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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

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.