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Military Coups; To Snuff The Fire Of The Phoenix


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Why we should care about Military Coups.

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Military Coups; To Snuff The Fire Of The Phoenix

  1. 1. Like a Phoenix from the fire, some social commentators state that military coups have had a resurgence, as of late. President Professor Mills of Ghana while talking to the Economic Community of West African States " expressed deep concern" for the resurgence of coups in Africa, further stating that it is " a very serious setback in efforts to strengthen the democratisation process on the Continent" (Ghana Ministry of Information and National Orientation: 2009). If New Zealand wishes to partake in supporting the further democratisation of the pacific, then nothing but the most clear understanding of the basis of military coups is required. For New Zealand, this means identifying attempts by militaries to unseat the democratic government of the day, via unconstitutional means.<br />This essay will discus the different types of coups based on conflicts in society and conflicts in the military and argues that military coups are caused by both conflict in society and conflict in the military. <br />The problems of nations<br />Throughout history, the contradiction of values has spawned violent and non-violent struggle (McLean & McMillan: 2009): such as the right of rulerships, morals, creeds; in part politics itself. Militaries, as Professor Finer states (1962: 6), have three substantial political advantages over non-militaristic establishments in this regard, they have: superior organisation skills, an extremely emotional status in the minds of the populace, and a hegemony in weapons; all of which can be used to enforce their chosen values. Militaries enforce their values by military intervention in politics, this was further defined succinctly by Finer as “The armed forces’ constrained substitution of their own policies and/or their persons, for those of the recognised civilian authorities” (ibidem: 23). This therefore can lead militaries to intervene in politics with what Steven David calls Guardian coups (1987: 14), Finer lists it as a motive of national interest (1962: 35); the military sees itself as a custodian or moderator of the state and the military promises to set everything right by ending conflict or conflicts within society. This intervention, Steven David argues, can be caused by rapid surges of capital transferred to the reigning elite and the corruption that evolves from this, “bitter conflicts between western and traditional values” due to modernisation, as well as industrialisation that regularly comes with painful social displacement (1987: 10). He then states further that those types of instabilities are likely to encourage the armed forces to interfere, that is both because military leaders face the same anxieties and allurements as that of the remainder of the populace and as well as undertaking with everyone else the challenging conversion to the modern way of life (ibidem: 10). Thus the military has great motivation for military intervention in politics, when their motive is to uphold societal values in society to end conflicts within their society.<br />Divided Hierarchy<br />Another anxiety that militaries have is upholding their autonomy, which is a major part of what Huntington called professionalism, and Huntington claimed that the military is a profession much the same as law or medicine (1957: 7,10). Military professionalism can push the militaries motive of sectional interest, that is its class; ethnic or regional interests, and merge into that of individual self-interest to become corporate self-interest, rather than the motive remaining part of sectional interest (Brooker, 2000: 63). Finer calls this mix military syndicalism (ibidem: 47) and warns that when the military tries to act in defence of their own autonomy, then this can lead to such a situation, thus the intervention is due to an upset over their own affairs. Paul Brooker (2000: 64) states that the difference between the corporate interest and the individual self-interest can be seen in the distinction between aspirations as a member of the military, and aspirations as a individual. Corporate self-interest, that is aspirations of the military, can then be seen to be a driving force in creating motive for military intervention in politics, this is due to the military’s need to protect itself from real or potential threats against its, as Paul Brooker put it (2000: 64), “professional autonomy and monopoly”. Cuts in the budget for the military, interference in internal military disciplinary measures or rejection of a military build up that is seen to be vital for basic efficiency in battle, can be seen to go against its own autonomy and therefore its preservation, and also jeopardise quite possibly in the militaries eyes the nations survival. Nordlinger goes further, and claims that “the great majority of coups are partly, primarily, or entirely motivated by the defence or enhancement of the military’s corporate interests” (1977: 78). This was completely rejected by Paul Brooker (2000: 64), with the use of W. R. Thompson’s research, Brooker determined that Nordlinger’s statement works for at most only half of the coups between 1946 to 1970. Thus the military has only partial motivation for military intervention in politics, when its motive is to quench their internal conflict by preserving their autonomy.