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Protecting the State : Strategic Choice at the Nexus of Internal and External Security

  • Author(s): McMahon, Russell Blake
  • et al.
Abstract

In order to survive in power, the rulers of political regimes must rely on armed forces for defense. In developing forces that are strong enough to protect the state, however, rulers give rise to a new type of challenger for political power that may itself threaten the government. This dilemma has long troubled political leaders and has frequently resulted in coups d'etat, to the point where these events have become the most common form of political instability in the world. Chapter 1 presents a game theoretic model that distills this fundamental dilemma to its barest essentials, and shows that the logic underlying the conventional wisdom on civil -military relations is misguided. The risk of a coup does not depend on the severity of the external threat facing the regime --- as previous research holds --- but rather on the factors that lead political and military agents to hold divergent beliefs about the nature of the threat. Chapter 2 extends this model and focuses on the "Circling of the Wagons" effect, in which elevated threats induce military loyalty. Even though larger external threats increase the military's willingness to remain loyal, rulers are only willing to behave aggressively to exacerbate the threat environment when they are uncertain about the severity of these threats. Predictions derived from the theory find support in survival analysis of disputatious dyads from 1950 to 2001. Chapter 3 examines the claim that military performance is hurt by rulers who select personnel on the basis of their ties to the regime for fear of a coup. The argument centers around the need to consider the competing imperatives facing rulers in states at risk of a military coup. Because military agents who are more willing to remain loyal need not be constrained in their ability to act against the regime, military organizations comprised of politically-reliable personnel can be trusted with more coercive power. This proposition is evaluated through a qualitative analysis of the Iraqi armed forces during the Iran-Iraq War

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