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The Shield & Sword of the State? The Effect of Conscription and Secret Police on Civil-Military Relations

Choulis, Ioannis (2021) The Shield & Sword of the State? The Effect of Conscription and Secret Police on Civil-Military Relations. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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From Nigeria (2010) to Turkey (2016), and Mali (2020), coups continue to threaten government stability. In 2021, even the US democratic process was endangered when a mob stormed the capitol in a sui generis coup. The following thesis draws attention to the previously unrecognized effect of compulsory military service and secret police on civil-military relations and coup risk. In the first chapter, co-authored with Pr. Tobias Böhmelt‬ and Dr. Zorzeta Bakaki, we examine how conscription increases public trust for the armed forces in European democracies. We argue that conscription, more so than voluntary-recruitment systems, can reach out to and socialize larger segments of the society in line with the military’s values either directly - through personal involvement, or indirectly – from individuals directly exposed to the military to third persons. The second chapter explores how conscription increases the likelihood of a coup attempt in anocracies. The chapter advances the argument that conscription improves the ties of the armed forces with society and enables interest groups to collaborate with the armed forces against the anocratic government which is unable to overcome the political instability innate to those regimes. Third chapter investigates how secret police in autocracies decrease the willingness and opportunity of military officers to stage a coup. Specifically, secret police weaken societal-military ties by identifying and sanctioning dissidents through sophisticated espionage operations. Therefore, while conscription increases societal-military ties, secret police produce the opposite effect. The study concludes that conscription increases public trust to the armed forces in European democracies, however, the institution also produces an undesirable side-effect in anocracies, namely increased coup risk. To the contrary, secret police in autocracies is found to decrease the probability of a coup attempt against the government. Consequently, the thesis contributes to the literature on civil-military relations by bringing attention to previously unappreciated aspects of civil-military relations. Likewise, the thesis demonstrates that the study of essential societal-military institutions, like conscription, through new lens may enrich our understanding of civil-military relations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: conscription; secret police; coup d'état; anocracy; autocracy
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Ioannis Choulis
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2021 14:41
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2021 14:41

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