Coup-proofing and civil war

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Abstract

Political leaders face threats to their power from both within and outside the regime. Leaders can be removed via a coup d’etat undertaken by militaries that are part of the state apparatus. At the same time, leaders can lose power when they confront excluded opposition groups in civil wars. The difficulty for leaders, though, is that efforts to address one threat might leave them vulnerable to the other threat due to the role of the military as an institution of violence capable of exercising coercive power. On one hand, leaders need to protect their regimes from rebels by maintaining strong militaries. Yet, militaries that are strong enough to prevail against rebel forces are also strong enough to execute a coup successfully. On the other hand, leaders who cope with coup threats by weakening their militaries’ capabilities to organize a coup also diminish the very capabilities that they need to defeat their rebel challengers.

This unfortunate trade-off between protection by the military and protection from the military has been the long-standing theme in studies of civil-military relations and coup-proofing. Though most research on this subject focused primarily on rulers’ maneuvers to balance the threats posed by the military and the threats coming from foreign adversaries, a more recent scholarship started to explore how leaders’ efforts to cope with coup threats will influence the regime’s abilities to address the domestic threats coming from rebel groups, and vice versa. This new wave of research focuses on two related vectors. First, scholars address whether leaders who pursue coup-proofing strategies that weaken their militaries’ capabilities increase the regime’s vulnerability to rebel threats and the future probability of civil war. Second, scholars examine how the magnitude of threats posed by rebel groups will determine leaders’ strategies toward the militaries, and how these strategies affect both the militaries’ influence over government policy and the future probability of coup onsets. These lines of research contribute to the conflict literature by examining the causal mechanisms through which civil conflict influences coup propensity and vice versa. The literatures on civil war and coups have developed independently without much consideration of each other, and systematic analyses of the linkage between them have only just began.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics
EditorsWilliam R. Thompson
Number of pages20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016

Publication series

NameOxford Research Encyclopaedias
PublisherOxford University Press

Fingerprint

civil war
Military
threat
leader
regime
civil-military cooperation
Group
research focus
government policy
vulnerability
opposition
violence
ability

Keywords

  • coups
  • coup-proofing
  • civil war
  • leader survival
  • civil-military relation
  • military effectiveness
  • insurgency
  • military defection
  • mass movements

Cite this

Sudduth, J. K. (2016). Coup-proofing and civil war. In W. R. Thompson (Ed.), The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (Oxford Research Encyclopaedias). https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.27
Sudduth, Jun Koga. / Coup-proofing and civil war. The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. editor / William R. Thompson. 2016. (Oxford Research Encyclopaedias).
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Sudduth, JK 2016, Coup-proofing and civil war. in WR Thompson (ed.), The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford Research Encyclopaedias. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.27

Coup-proofing and civil war. / Sudduth, Jun Koga.

The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. ed. / William R. Thompson. 2016. (Oxford Research Encyclopaedias).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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AB - Political leaders face threats to their power from both within and outside the regime. Leaders can be removed via a coup d’etat undertaken by militaries that are part of the state apparatus. At the same time, leaders can lose power when they confront excluded opposition groups in civil wars. The difficulty for leaders, though, is that efforts to address one threat might leave them vulnerable to the other threat due to the role of the military as an institution of violence capable of exercising coercive power. On one hand, leaders need to protect their regimes from rebels by maintaining strong militaries. Yet, militaries that are strong enough to prevail against rebel forces are also strong enough to execute a coup successfully. On the other hand, leaders who cope with coup threats by weakening their militaries’ capabilities to organize a coup also diminish the very capabilities that they need to defeat their rebel challengers. This unfortunate trade-off between protection by the military and protection from the military has been the long-standing theme in studies of civil-military relations and coup-proofing. Though most research on this subject focused primarily on rulers’ maneuvers to balance the threats posed by the military and the threats coming from foreign adversaries, a more recent scholarship started to explore how leaders’ efforts to cope with coup threats will influence the regime’s abilities to address the domestic threats coming from rebel groups, and vice versa. This new wave of research focuses on two related vectors. First, scholars address whether leaders who pursue coup-proofing strategies that weaken their militaries’ capabilities increase the regime’s vulnerability to rebel threats and the future probability of civil war. Second, scholars examine how the magnitude of threats posed by rebel groups will determine leaders’ strategies toward the militaries, and how these strategies affect both the militaries’ influence over government policy and the future probability of coup onsets. These lines of research contribute to the conflict literature by examining the causal mechanisms through which civil conflict influences coup propensity and vice versa. The literatures on civil war and coups have developed independently without much consideration of each other, and systematic analyses of the linkage between them have only just began.

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Sudduth JK. Coup-proofing and civil war. In Thompson WR, editor, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. 2016. (Oxford Research Encyclopaedias). https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.27