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Article

David Altman and Nicole Jenne

Scholars have paid little attention to the Uruguayan armed forces, an institution that has never been fully entrusted with the country’s external security. This is explained by Uruguay’s geographical condition as a buffer state, sandwiched between South America’s biggest countries, Brazil and Argentina. The power differential with either one of them has rendered the prospect of a viable defense futile. Accordingly, those who have studied the Uruguayan military concur that it has traditionally had difficulties finding a place and recognition within the state and society. Throughout its history, the military has been a rather weak institution mostly subordinate to democratic control. After the creation of Uruguay in 1828, it took several decades until a truly national military was established. The late 19th and early 20th century represent an exception in the country’s history as the armed forces underwent a modernization process backed by government resources. Military professionalization consolidated civilian control. Yet, soon after, the strengthening of democratic institutions and a high degree of social stability maneuvered the armed forces into a position of political neglect. This changed rather abruptly in the late 1960s, when a severe social, economic, and political crisis drove the ruling elites to call upon the armed forces to restore order. The military launched a coup d’état in 1973 and remained in power until 1985, when a negotiated transition put an end to the dictatorship and the U.S.-supported National Security Doctrine. Subsequent democratic governments gradually reestablished civilian control and reduced the budget and size of the institution. However, given the stigmas from the dictatorship, together with the traditionally low esteem in which the military has been held, politicians have been slow in taking on necessary reforms in the military and defense sectors. Political neglect has allowed the armed forces considerable autonomy in military and defense policymaking, due to lack of civilian involvement. The decision to have the armed forces participate in UN peacekeeping—since 1992, Uruguay has almost consistently been among the top peacekeeping contributors per capita—has provided solutions to a number of pending questions regarding the role of the armed forces. Participation in peacekeeping allows for financial resources to supplement military salaries and acquisition funds. It provides the armed forces with a mission and has brought them closer to the civilian foreign policy elite. Yet, Uruguay still seems to wonder whether the country wants to have its armed forces.

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

The United States boasts an enviable record regarding the military’s role in politics: never a coup and never a serious coup attempt. However, this does not mean that the military always played only a trivial role in politics. On the contrary, as the Framers worried, it is impossible for a democracy to maintain a military establishment powerful enough to protect it in a hostile international environment without at the same time creating an institution with sufficient clout to be a factor in domestic politics. The U.S. military’s political role has ebbed and flowed over the nearly 250 years of the nation’s history. The high-water mark of political influence came in the context of the gravest threat the country has faced, the Civil War, when the military enforced emergency measures approved by Congress, beyond the letter of the Constitution, including during Reconstruction when the military governed rebellious states of the former Confederacy. These were notable exceptions. For most of the 19th century, the military operated on the fringes of civilian politics, although through the Army Corps of Engineers it played a key role in state-building. When the United States emerged as a great power with global interests, the political role of the military increased, though never in a way to directly challenge civilian supremacy. Today, the military wields latent political influence in part because of its enormous fiscal footprint and in part because it is the national institution in which the public express the highest degree of confidence. This has opened the door for myriad forms of political action, all falling well below the red lines that most concern traditional civil–military relations theory. Military involvement in the American political system may be monitored and evaluated using a typology built around two columns that highlight the means of military influence—the first column is comprised of formal rules and institutions and the second encompasses the norms of military behavior with respect to civilian authority and civil society. While traditional civil–military relations theory focuses on military coups and coup prevention, theory based on this typology can help explain American civil–military relations, illuminating the warning signs of unhealthy friction under democratic governance and promoting republican vigilance at those moments when the U.S. military takes a prominent role and wades more deeply into domestic politics.

Article

Benin and Togo’s postcolonial histories have been shaped by the actions of military personnel. In both cases, governments were either placed into power or toppled by the military. This trend ended in Benin after 1991, when the military returned to the barracks. In Togo, as of 2020, Faure Gnassingbé’s government still relies on the armed forces to remain in power. To understand this path divergence, it is necessary to look at the regimes that arose in 1967 in Togo and 1972 in Benin. After years of coup cycles and failed civilian or military governments, two leaders—Mathieu Kérékou in Benin and Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma in Togo—established stable military governments. In order to end coup cycles, both leaders put in place coup-proofing measures that profoundly influenced the composition of the armed forces of their respective countries. In Benin, the Kérékou government implemented a series of measures to heighten divisions among the armed forces and to preclude the coordination of rivals. In Togo, the Eyadéma government filled the army with those from the leader’s ethnic group and pushed out any rivals. While both strategies were effective, as no successful coups were staged in either country after the early 1970s, they also influenced each government’s ability to rely on their armed forces to defend the standing regime. In Benin, the Kérékou government fell, as it could not rely on the armed forces to quell a civic resistance campaign, while in Togo, the Eyadéma government could count on military personnel to crush a similar campaign. Consequently, the 2020 Togolese government is still ruled by the Eyadéma clan and relies on ethnically stacked armed forces to maintain its power. In Benin, a new civilian government has started the process of reprofessionalizing the armed forces.

