape the role of agencies (civil and military) and determine the balance of power. Absence of coup does not imply “civilian control,” but rather the civilian government’s ability to decide on posting, promoting, and shaping the vision of the military regarding threat perception determines the extent of civilian control over the military. Political culture, agreement within the society on political structure, institutional checks and balances, and political socialization are important aspects of state structure that acts a constraint on Agency’s action.
Botswana: The Evolution and Influence of the Military in Politics
The military in Botswana has sustained its withdrawal from active involvement in politics since its formation in 1977. This has made its military one of a few outliers in Africa, owing to its positive record, where active involvement in politics was mostly the norm. Its withdrawal from overt politics can be linked to the evolution and nature of the military in Botswana. At independence, the country had taken a decision not to establish a military. This, in part, explains the lack of an established and known history of the military as an institution in Botswana, when compared to countries such as Nigeria. Consequently, Botswana’s military has historically remained underdeveloped as an institution, as it was established 11 years after the country had gained self-rule. Owing to its withdrawal from politics, the influence of the military in the politics of Botswana could be considered as largely indirect.
Empirical Knowledge on Foreign Military Intervention
Jeffrey Pickering and David F. Mitchell
While the empirical literature on foreign military intervention has made considerable progress identifying the causes and consequences of military intervention, we still have much to learn about the subject. Mixed and even contradictory results remain common in the literature, and cumulative knowledge has in many instances proven elusive. Arguably the two most prominent theoretical approaches in recent scholarship, the bargaining model and the rivalry approach, have provided important insight into the phenomenon. They would nonetheless benefit from further refinement. Common explanatory variables outside of these two approaches also require further theoretical and empirical development. The literature has recently begun to examine the impact that military intervention has on target societies as well, with particular attention being given to target state democratization, human rights development, and conflict resolution. Empirical research could shed additional light on all of these phenomena by developing more detailed theory and data on intervention targets. It would also profit from incorporating systematic knowledge on leaders’ proclivities to use military force into current theoretical models.
Côte d’Ivoire: The Military, Ruling Elites, and Political Power
Simon A. Akindes
The Ivorian military remained confined to their barracks until December 24, 1999, when they staged a coup d’état. They had been instrumental in sustaining Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s rule, characterized by a deep culture of patronage in which they actively participated. After French colonialism used Ivorian soldiers in securing the territories they conquered, the Ivorian army, after its creation, became a pivotal element in the creation of the nascent Ivorian bourgeoisie, a class of planteurs (plantation owners) and entrepreneurs linked to the State. Houphouët-Boigny was unwilling to fund the army because he did not trust their loyalty to him. He preferred to focus on education, health, and infrastructure, arguing no external was threatening the country. As a consequence, the Ivorian military was neglected, poorly equipped, and inadequately trained. Complex relations have existed between the military, the ruling elites, and the state. In 1995, when the Baoulé elites and their new leader, Bédié, began losing their grip on power and faced competition from Northern elites that identified with Ouattara, they resorted to the dubious ideology of Ivoirité to consolidate their class position. The balance of power was shifting swiftly among ethnicized and competing members of ruling elites, ill-prepared to negotiate the fallout from their own instrumentalization of ethnicity, belonging, and autochthony for power. In 2002, a failed rebellion divided the country in two. The atrophied military could not assume their fundamental duties of keeping the country together. As militias, insurgencies, rebellions, and gangs mushroomed across the country and fought for a piece of the state, violence became their preferred strategy to advance political agendas until elections were organized in 2010. A situation of no war and no peace ensued until Laurent Gbagbo, who did not recognize his defeat, was removed from power by force in 2011. The French, with the assistance of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in a semblance of multilateralism, intervened militarily to allow Ouattara’s troops to capture Gbagbo on April 1, 2011. Placed within a context of longue durée, an analysis is provided of how the long presence of the French military base and their experts and soldiers, under an agreement Houphouët-Boigny signed with the French government in 1961, has been a powerful deterrent and determinant of civil–military relations in Côte d’Ivoire, from independence in 1960 to the 2011 war. The presence of the French army, the Forces Nouvelles’ armed insurrection, and the weakness of the military have made possible the preservation of a “negative” peace, one that not only reshaped the class structure, but also enabled the preservation of the rentier state as the central institution in the creation and distribution of wealth. The loyalty of local ruling elites to French interests mattered significantly in the preservation of stable civil–military relations. As long as ethno-factions, political parties, and local elites are able to align their interests with powerful French interests, a semblance of stability will prevail and the military will continue exerting a reduced direct impact on Ivorian politics. As soon as that fragile equilibrium ruptures and a renewed internal struggle for primacy among ruling elites erupts, the country may descend into chaos, especially if the reconciliation process, engaged after Ouattara took power in 2011, does not yield tangible results, and if horizontal inequalities persist.
