The military’s role in politics

Authored by: Aurel Croissant , David Kuehn

Routledge Handbook of Comparative Political Institutions

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415630887
eBook ISBN: 9781315731377
Adobe ISBN: 9781317551799


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Civil-military relations are a central feature of political life in all nation-states that maintain military organizations. In most liberal democracies, the armed forces support their governments in responding to natural disasters, are involved in border security, and assist the police in dealing with organized crime and terrorism, in addition to their core function of defending the state against external security threats (Bruneau and Matei 2012: 2–3). Civil-military relations are also relevant for many new democracies, which often struggle with the double challenge of creating and preserving a military that is strong enough to fulfill its functions but that is subordinate to the authority of civilian political leaders and institutions (Feaver 1996). Finally, in authoritarian regimes, the armed forces are key components of the regime coalition (Barany 2012: 2) as they are ultimately the only state institution capable of defeating a mass-based, organized, and potentially violent opposition movement (Skocpol 1979).

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