Key Factors Influencing the Success of Military Coups

Oliver Brown

Updated Thursday, June 27, 2024 at 8:04 AM CDT

Key Factors Influencing the Success of Military Coups

Economic Support and Military Loyalty

Military coups often occur when the economic support for the military is threatened. If a country stops paying its military, the military may seize power to secure its financial future. This is because the military relies on consistent funding to maintain its operations, pay its personnel, and ensure the welfare of its members. Without financial stability, the military may see no other option but to take control to guarantee its survival.

Moreover, soldiers of the governing elite receive more perks, making them more likely to support a coup. These perks can include better living conditions, higher pay, and other benefits that create a sense of loyalty to the coup leaders. Fear of being targeted for disloyalty can also compel soldiers to follow coup leaders, even if they are reluctant. The combination of financial incentives and fear of retribution ensures that the military remains loyal during a coup.

Political Dissatisfaction and Military Action

Political dissatisfaction within the military can also lead to a coup, especially if the government’s actions are distasteful to the military structure. When the military feels that the government is not acting in the best interest of the country or its armed forces, it may decide to intervene. This dissatisfaction can stem from a variety of issues, including corruption, poor governance, or unpopular policies.

Ordinary soldiers often follow coup leaders for power, fear, and loyalty to their comrades. Some soldiers believe they are doing the right thing and do not want to abandon their comrades. This sense of unity and shared purpose can drive soldiers to support a coup, even if they are unsure of its long-term implications. The success of a coup depends on convincing the majority, including civilians and military forces, that resistance is futile.

Strategic Seizure and Symbolism

In a coup, seizing the physical location of government officials is crucial to prevent them from contacting allies or using channels of power. This often involves targeting key government buildings, such as the palace, where the current leader resides. By controlling these locations, coup leaders can effectively neutralize the existing government’s ability to coordinate a response.

Symbolism plays a significant role in coups; a general declaring control from a significant government building is more authoritative. This show of power can demoralize the opposition and convince civilians and military personnel that the coup leaders are in control. Capturing leaders, controlling media, and creating confusion are tactics used to give the appearance of control during a coup. The appearance of control is essential for the winning side to gain support from civilians and the military.

Internal Military Dynamics

Generals often install loyal individuals in their ranks over time to ensure support during a coup. These loyalists are more likely to follow orders without question and can be instrumental in executing a successful coup. Commanders of troops are usually in on the coup plot, while individual soldiers may or may not be aware beforehand. This hierarchical loyalty ensures that the coup can be carried out efficiently and with minimal resistance from within the military.

Quick victories and alliances with opposition politicians, businesses, or other military units are crucial for a successful coup. A fractured government or key early victories can facilitate a successful coup by creating an impression of inevitability. If the existing government has military support, a coup can lead to civil war, with fighting between different factions. Resistance or lack of willingness to complete a coup can give the government time to nullify the threat and restore order.

The Role of Public Perception

The success of a coup largely depends on the perception of control and authority. If the coup leaders can convince the majority, including civilians and military forces, that resistance is futile, they are more likely to succeed. This involves not only strategic military actions but also psychological tactics to demoralize the opposition.

Without resistance, the new governing council will try to eliminate traces of the previous government to prevent any attempted return to power. This can include purging former officials, rewriting laws, and implementing new policies to solidify their control. The ultimate goal of a coup is to establish a new order that is perceived as legitimate and stable by the majority of the population.

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