Terrorism and Foreign Policy
The effect of foreign policy on terrorism is an important area of research that bridges work on international relations and intrastate conflict by highlighting how an outside country can influence attacks from a nonstate actor in another country. Research in this area is important for understanding how countries like the United States can best deal with the threat of international terrorism. Research has generally demonstrated that states with active foreign policies are more likely to experience international terrorism, particularly democracies and the United States. This has been hypothesized to occur because active foreign policies create blowback, or negative feelings toward a state, leading to greater acts of terrorism against that state. Beyond the effects of a state’s general foreign policy, others have looked at more specific policies, such as military occupation and intervention. This body of research argues that international terrorism is often a response to perceived occupation of an area. Groups see terrorism as a method to dislodge the occupying force. This argument has been refined by other scholars, who have presented conditions or extensions of this argument. Others have focused on military intervention, arguing that the presence of troops, the negative sentiment that they evoke, and their effect on strengthening the government all create incentives for groups to attack the foreign power that has deployed troops. Foreign aid has been seen as a policy that can address the threat of terrorism. Aid has been argued to be able to improve local conditions and incentivize and reward local states for engaging in counterterrorism. Others have presented conditions under which aid is more or less likely to be effective, including the idea that military aid might actually increase the amount of terrorism, for reasons similar to military intervention, and create an incentive for states to maintain a terrorist threat. Other foreign policy approaches have focused on legal attempts to stop terrorists from financing their organizations. These policies have been driven by the United Nations, coalitions of states, and individual states. This article also focuses on the methodological issues that all these studies face, as well as future research directions.
Foreign-Imposed Regime Change
International actors sometimes force targeted states to change their governments, a process known as Foreign-Imposed Regime Change (FIRC). This foreign policy tool serves as a surprisingly active locus for several theoretical debates in international relations and comparative politics. On the international relations side, evaluation of FIRC as a policy tool has implications for the following debates: whether foreign policy decisions are affected by individual leaders or are determined by structural conditions; whether democracies are more peaceful in their relations with other states; how belligerents choose their war aims; what factors make for successful military occupation; what motivates states to go on ideological crusades; whether international actors can successfully install democracy in postconflict settings; determinants of international trade; and others. On the comparative politics side, FIRC speaks to what may be the two most important questions in all of comparative politics: what factors help a state maintain internal order, and what factors help a state make the transition to democracy? FIRC also plays an absolutely central role in foreign policy debates, especially for the United States. FIRC is arguably responsible for both the greatest success in the history of American foreign policy, the post-1945 pacification of Germany and Japan, and one of the greatest disasters in U.S. foreign policy history, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its catastrophic aftermath. Further, FIRC has played a ubiquitous role in American foreign policy since America’s emergence as a great power, as the United States has frequently used both overt and covert means to impose regime change in other countries, especially in Latin America. FIRC has also been a tool used by other major powers, especially the Soviet Union after 1945 in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Into the second decade of the 21st century FIRC remains a controversial foreign policy tool, as some debate the wisdom of pursuing FIRC in Libya in 2011, and others consider the possibility of pursuing FIRC in countries such as Syria. FIRC can be discussed as a theoretical phenomenon and as the subject of empirical research, focusing on its nature, causes, and effects. The article contains five sections. The first section discusses the definition and frequency of FIRC. The second section describes the causes of FIRC, why actors sometimes seek to impose regime change on other states. The third section covers the international consequences of FIRC, especially whether FIRC reduces conflict between states. The fourth section addresses the domestic consequences of FIRC, especially whether FIRC is usually followed by stability and/or democracy. The final section concludes.