Article

Ori Swed and Daniel Burland

The phrase outsourcing war has been used since the late 1990s to describe the trend toward the hiring of private military and security companies (PMSCs) by national governments to perform functions that previously had been assigned only to members of national military forces. These private companies, in turn, hire employees, usually on limited-term contracts, to carry out the missions that the companies have agreed to accomplish. PMSCs may undertake combat missions independently or in direct cooperation with deployed national military forces. They may be assigned to security missions in secret or to meet a highly visible demand, as in the case where the United States contributed private military contractors to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Kosovo in 1998. This was an early case in which privately contracted military employees were hired by one nation to function cooperatively with uniformed members of other national military forces. During the 20th century, private military forces had been considered a form of organized crime populated by mercenaries, a delinquent group at the fringes of the social order who traded in violence to advance the interests of anyone willing to pay them. By the beginning of the 21st century, however, the outsourcing of war and security functions to private companies had become commonplace, transforming the previously prevailing belief that only states had the right to wage war. States often deployed their militaries alongside PMSCs who were contracted to provide support to forces on the ground. In other cases, private companies would pay representatives of other private companies to defend their assets, such as oil fields or diamond mines. During this period at the turn of the 21st century, PMSCs came to be perceived as representatives of a legitimate industry. With this transformation, the nature of security and modern conflict changed as well. Private military and security companies became an important instrument in war-making and the projection of power.

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

El Salvador experienced five decades of direct military rule from 1931 through 1982, followed by a semi-authoritarian phase from 1982 to 1992 during which elected civilians ostensibly governed while the military retained veto power and impunity. Twelve years of civil war produced significant political change, and a 1992 peace settlement finally brought constitutional and institutional reforms that curbed the military’s political power. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the armed forces had a somewhat informal structure, and while coups d’état occurred periodically, the military was more the tool of powerful individuals than the source of their power. An uncompetitive electoral system in the early 20th century broke down in 1931 after a combination of political reforms and financial crisis undermined civilian authority, and a coup enabled the minister of defense to seize power. Shortly thereafter, the fledgling military government suppressed a peasant uprising with extreme violence, thereby consolidating its own position and discouraging challenges from oligarchic elites. Initially military rule was personalistic, with power vested in General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, but in the 1940s this transitioned to a more institutional system in which the officer corps collectively shaped the broad outlines of how the country would be governed and prevented any one leader from dominating. For over 30 years the institutional military government sought to achieve a degree of legitimacy through controlled elections, repressed opposition when it grew too strong, promoted economic growth, and implemented mild social reforms that always stopped short of challenging oligarchic interests. The military’s strategy failed to resolve severe social and political tensions that arose from the country’s highly unequal distribution of land and income. The military faced popular demands for access to land and adequate wages, while the agrarian elite resisted any reform. Factional strife broke out regularly within the military over whether to rely mainly on repression to contain social and political demands, or to break with the oligarchy and deliver deeper reforms. The result was an inconsistent policy that occasionally created political space for opposition and then violently closed it. By the late 1970s there were massive protests and the beginnings of armed insurgency. Outright civil war began in 1980, and the country began a partial transition to civilian rule in 1982. Despite ample help from the United States, the military failed to defeat the insurgents. In 1990, the conservative elected civilian government began negotiating with the insurgents, leading to accords that definitively excluded the military from political power. After 1992 the country struggled with a sluggish economy and pervasive crime, and questions remained about past human rights crimes. The political system was genuinely democratic, featuring unrestricted debate and a wide range of political ideologies. The military remained largely subordinate to civil authority under governments of both the right and the left. Yet legacies of authoritarianism persisted, and in 2020 a populist elected civilian president called on the military for political support and used it to detain people unlawfully during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Article

