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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

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

Article

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

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

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

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

Many have seen the establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military as a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for the consolidation of a nascent democracy. The establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military in South Korea was a long and, some would argue, uncompleted process. A coup in 1961 led by Park Chung-hee, a major-general, led to the establishment of an authoritarian regime that, while going civilian, was based on the control of the military and the intelligence services. Park was assassinated by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in October 1979; however, the hopes of moving in the direction of democracy were soon squashed when Chun Doo-hwan, and his comrades in arms from the secret Hanahoe (One Mind) club of Korean Military Academy graduates, first took power over the military through an internal coup, and then took control over the government. Under significant internal, and external, pressure Chun Doo-hwan agreed to step down from the presidency in 1987 and allow the writing of a new constitution that led to free elections to the presidency in December 1987. The opposition lost the 1987 election due to its inability to agree upon a united candidate. The winner was Roh Tae-woo, a participant in the 1979–1990 coup, who would during his presidency take important steps when it came to establishing civilian control over the military. However, it was first with the inauguration of the Kim Young-sam in 1993 that the establishment of firm civilian control was achieved. He engaged in a significant reorganization of, and moved against the power of the secret societies within, the army. He also promoted the idea of a politically neutral military. This most likely played a significant role when Kim Dae-jung, the first opposition candidate, won the presidency in December 1997, as the military remained neutral and accepted the outcome of the electoral process. There has since been a strengthening of civilian control over the military in South Korea. However, there are a number of important issues that need to be dealt with in order to ensure full democratic control over the military and the intelligence services. While the military, as an institution, has stayed neutral in politics, military and intelligence resources have been used in attempts at influencing public opinion in the lead-up to elections. In addition, comprehensive oversight by the legislature continues to be weak and the National Security Law remains on the books.

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

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

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