Violent Regime Change: Causes and Consequences
Dov Levin and Carmela Lutmar
The practice of foreign imposed regime change (FIRCs) is old, multicausal, and multifaceted. FIRCs have two main characteristics: they include some form of violent use of force to execute them (either covert or overt in nature), and their consequence is a change in the leadership of the polity in which they take place. FIRCs are frequently claimed to have major effects on their targets, such as inducing shifts towards the regime type preferred by the intervener, inducing intra-state violence, increasing cooperation with the target, and improving the economic welfare of the intervener. A review of the literature on the causes and effects of such interventions as well as the main existing datasets of FIRCs shows that significant progress has been made in our understanding of these phenomena with research on some aspects of FIRCs, such as their utility as a tool of inducing democratization, reaching a near scholarly consensus in this regard. Scholars studying this topic can adjust their current approaches (such as agreement upon a list of FIRCs, and the avoidance of conceptual over-stretching) in order to enable continued progress.
Military Intervention in Interstate and Civil Wars: A Unified Interpretation
Zachary C. Shirkey
Military intervention into interstate and civil wars is both common and important. It lengthens wars, makes them more severe, and shapes how they are fought. Even the mere possibility of intervention can alter the course of a war as belligerent powers alter their strategies to either encourage or dissuade potential interveners. These effects of military intervention are found in both civil and interstate wars. Yet, is state intervention into interstate and civil wars essentially one phenomenon or are they distinct phenomena? By looking at which states are likely to intervene, why and when they intervene, and which wars are most likely to experience intervention, it becomes clear the similarities between state military intervention into civil and interstate wars are more significant than are the differences. In other words, despite some important differences, they are subsets of the same phenomenon. In both types of wars, allies, geographically proximate states, and great powers are more likely to intervene. Also, information revealed by events within both types of wars prompts intervention and explains its timing. Last, wars in which international organizations become involved, both civil and interstate, are more likely to experience intervention. There are, however, important differences notably in the areas of cross-border ethnic ties, the presence of great powers in the war, the use of non-state proxies, and wars caused by commitment problems.
Democracy Promotion and US Foreign Policy
David Ryan and Liam O'Brien
Democracy promotion has been a key aspect of U.S. identity and foreign policy, though Washington also has a long history of supporting non-democratic forms of governance; it has both consolidated democratic regimes and intervened to overthrow democratically elected governments. Democracy promotion is a broad term encompassing different activities, undertaken as part of a nation’s foreign policy, which intend to initiate and foster democratic governance abroad. Democracy promotion efforts may include, among other strategies, “traditional” diplomacy, targeted foreign aid and assistance, and both covert and overt military intervention. While democracy promotion has now become an accepted foreign policy norm among many nations, numerous issues and debates continue to surround its deployment, ranging from granular questions concerning how to best distribute foreign aid up to larger, more fundamental disputes centered on the effectiveness and legitimacy of democracy promotion. Such issues have a particular relevance to the history of U.S. foreign policy: the meta-narrative of U.S. foreign policy and its grand strategy is axiomatically associated with democracy and with democracy promotion. Indeed, given its self-characterization as a shining “city on a hill,” charges of inconsistency and double-standards frequently attend U.S. efforts at democracy promotion. Certainly, despite the rhetorical positions of many presidents, democracy promotion has never been the driving factor behind U.S. foreign policy but rather one component of a wider picture. The United States has frequently supported authoritarian regimes, undermined democracy, or supported a form of “low-intensity” or limited veneer of democratic practice. That said, the institutionalization of U.S. democracy promotion has not only set it more firmly on the agenda but also made it a more visible feature of U.S. policy. The democracy promotion efforts that served the Reagan administration’s goals in Latin America—mainly funding quasi-governmental groups that sought to foster opposition to unfriendly governments and strengthen civic society in target countries more generally—have provided a model for the basis of a large democracy promotion industry, providing a genuine substance to U.S. democracy promotion rhetoric in the process. The “industrialization” of democracy promotion, however, has created its own issues; namely an uncritical environment in which the promotion of a relatively shallow form of U.S.–style democracy has been presumed to be best, no matter the individual circumstances and nuances of target countries. The problems formed by such biases, along with a host of other challenges, will likely ensure that U.S. democracy promotion remains a contentious issue for some time to come.