In many African countries, armies played a key public role in the aftermath of independence. For this reason, no study of African politics can overlook the militarization of the state. Postcolonial Madagascar, for example, was ruled for over two decades by personnel from its army. National armies often present themselves as neutral entities that can guarantee a country’s political stability. However, there is no such thing as neutrality, whether in Africa or elsewhere. The best hope for armies to become and remain as politically neutral as possible is the demilitarization of political power. The withdrawal of the military from politics and their subordination to civilian decisions is important but does not suffice to ensure the army’s political neutrality. Such a withdrawal was widely carried out through the third wave of democratization, the historical period during which there was a sustained and significant increase in the proportion of competitive regimes. Democratization processes cannot succeed without efforts toward neutralizing the military, and thus, toward demilitarizing the political society and depoliticizing the army. Post-transition regimes striving for democracy should bring about and preserve a formal separation of power between the political and the civilian spheres. For these regimes to establish a solid mandate, the army and the security apparatus need to be placed under democratic control. In Africa, the disengagement of the military from the public sphere came about with the political transitions of the 1990s. But changes in political regimes over the past decade have challenged the democratization process, as the return of praetorianism (an excessive political influence of the armed forces in the Sahel and Madagascar) testifies. Hence, demilitarizing politics, on the one hand and depoliticizing and reprofessionalizing the army on the other remain essential issues to be addressed.

Article

Suriname is a multiethnic society (from African, Asian, and European countries, and smaller contingents of the original indigenous peoples) formed in colonial times. After 1863, a small colonial army detachment with conscript Dutch soldiers was stationed in Suriname. The colony was provided autonomy in 1954, except for defense and foreign affairs. The same army detachment was now open for Surinamese noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Independence was obtained in 1975; the Dutch transferred all infrastructure of the colonial detachment. Suriname’s political culture was (and partially still is) based on ethnic belonging and clientelism. After independence, the government started spending big money and rumors of corruption arose. The NCOs, headed by Sergeant-Major Bouterse, staged a coup in 1980. They appointed a new civilian government but remained in control though a Military Council overseeing government. After two and a half years it generated a strong civilian opposition, supported by the students, the middle classes, and the trade unions. In December 1982, the military arrested the leaders and tortured and killed them. Between 1980 and 1987, Bouterse, now a colonel, was the de facto president as leader of the Military Council. The generally leftist but zig-zagging military government disrupted the economy. “Colombian entrepreneurs” assisted with financial support. Economic and political bankruptcy prompted the government to organize elections. The “old ethnic parties” won the election in 1987, but the army leadership remained in power. A second coup, in December 1991, was settled by general elections six months thereafter; the same ethnic parties returned to power. Armed opposition had emerged in the Maroon region. The Army, backed by paramilitary forces, organized a counterinsurgency campaign during several years of civil war. The civilian government brokered a preliminary peace agreement, but Army Chief Bouterse continued the war. Eventually the Organisation of American States mediated, resulting in a formal peace. Bouterse and his staff were discharged and became businessmen and politicians. Consecutive civilian government strongly curtailed military budgets, personnel, and equipment. Instead, they strengthened the police. In 2005, Bouterse participated in the elections with a pluriethnic political platform. His party became the largest one in parliament. He won the presidential elections in 2010 and was reelected in 2015. A Military Tribunal initiated a process against the actors of the December 1982 murders. In November 2019, the Tribunal convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison, without ordering his immediate arrest. The National Army, after decades of neglect, was reorganized. It is in fact an infantry battalion equipped with Brazilian armored vehicles. Brazil, Venezuela, and India supplied some assistance and training. The Coast Guard is part of the Army, as well as the Air Force which has a couple of Indian helicopters. Of the 137 countries ranked in military strength by Global Firepower (2019), Suriname is positioned at place 135. On the other hand, the country has no external enemies, although there exists a dormant frontier dispute with Guyana since the late 1960s.

Article

Since the independence of Haiti in 1804, the military has played a central role in the governance of the republic, often accessing the presidency through the recurrent phenomenon of the coup d’état, which serves as both a principal mechanism for the transmission of power from one government to another and for reinforcing the domination of the military over the civilian population. The 19th-century model of the coup d’état reflected the de facto decentralization of the military as it was carried out through rebellions concocted and headed by army battalions stationed in the rural provinces. The U.S. occupation (1915–1934), by locating or relocating the military elite, the most prominent military bases, the largest contingent of the military officers and rank and file in the capital city, contributed to the reengineering of a new national infrastructure that facilitates a new model of the coup d’état to emerge: One that germinates among the high command of the military; one that takes the form of a corporate intervention; one that is made possible because of the high command’s control over tactical military weapons, including the heavy military equipment located in the capital city; and one that is swift, thereby preventing any provincial military base from mounting a meaningful or successful military counter-coup.

