military take over

I am currently reading The Real Jimmy Carter a book totally knocking Carter and especially his handling of the Iran leadership.

It metions that the Shah could have attempted a military takeover of the goverment to avoid the problem which ensued.

WHat is a military take over; how does it work?
Would it work in America?
How or how not?

Well it sort of sounds like two separate things. The shahs option was to disolve what ever government that Iran had at the time , by use of force if nessecary. What would have probably happened, is that it would have precipitated a civil war, as the shah had long since lost any respect of the people.

The second part , is a coup d’etat.

Thats where the military in any nation decides it can do a better job , or that the current govt is not cutting it. They rarely last for very long.

Would it work in the states , nope


OK, I’m not advocating this or anything, but really, how can you honestly say that the military couldn’t pull off a coup d’etat in the United States? It’s not like the weapons and/or the manpower aren’t available. The only thing preventing it is law and the integrity of the soldiers.

I wouldn’t say it could never happen, I’d say that it won’t because of the honor and integrity of the military. There’s a big difference between the two.

Dont get me wrong doors, i should have been more clear there , any military organization can effect a viable coup. But would it work , no I cannot see a junta lasting for very long. America is too de-centralized, while most people only see washington , they fail to take into account that its really 50 separate little countries.

It would end up being the precursor for the second civil war. Not something I really wanna be thinking of.

Mind you , if it did happen , even if it failed , it would probably be the end of the republic.

Right. But it goes beyond the 50 states, to include the permanent bureaucracy, the citizens, and heck, even the foreign investors…

For ANY military administration of a modern nation, be it a post-coup Junta or an Occupation Authority, you NEED the collaboration, either by direct cooperation or at least acquiescence, of enough of the bureaucracy and of civil society itself. Our military is not well designed for handling all by themselves (w/o the civilians cooperating) the ongoing operation of a civil government close to this scale.
As to the OP book reference: this is also often referred to as a “self-coup”, wherein the top leadership decides to dispense with the structures of civil government and go top-to-bottom martial law. Think Jaruzelski in Poland in 1980. The main problem with the theory is that by the time you are facing a large, active movement with popular support, a crackdown in force guarantees nothing.

so did any small country have an attempted military takeover?
Did it work or not?

I believe thailand worked , spain did not.

The thai military kicked out the sitting govt ,and turned over effective control to the king, and a new govt was formed. Spain , on the other hand , King Juan Carlos , effectively rendered the coup null and void , by refusing to sign on.

these are the two most recent examples that I can think of.

here is a link that gives the subject a bit more detail d’état


The US scenario for the bottom-up “bloodless coup” where you just dispose of a sitting government extralegally but then immediately hand over to a different civilian administration is complicated because here the head-of-State is the same person as the Head-of-Government, so in order to find a figure with legitimacy to “hand over to start again”, they’d need to have the Speaker of the House or Senate PPT acquiesce. I believe Ecuador has experienced a couple of relatively recent “armed impeachments” that way, wherein the army has told a sitting Prez “we can’t guarantee security with you in office”, but didn’t actually take over running the country, rather handed it to someone a safe distance down the line of succession.

In a scenario closer to the OP, of a top-down “palace coup”, there’s Peru under Fujimori in the 1990s, where an elected President just dissolved all the sitting constitutional entities with the support of the military, so he could do things his way. He was succesful in containing the Senderista rebels and the hyperinflation, but his administration eventually collapsed from its own corruption.

Then there is the third alternative, which is the Chavez method – you get legally elected, then arrange for a Constitutional Convention to be legally called to rewrite the constitution to your liking.

A coup is remarkably easy to pull off. The more militarized a nation becomes the easier it gets. What is tough is ruling once you get in the Seat of Power.

A coup takes place when the security services are co-opted by a cabal of plotters. The plotters take over a few radio rooms and issue official orders. Something along the lines of “There is coup, move to the palace. Let nobody in or out until we sort this out.”

Only a few people know what is really going on.

The government is betrayed and tries issue orders to other elements, but these orders often come through non-standard means of communication (say cell-phone calls or faxes). The loyal troops get to the palace and see their buddy’s there in the same uniform with even-more official orders than they themselves have.

Only rarely does a firefight erupt.

Usually inaction occurs and that allows the plotters to gain more and more power as they isolate, kill or capture the government.

All neat a clean if you do it right.

Turkey, IIRC, has had a ‘soft’ military coups in 1997. The scenario was that a bunch fo frothing fundies get to power, start doing nasty stuff, and the military moves in to remove them from power. The miltary almost immediately put the civilian government back in power.

Before one think automatically that Military coup = bad, Civilian = good. keep in mind the folks tossed out were removing the established reforms of Attaturk and even going so far as to knock down his statues.

