The Journal of Conflict Resolution has published a paper by Assistant Professor of Government Erica De Bruin titled Preventing Coups d’état – How Counterbalancing Works on March 7. De Bruin has also recorded a podcast about the article with the journal editor.
The article analyzes how “counterbalancing” the military with other security forces prevents coups. Using new cross-national time-series data on state security forces along with evidence from 16 case studies, the article demonstrates that counterbalancing reduces the likelihood that coup attempts will succeed and that it does so primarily by creating incentives for some soldiers to resist the coup, rather than by creating barriers to coordination between forces.
Counterbalancing thus does help insulate leaders from coups by reducing the success rate of coup attempts. However, counterbalancing is not associated with fewer coup attempts. In fact, the creation of a new security force increases the odds of a coup attempt in the following year.
These findings highlight potential costs associated with counterbalancing and explain why it is not more widespread.