Article

Demobilization of ex-combatants is a major obstacle in the transition to a stable postconflict society. The combatants must be convinced to abandon the armed confrontation and hand over their weapons in light of security concerns and a lack of alternative means of income. The challenges to overcoming the commitment problem differ in terms of numbers of combatants who must be demobilized for conflicts that end in a decisive victory and conflicts that reach a military stalemate. Peace agreements can offer several solutions for overcoming the parties’ commitment problems, but often the implementation of the provisions is incomplete. Third parties can offer to monitor an agreement and provide security guarantees. International actors increasingly assist with demobilization and reintegration programs for former combatants and help to overcome security-related concerns and economic challenges. Another solution offered is military power-sharing arrangements and the integration of rebel fighters into the national military. These measures are intended to reduce the pool for potential recruitment for existing or new rebel groups. If ex-combatants are left without means of income to support themselves and their families, the risk is higher that they will remobilize and conflict will recur. Reintegration in the civilian labor market, however, is often difficult in the weak economies of war-affected countries.

Article

Most Germans supported Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship between 1933 and 1945. Yet, a small group of officers and politicians who did not support Hitler formed a clandestine anti-Nazi underground. Retrospectively known as the German Resistance Movement, it began its activity in 1938 with a desperate attempt to prevent war in Europe and culminated in the coup d’état and failed assassination attempt on Hitler of July 20, 1944. The resistance was led by General Ludwig Beck, former chief of the general staff, who resigned in 1938 because of significant disagreements with Hitler’s foreign policy. Beck supervised the work of three successive military directors, Colonel Hans Oster, Colonel Henning von Tresckow, and Colonel Claus Schenck von Stauffenberg. All three attempted to overthrow the Nazi regime, with different strategies shaped by the structure of their conspiratorial networks and the pressure of wartime conditions. Oster, a senior officer in the military intelligence service, tried to exploit his connections in the general staff to stage a coup in the name of the entire army. Tresckow led a vanguard underground of loosely connected cliques, designed to assassinate Hitler and then exploit the ensuing chaos to take power. Stauffenberg led a “wheel conspiracy,” a highly centralized underground, thinly spread over large parts of the Nazi empire. Under his leadership, the movement staged the famous coup of July 20, 1944. While the evidence clearly shows that the conspirators acted out of principled opposition to Nazi policies, their precise motives are still controversial. Were they moved by disgust at National Socialist war crimes, or more by the patriotic goal of saving Germany from a doomed war? In fact, the worldview of most conspirators saw the universal and the national as closely intertwined. This particular style of patriotic morality and moralistic patriotism is a key to understanding their motives, as well as to the debate on their complicity in National Socialist war crimes.

Article

The fundamental challenge facing social engineers is to project authority. State building is a process that establishes political order over time. As a top-down strategy, it emerges as an antidote to state collapse. The success of a state is in its capacity not only to provide national security while controlling the means of violence, but also to supply other public goods funded through direct taxes on citizens, who are supposed to make their rulers accountable. The absence of such state capacity perhaps explains the unending political crisis that plagues many post-colonial states, because they tend to control populations rather than territories. Although some efforts have been made toward state building, the state remains fragile in many post-colonial states. Territorial control is limited, and private taxation continues. Local tensions based on ethnic affinities rather than national allegiance remains intense. The analysis of Congo-Kinshasa illustrates these assertions by contrasting three successive periods: the Congo Free State (1885–1908), the Belgian Congo (1908–1959), and the post-colonial period (1960–2019). Of these three periods, only the second entity was able to professionalize the military for state-building purposes. The emphasis on this top down approach in state building overlooks other configurations that postcolonial state builders should contemplate. Societies have historically compensated for the failure or absence of statehood through a number of mechanisms that include, among others, councils of elders and secret societies that may not be difficult to reconcile with the demands of the modern state. The search for this bottom-up approach to state building perhaps explains so many internal conflicts in most post-colonial states as marginalized groups intend to insert themselves into the political system that has excluded them from power.

