Military purges and the recurrence of civil conflict

Jessica Maves Braithwaite, Jun Koga Sudduth

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14 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


Literature on coup-proofing often suggests that such activities reduce military effectiveness, which could provide an environment ripe for civil conflict. However, if coupproofing is so dangerous, why do we observe leaders engaging in these strategies? We argue that a specific type of coup-proofing–purges–deters domestic unrest by demonstrating the strength of the regime via the removal of powerful but undesirable individuals from office. The strategic and intentional nature of purges signals to opposition forces that the regime is capable of not only identifying its enemies but also eliminating these threats. Furthermore, the removal of high-profile officers often leads to their
elimination from forums in which they could join existing rebel groups or mount new resistance to the regime, additionally decreasing the risk of renewed fighting. We use original data on military purges in non-democracies from 1969-2003 to assess quantitatively how this type of coup-proofing activity affects the likelihood of civil conflict recurrence. We find support for our expectation that military purges of high-ranking officials do in fact help the regime to avoid further civil conflict. Purges appear to provide real benefits to dictators seeking to preserve stability, at least in post-conflict environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number1
Early online date19 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2016


  • civil conflict
  • conflict recurrence
  • coup d'etat
  • purge
  • dictatorship


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