Peviously, they have staged coups when the government is obviously out of control. In 1980 the civilian government was joyously using murder as a political tool. Same thing in 1971.

I think there’s even a movie about them called “Coup” or somesuch.

Turkey has not suffered badly from these Coups.


I’m just driving by to say how relieved I am to conclude (from the fact that he’s posting) that the kidnapped Paul in Saudi is not our Paul in Saudi. Stay safe, Paul.


There was a military coup in Pakistan a few years back. “General” isn’t Musharref’s first name, you know. :slight_smile:

And Declan, for your consideration, I point out Burma, where the military took power in 1962, and still holds it today, and Libya, where Colonel Qadhafi first took power in 1969, and is still there.

Not to mention our neighborhood commie, Fidel.

Naah, he doesn’t really count in this OP’s scenario, which is about more than just any armed seizure of power (revolutions, civil wars, invasions) and more about the High Command of the regulars (or their civilian CinC) deciding that, to paraphrase a celebrated phrase, “we had to overthrow the established institutions in order to save them”.

That first bit was my thought.

In event that say, the Joint Chiefs took control of Washington and declared themselves to sole and legal government of the United States I’m figuring it would take about 2 hours before several states declared themselves independent of the new government and the Governors called out the National Guard. I could see the South doing it as well and the Northeast, Midwest and California.

Then it’s a race to see if the US Army could get the job done in several spots at once. Tricky Tricky.

Countries identified as having military governments:


From the CIA Factbook.

Personally I find this a little optimistic. Some of the states they claim are ‘parlimentary’ or ‘republic’ are skating a fine line. But it’s still useful.

Note Fiji which this says, “military coup leader Maj. Gen. Sitiveni RABUKA formally declared Fiji a republic on 6 October 1987”

And it’s nice to hear that we in the US have a ‘strong democratic tradition’.

The Spanish coup failed for the same reason the 1991 Soviet coup failed - because in both cases, the generals were trying to seize power with conscript armies. That’s one great advantage of non-voluteer militaries. Whenever soldiers see themselves as no different than the civilian population, they won’t take sides with the professional military class - i.e. the generals - against their own people.

I don’t think a conscript military has ever taken part in a successful coup.

Say WHAT :confused:

Argentina (several times)
Chile 1973
Guatemala (several times)
Greece 1968
Lybia 1968
Pakistan (several times)
Peru (several times, including the Fujimory self-coup)
Portugal (1975)

Shall we continue? Or are we to consider tham “failed” because 10, 20, or 40 years down the road some of the countries are now democratic? Portugal’s was in fact staged to end a fascist dictatorship.

The 1981 Spanish and 1991 Russian attempted coups (and the Ceaucescu overthrow in Romania in 89, where he sent the troops into the streets only to have them turn on him) were in the spirit of the OP source, that is, attempts at the hardliners retaking control of a civil society running away from them – but they turned out the way they did because the hardliner factions attempting the move had lost the capacity to force the acquiescence of the other faction w/o a real fight. Enough of their comrades-in-arms and of critical components of civil society had already either given up on the old system or even embraced reform so that it would have taken a fight that the hardliners no longer had the stomach for. Contrast the hardline crackdown by the Chinese communists in 1989, another example of the “Marchers in the street? Send in the Army and crush them.” angle mentioned in the OP’s source. Those conscripts moved in just fine and the general population was still conditioned to prefer order and prosperity to freedom and uncertainty. The Argentine and Chilean conscript militaries on the 70s took over and coldly proceeded to “disappear” anyone standing in their way, with the acquiescence of important segments of society and foreign investors who were more afraid of “communist subversives” and hyperinflation.

ack :smack: missed this point:
The deal is, be it a hardline government declaring martial law to crack down, or a straight-up military coup, the putschist does not want it to degenerate into an outright pitched-battle civil war. He wants the civil government to surrender and collaborate, and the population to be cowed into submission, after an “affordable” amount of initial casualties.

Then there is also the theory that for the success or failure of insurrections, the key is controlling the middle-“bourgeoisie” of the educated, professionals, property-owners, merchants etc. In many nations with conscript armies, the bulk of the conscript class is peasant or lumpen-proletariat, who will not identify with a bunch of college students and lawyers. If the Cadre in turn view themselves as some sort of “warrior caste”, then you have a great tool for cracking down on society. But even when there is class commonality that is no guarantee-- heck, a lot of the soldiers massacring Indian peasants in Central America during the 1970s-80s civil wars WERE conscripted Indian peasants. Just don’t send them to their same province and that’s enough.

Now, however, a military with universal service, such as Israel’s or Switzerland’s, where the college student, the farm laborer, the urban dropout and the son of the CEO likely ARE serving in the same unit… that may indeed be at a lower risk of being used for a crackdown.