Article

The history of the military in Ethiopia is a social history. There is no surprise here. Military institutions are social constructs whose structure and functions in each society can only be understood contextually. Because the Ethiopian military has emerged as a relatively independent institution after World War II, its nature, and role in the political order, has been impacted by structural conditions—including the interplay between tradition and modernity, the rise of the middle class, authoritarian culture and political makeup, interethnic tensions, chronic economic problems, and geopolitical conditions. Nevertheless, while being constrained by these factors and processes, the military, like other political actors in the country, has not acted as a passive spectacle; instead, members of the military have played an essential role in the perpetuation and unmaking of political regimes. Within the three administrations that have surfaced during the last nine decades, the role of the Ethiopian military in the political order has ranged from soft to active intervention. However, in all these regimes, military power has invariably undermined people power. The most extreme of all the regimes was the military establishment of 1974–1991. Under this palpably authoritarian government, to the extent that the distinction between military and civilian rule was blurred, the army was involved in politics more than its due share. During the imperial era (1930–1974), on the other hand, the emperor, who cherished his power (with no pretense for democratic governance) more than his outspoken commitment to the idea of progress, made the military subservient to his bidding while forcing it to remain politically indifferent. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime (1991–present) shared similar attributes with the imperial government in its recognition (at least theoretically) of the distinction between military and civilian rule. Here too the military was the strong arm of the incumbent. Despite its fervent claim for political and cultural pluralism, the EPRDF used the military to defend its “democratic” authoritarian interests. The lesson to be learned from this social history of the military is clear: Ethiopia needs a proper military–civil relationship, along with institutional mechanisms that counterweight against the military’s detrimental intervention in political affairs, for it to materialize the potential of its people and create a well-ordered, just society.

Article

What role does India’s military play in its politics? India’s military is one of the largest in the world, with a budget that mirrors its enormity. It is a busy force, having fought five wars since 1947 and having managed persistent insurgencies in India’s northeast and the one in Kashmir since the 1990s. Prevailing studies on its role in India’s institutional structures often characterize it as a body external to the governance of a diverse, and at times perplexing, developing democracy that only intervenes when called on. Its comparatively lower underfunding to its main external threats and exclusion from strategic planning draws a significant amount of scholarly interest that seeks to explain this professional stance of India’s armed sentinels. The focus of such studies on the regulating mechanisms and the lack of resources available for the forces contextualized by India’s external challenges, which often produce institutional anxiety, blur an understanding of the military’s influence on politics in India. Instead, the question of what role the military plays in India’s politics requires an inquiry into the collaborative linkages that were initiated at the end of colonial rule, when the civilian authorities and the military elite acknowledged each other’s importance in the consolidation of a modern nation-state. Although fear of the guardians guided some initial safeguards by the new civilian authorities, the relationship that emerged soon after reflected extensive collaboration in the face of external and internal threats, which is often ignored in India’s civil–military studies. A closer inquiry into the mutuality of the decision making during selected conflicts brings to fore an understanding of the institutional insight that has allowed the military to influence resource management, participate in governance, and shape political competition in a democratic context.

Article

Prashant Hosur Suhas and Vasabjit Banerjee

The Maldives’ strategic location in the Indian Ocean has elicited interest in its politics. While it is the smallest state in South Asia and a classic example of a microstate, with a population of less than 400,000, its strategic location in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) and large EEZ allow it to play an outsize role in the region. When it comes to civil‒military relations, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has traditionally accepted a subordinate role to the civilian leadership. However, there has been intermittent political turmoil and instability as civilian leaders—many of whom have been autocratic—resist democratic changes. There are three components that require attention in assessing the nature of the Maldives’ civil‒military relations. The first component is the great power rivalry between China and India operating in the region. While India has considered the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to be within its sphere of influence, it has been challenged by recent Chinese activities in the IOR. The second component is the stability and turmoil in the domestic political structures in the Maldives as the country seeks to democratize. Finally, although it is the largest contributor to the Maldives’ GDP, a section of fundamentalist Muslims identify the tourism industry with a “decadent lifestyle” being promoted by the state solely for economic growth . Given that tourism is the primary economic sector in the Maldives, such opposition can pose both a security and an economic threat. Whether the growing radicalism has affected the military is unclear, but the possibility poses new threats to a country on the path of democratization.

