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Democracy and the Military: The Role of the Military in the Evolution and Maintenance of Democracy

33 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2001  

Alun A. Preece



History shows that the main reasons why democratic systems of government are overthrown are military: conquest or military coup. Strong defence is required to prevent or deter conquest, but a strong military can increase the threat of military coup, so a delicate balancing act is required. Consequently alliances with other democratic countries seem to play a crucial role as well as internal constitutional checks on the military. This paper analyses the evolution and maintenance of democracy from the perspective of the impact of military considerations.

It analyses the role of the military in the establishment maintenance and overthrow of democratic rule. It largely draws on the history of democracy, particularly in Europe, and through an analysis of this to seek to establish a pattern for the appropriate role of the military consistent with the maintenance of stable democracy. There is a particular focus on the seven countries that have remained democratic throughout the upheavals of the 20th century. There is a particular reason for focussing so much on these seven countries. They have all maintained continuous democracy for over 150 years, while in all others, apart from Finland and Ireland (democratic since 1917 and 1922 respectively) continuous democracy has lasted only the little more than 50 years since 1945.

Suggested Citation

Preece, Alun A., Democracy and the Military: The Role of the Military in the Evolution and Maintenance of Democracy. Available at SSRN: or

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