Regime Vulnerability and the Diversionary Threat of Force

  • Powell J
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Diversionary theory of conflict has largely been focused on democracies, specifically the United States and Great Britain. Attempts to explain the diversionary tendencies of non-democracies have not fully specified the conditions under which leaders—who do not face a legitimate prospect of losing office through elections—should have the need to utilize foreign quarrels for diversionary motives. In this paper I move beyond prior efforts to explore the relationship between coup risk and international conflict by considering alternatives that leaders can utilize to strengthen their regimes. I offer to theoretical expectations. First, I theorize that leaders will lose the incentive to use diversion when the structural coup-proofing apparatus is strengthened. Second, I expect military finances to lead to disparate behavior when considering regime type. Autocrats are expect to use military funds to provide private incentives to the armed forces, largely in the form of allowances. Democracies, on the other hand, will be required to use expenditures to promote the public good of national security due to the transparency of their regimes. Autocrats are expected to lose the incentive to use diversion as the financial endowment of their militaries increase, while democracies will continue to show a diversionary trend due to their increased military capabilities. The theory is tested using global data from 1962-2000, with the findings strongly supporting the theory.

Author-supplied keywords

  • civil-military relations
  • coup d'état
  • coup-proofing
  • diversionary war

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  • Jonathan M. Powell

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