military intervention

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military intervention (in politics)

any military intervention in politics that extends beyond those minimal levels of influence which normally exist in constitutional democracies. Finer (Man on Horseback, 1962) identifies four levels of intervention by the military:
  1. influence;
  2. blackmail;
  3. displacement of civilian rulers;
  4. the supplanting of a civilian regime by a military one.

According to Finer, a formal separation of the military from politics, of the kind characteristic of modern constitutional states, is most readily maintained within Western industrialized democracies, where a strong POLITICAL CULTURE sustains the legitimacy of civilian political rule, and also defines military intervention as illegitimate. In Western industrialized societies, military intervention in politics tends to be limited to ‘influence’. In contemporary societies, full military intervention, leading to the supplanting of civilian regimes by military regimes, is mainly a phenomenon of developing nations. However, it also occurs in more developed societies (e.g. Argentina) which lack a strong political culture legitimizing civilian rule.

Apart from the obvious factor, the possession of modern weaponry, further factors which enable or encourage military intervention are:

  1. where the military exist as an internally coherent group, possessing good communications and able to operate as a unit, in a context in which these attributes are lacking in other groups;
  2. where the military are able to claim to represent the nation as a whole, in situations in which civilian governments represent sectional interests;
  3. where members of the military may hope to benefit personally from intervention (e.g. expect to gain better equipment, improved salaries or improve promotion prospects).

It should not be assumed that military intervention automatically leads to right-wing regimes; there exist numerous examples to the contrary. The effectiveness of military regimes compared with civilian regimes in introducing social reforms is also an open question. It is usual, however, for periods of military rule to be of relatively short duration.