Loyalty Can't Be Bought: Explaining Military Defection during Civilian Uprisings against Autocracies
53 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 17, 2017
Why do soldiers disobey orders to defend the regime against civilian protestors? Using a mixed-method approach with a time-series cross-sectional large-N analysis and cross- and within-case process-tracing, I test two competing logics: one that claims obedience follows from incentivizing loyalty and another that points to immaterial shared bonds. Contrary to the dominant stream in the literature, I provide evidence that a regime’s efforts to materially incentivize loyalty are not good predictors of whether soldiers will defend the regime in its hour of need. I argue that material incentives tend to be moot when soldiers are faced with the proximate decision of firing on civilians. Instead, other motivations come to the fore — specifically, whether soldiers are more strongly bonded to the society or to the military and which action would be the more socially costly as a result.
Keywords: Defection, Military, Uprising, Autocracies, Autocracy, Loyalty
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