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

Justin Conrad and Mark Souva

Why do some governments spend more on their military than others? Leaders make spending decisions based in part on their desire to stay in office, and they may lose office through internal or external processes. Research traditionally focused on external threats as the main determinant of military spending, but internal dynamics are the primary cause of leadership turnover. Coups are the most common reason for autocrats losing power and elections are the most common way democratic leaders, or their parties, lose power. The two processes are often linked. For example, external threat, even absent an attack, can lead to a change in domestic political power. As such, domestic interests, channeled through domestic institutions, are central to understanding military spending. Political science research often emphasizes domestic public opinion and the narrow interests of specific groups as explanations for military spending patterns. Such research finds that changes in public opinion lead to changes in defense spending and that more left-oriented interests favor lower defense spending. Research comparing spending across countries instead focuses on institutions and external threats. Much of this research focuses on the defense burden, which is the ratio of defense spending to gross domestic product. Among the few consistent findings is the fact that democracies maintain a lower defense burden than non-democracies. Higher levels of external threat are also associated with higher defense burdens and smaller countries tend to free-ride in alliances. Additional research examines variations in military spending among autocracies. As with democracies, specific institutions appear to be more important than regime type. Institutions such as legislatures that incentivize leaders to provide public goods are associated with less military spending.

Article

Despite the common identification of Chile as “exceptional” among Latin American nations, the military played a key role in 20th-century Chilean politics and continues to do so in the first decades of the 21st century. Both 20th-century constitutions were adopted under military tutelage, after military coups: two coups—1924–1925 (the 1925 Constitution) and the military coup in 1973 (the 1980 constitution). A successful coup in 1932 established the short-lived “Chilean Socialist Republic.” Infrequent but sometimes serious failed military coups decisively influenced the course of Chilean politics: 1912, 1919, 1931–1932 (several), 1933, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1948, 1954, 1969, June 1973, 1986 (“coup within the coup” against Augusto Pinochet by air force officers), and others. Monographic and article-length histories of each of these events exist detailing their rationale and eventual failure. Severe political polarization in the context of the post-Cuban Revolution Cold War wave of military coups (1961–1976) in Latin America resulted in the breakdown of the Chilean political system in 1973. U.S. support for a military coup to oust the elected socialist president exacerbated the internal political strife. When a military junta ousted socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973, the military leaders claimed that they had ousted the Allende government to rescue Chilean democracy from the threat of international communism and civil war, and to restore the 1925 Constitution and the rule of law In 1973, the armed forces established a dictatorship that lasted almost 17 years and imposed a new constitution that is still in place in 2020 (with amendments). During this period (1973–1990), military officers occupied ministerial posts in the presidential cabinet, a military junta (Junta de Gobierno) acted as the legislature, and much of the public administration was militarized. Massive human rights violations took place involving all three branches of the armed forces and the national police (carabineros). After a plebiscite that rejected continued rule by General Augusto Pinochet and elections in 1989, the country returned to civilian government in March 1990. From 1990 until 2020 the country experienced gradual “normalization” of civil–military relations under elected civilian governments. After 1998, the threat of another military coup and reestablishment of military government largely disappeared. Constitutional reforms in 2005 reestablished much (but not all) of civilian control over defense and security policy and oversight of the armed forces. Nevertheless, reorganization of defense and security policymaking remained salient political issues and the armed forces continued to play an important role in national politics, policymaking, and internal administration.

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Since independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced numerous military coups both successful and unsuccessful, mutinies by disgruntled soldiers and civil wars that have had terrible impacts on civilians. Three career military officers took power by force and led the country for a total of 36 years: Bokassa (1965–1979), Kolingba (1981–1993), and Bozize (2003–2013). From the 1960s to 1990s, both military and civilian rulers politicized, regionalized, and weakened the CAR military by packing it with supporters from their home areas and ethnic groups, and establishing alternative security structures and bringing in foreign troops to secure their regimes. In this period, the CAR military became a Praetorian force obsessed with the country’s internal political power struggles. In the 1990s, in the context of the post-Cold War political liberalization of Africa, the CAR’s transition to democracy was undermined by a succession of army mutinies over lack of pay and other grievances that fatally weakened an already fragile state. A series of civil wars in the 2000s and 2010s resulted in the near dissolution of the CAR military and the partition of the country into a network of fiefdoms dominated by antagonistic local armed factions separated from each other by beleaguered UN peacekeepers.