While coups drive a majority of regime changes and are responsible for the overthrow of many democratic governments, there has been very little empirical work on the subject. Seizing Power develops a new theory of coup dynamics and outcomes, drawing on 300 hours of interviews with coup participants and an original dataset of 471 coup attempts worldwide from 1950 to 2000. Naunihal Singh delivers a concise and empirical evaluation, arguing that understanding the dynamics of military factions is essential to predicting the success or failure of coups.
Singh draws on an aspect of game theory known as a coordination game to explain coup dynamics. He finds a strong correlation between successful coups and the ability of military actors to project control and the inevitability of success. Examining Ghana's multiple coups and the 1991 coup attempt in the USSR, Singh shows how military actors project an image of impending victory that is often more powerful than the reality on the ground.
In addition, Singh also identifies three distinct types of coup dynamics, each with a different probability of success, based on where within the organization each coup originated: coups from top military officers, coups from the middle ranks, and mutinous coups from low-level soldiers.
Naunihal Singh is an assistant professor of international security studies at the Air War College in Alabama.
List of Figures and TablesAcknowledgments1. IntroductionThe Importance of Understanding CoupsUnderstanding Coup Outcomes and DynamicsOther Theoretical ExplanationsBackground of CasesOverview of Chapters2. TheoryCoups as BattlesCoups as ElectionsCoups as Coordination GamesConclusion3. Counting CoupsUnderstanding Coup AttemptsUnderstanding Coup OutcomesUnderstanding Coup LevelsLimitationsConclusion4. Coups from the Top of the MilitaryA Theory of Coups from the TopThe Case of Ghana, 1975Ghana, 1978Conclusion5. Coups from the MiddleA Theory of Coups from the MiddleGhana, 1967Ghana, 1972Conclusion6. Coups from the BottomA Theory of Coups from the BottomGhana, May 1979Ghana, June 1979Ghana, 1981Conclusion7. USSR, 1991BackgroundAnalysisConclusion8. ConclusionImplications for the Study of Civil-Military RelationsImplications for Future CoupsImplications for PolicyAppendixReferencesIndex