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Essay/Term paper: Military governments

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History Essays

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Military Governments

Charles Aquino
Political Science

Military governments have been around since the days of feudalism. It
is the oldest and most common political state. According to Shively, a military
government is one in which a group of officers use their troops to take over the
governmental apparatus and run it themselves. Military governments are usually
weak in appeasing the masses for they are known to be brutal and power hungry
and are also rather fragile, both internally and externally.
In its primitive state, existing as feudalism, the high ranking
officials/nobility and the military itself was composed solely of the elite
ruling class. But as society became more complex, the role of the elite was
slightly altered as technology progressed and the nobility and kings no longer
controlled weapons nor could prevent the disintegration of the feudal society.
Modern military governments usually occur after the military stages a
coup. A coup is the forceful deposition of a government by all or a portion of
the armed forces and installation of a new military government. Coups
ordinarily take place when the present government poses a threat to the state or
the status quo. Because the military controls more armed power than anyone in a
state, they have the ability to take over the government at any given time. In
Power and Choice, Shively questions the notion of the infrequency of military
governments. Yes, they are common, but why aren't they more common? The reason
being that as societies advance and become more complex, it is necessary for the
ruling elite to be more knowledgeable of the processes by which a government is
operated. This explains the recurrence of civilian-run governments. The
military may have a few leaders who are skilled politically, but the armed
forces are not customarily trained to run governments. Recall that the role of
the military is to protect and serve the state, therefore there is usually a
cycle, known as the Barracks cycle, in which the military brings about a coup,
but later reestablishes civilian control, and is the new state threatens
governmental stability, the military stages yet another coup, etc. The longer
the military stays in power, the more the political state exists unstably.
In Nigeria, for instance, numerous military coups were staged between
1966 to 1978. In 1978, democracy was peacefully reestablished by public
consensus, but five years later democracy fell once more to a military coup.
Military rulers since then have negotiated the possibility of the restoration of
democracy in Nigeria, but efforts have been static and democracy still has not
been established. Greece was operated by the military from 1967 through 1973.
The military government was maintained for the six years by austere autocratic
measures. In 1974, the military government was dismissed and democracy was
reinstated. The use of coercion as means of gaining power by the right-wing
officers was a way for them to attempt the establishment of autonomy.
The concept of legitimacy in military governments is also questionable.
Other types of governments such as democratic, monarchical, and communist
governments are all legitimized either by the electoral process as the
democratic government is, by the rule of succession as the monarchical
government is, or by Lenin's theory that the Communist party must lead the
revolution. In all other senses, the military government has no process of
choice and therefore is not a true political state. Shively states that
politics, consists of the making of common decisions for a group through the use
of power and of public choice. Since legitimacy can be defined as the belief on
the part of large numbers of people in a state that the existing governmental
structure and/or the particular persons in office should appropriately wield
authority, the question can be asked--are military governments legitimate? In a
timocracy, according to Plato, the state is based on ambition and love honor and
war. When considering the idea of honor, the military is then concerned with
the rationalization of its occupancy of the state and are hence subject to
institute a civilian-run government.
It is also necessary to understand the weakness of internal coalitions
in military governments. Analyzing the structure of the military, one finds
that it consists of different branches (navy, army, marines, and air force) and
different officers. Each branch, though a part of one military force, is
constantly in competition with each other. This creates difficulty in
accomplishing tasks assigned to the force as a whole. The lack of communication
and the presence of the ego creates a failure to succeed and an unfinished task.
Also the presence of officers of dissimilar philosophies and ideologies induces
chaos when instructed to complete certain tasks with each other. In 1983, a
terrorist attack occurred in Grenada and the United States planned to send
military aid. Each branch was aware of incentives which created competition
between the navy, marines, and army. The officers of each branch could not
agree on a strategy to work with and finally a group of marines was sent in to
control the guerrilla soldiers. They eventually were fired upon by the
terrorists and a large number of marines were killed. The fact that the navy,
marines, and army all had different devices of communication contributed to the
failure of the three groups to successfully defeat the terrorists and spare the
lives of the soldiers killed. How could the military possibly run a government
when they can't function mutually? Due to their weak external consensus, they
can't. Either one of those branches will be strong enough and take over as the
dominant group and set up an autocracy or the coalition will break down and
return to the previous form of government or evolve to a new sophisticated
In any case, military governments are weak internally and externally.
They pose as forms of transitional governments, not necessarily in times of
revolution, but in times when the state itself becomes weak or poses a threat to
the status quo. Though some military governments do perservere for years and
years without being overthrown, their inability to run the state efficiently
forces the military to restore democracy or to stage another overthrow of the
government. Also, because the military government itself takes power through no
regular process as other, more stable forms of government, but simply seizes it,
they encounter the problem of legitimacy. Lastly, coalitions internally are in
itself a whole other government. The weakness and competition present between
these coalitions usually causes the downfall of the military government and
installment of a new civilian-run government decided so by the general consensus.
Generally, all military governments will fail in time and return to it previous
government or evolve to a whole new governmental system with a revolution.


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