<br />Comrade versus comrade<br /> Of all the values, those that uphold ones own interests holds the most sway, this can be the interest of a subset group in the military or a completely personal interest that one can have. Sectional Interest can be divided up into four subgroups: (a) class interest: When the motive is based on social class; Finer recalls the theory that when the military is drawn from another social class that is hostile to that of the ruling power, that the military will try to overthrow the ruling power (1962: 40). Finer sees this as a somewhat flawed theory, yet it can be seen as a working theory, that works within a limited set of variables (1962: 40) . (b) Regional interest: when the motive is based on regional allegiance, Finer asserted that it can sometimes happen that the brunt of the officers are, for the most part, drawn from one precise area of the country or they have developed allegiance or special ties with the area(ibidem: 43-7). (c) Corporate self-interest: as stated above, Finer saw Corporate self-interest as part of, and a sub grouping of Sectional Interest. (d) Individual self-interest: when the motive is based on ones own personal interests and desires that are unique to the individual, epidemic to places that have a history of gravitation towards military coups. This motive is abundant in places that suffer from a stagnation of social progression as the only place for social advancement is through militaristic channels. If due to this, those of lower social rank could lift themselves above the situation which they came from, so then in their eyes, there is no reason why they could not then lift themselves further up to those that govern (Finer 1962: 56-8). Finer sees this as true for all military coups, albeit for almost all military interventions, as low level motive that serves as a basis for their self reasoning (ibidem). Thus the military has, varying motivation for military intervention in politics respectively, when the motive is to benefit a factional part of the military. <br />Licit Reason?<br /> Of the motives that have been discussed, the factor of legitimacy although previously unaddressed, has been connected to all of these motives at some point or another at a low level. Finer succinctly pointed out how vital legitimacy can be by saying: “Rule by force alone… is inadequate in addition, government must possess authority. It must be recognised not only as the government but as the lawful, the rightful government (1962: 17)”. Militaries in advanced societies naturally do not have the capacity to govern purely within the framework of the military and therefore need the use of civilian intuitions (Finer 1962: 14-7). As well as submission through overt force lacking legitimacy and therefore running the risk of sectional interest motivated countercoups, submission through overt force can also be very inefficient and costly compared to civilian collaboration or developing interconnections between civilian intuitions and the military’s state apparatus (brooker 2000: 102-3). Legitimacy is sought in several different ways, such as militaries whose motives are part of sectional interest, can claim instead a motive of patriotic national interest that is more appealing to the masses due to the usage of claims of crisis’ such as secession, civil war, or anarchy (ibidem: 104). In a few cases, legal based legitimacy is used (ibidem: 103), but far more common is electoral based legitimacy, were the legitimacy factor is based on claims of acting for fair election or against unfair elections, or promises of democratic change (ibidem: 104). Ideological legitimacy, a seldom used claim by the military, it is used by the military in conjunction with Sectional Interests, such as class interest, ethnic interest or religious interest (ibidem: 108), An example would be the communistic ideological legitimacy pressed by the Burmese officers and militaristic class interest of the Burmese soldiers. Thus the military has very strong motivation for the use of legitimacy factors in military intervention in politics, when the goal is to modify external support and/or perception, and internal support and/or allegiance.<br />Conclusion<br />Although each type of interest can be defined to some degree, regardless of the difference of opinion over nomenclature, pinpointing the motive or motives that has brought the military to intervene in politics is not a straight forward one. The need by the military to use legitimacy both during and after coups, clouds our ability to sift out the original motive that sparked the desire by the military to intervene in politics in the first place. The synthetic nature of legitimacy shows itself to be hypocritical, although it is possible through shifts in interest to find the underling motives through tracking the evolution of these changes. Finer listed an example this evolution, “from the defence of a region to the defence of a class, from the defence of a class to the defence of the army as an institution, until it reaches it ultimate degradation in those cases… where officers intervene in order… to improve their own personal careers” (1962: 40). Thus there are always many motives that come in to play, regardless of whether the original motive is based on conflicts in society or conflicts in the military, the need of the factor of legitimacy means that the other will also become a motive.<br />Bibliography<br />Brooker, Paul 2000, Non-Democratic Regimes: Theory, Government and Politics. MacMillan Press, London.<br />David, Steven R. 1987, Third World Coups d'état and International Security, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.<br />Finer, S. E. 1962, The Man On Horseback, Pall Mall Press, London.<br />Ghana Ministry of Information and National Orientation 2009, President Mills Joins Colleagues At ECOWAS Summit, Retrieved 27 April, 2009, from<br />Huntington, S. P. 1957, The soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics Civil-Military Relations, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.<br />McLean, Ed Iain & McMillan, Alistair 2009, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, Retrieved 12 May 2009, from <br />Nordlinger, E. A. 1977, Soldiers in Politics: Military coups and governments, Prentice-Hall ,Englewood <br />Cliffs.<br />