How (Non-)Violent Opposition Tactics Trigger Military Coups in Counterinsurgency Wars
When do civil wars experience coups d’état? Historic and contemporary studies claim that counterinsurgency wars are closely linked to military interventions in politics. However, less than half of such wars have experienced coups since 1945. We argue that the occurrence of organized dissent by opposition groups explains why we observe military interventions in politics in some civil wars but not in others. