How to Prevent Coups d'État shows that how leaders organize their coercive institutions has a profound effect on the survival of their regimes. When rulers use presidential guards, militarized police, and militia to counterbalance the regular military, efforts to oust them from power via coups d'état are less likely to succeed. Even as counterbalancing helps to prevent successful interventions, however, the resentment that it generates within the regular military can provoke new coup attempts. And because counterbalancing changes how soldiers and police perceive the costs and benefits of a successful overthrow, it can create incentives for protracted fighting that result in the escalation of a coup into full-blown civil war.
Drawing on an original dataset of state security forces in 110 countries over a span of fifty years, as well as case studies of coup attempts in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, De Bruin sheds light on how counterbalancing affects regime survival. Understanding the dynamics of counterbalancing, she shows, can help analysts predict when coups will occur, whether they will succeed, and how violent they are likely to be. The arguments and evidence in this book suggest that while counterbalancing may prevent successful coups, it is a risky strategy to pursue—and one that may weaken regimes in the long term.
Erica De Bruin is Assistant Professor of Government at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Her work has been published in Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Foreign Affairs. Follow her on Twitter @esdebruin.