Today I talked to Erica De Bruin about her book How to Prevent Coups d’état: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival (Cornell University Press, 2020).
Rulers structure institutions so as to protect their survival as leaders. Fearing powerful challengers in their own governments, rulers often create coercive institutions outside the regular military chain of command – hoping to be able to thwart plots that might lead to a military coup. Counterbalancing the military with republican guards, secret police, and other security forces increases the likelihood that a coup attempt will face resistance and fail.
Using an original dataset of security forces in 100 countries, Dr. De Bruin argues that this strategy of counterbalancing military command may help prevent coups but it has serious risks that may weaken the regime in the long term or affect the likelihood of a civil war. Understanding counterbalancing allows scholars to predict where coups attempts will occur, if they will succeed, and the financial and human costs of stopping them.
Dr. Erica De Bruin is an associate professor of Government at Hamilton College and has served as a Non-Resident Fellow at the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Her work has been published in the Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution and Foreign Affairs and I’m delighted to welcome her to the New Books Network.
Amber Gonzalez assisted with this podcast.
Susan Liebell is Dirk Warren '50 Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.