Leader Survival Strategies and the Onset of Civil Conflict: The Paradox of Coup-Proofing
40 Pages Posted: 31 May 2014 Last revised: 17 Apr 2015
Date Written: February 15, 2014
It is paradoxical that authoritarian leaders often hold power for long periods of time, despite their states being chronically plagued with rebellion. This tendency has been explained in part by studies that have argued the practice of coup-proofing both increases the mobilizational capacity of dissidents and reduces the military effectiveness of the state (Roessler 2011; Powell 2014b). However, these arguments are lacking on one major respect: though regular armed forces are often allowed to whither when coup-proofing, the state could possess substantial military capabilities in the form of a well-armed and well-trained coup-proofing apparatus. I theorize that a missing part of the coup-proofing and rebellion story is the willingness of autocrats to deploy their paramilitaries. In short, I argue that coup-proofing is more likely to contribute to rebellion when leaders are most hesitant to deploy the units associated with the practice: when coup risk is high. The theory is empirically tested using a global sample for the years 1971-2011. Results indicate that heavily coup-proofed authoritarian regimes do in fact see a considerable increase in civil war likelihood when the risk of a coup is high. In contrast to prior studies, the results also suggests that a stronger coup-proofing apparatus is not associated with rebellion when coup risk is low.
Keywords: civil war, coups, coup-proofing
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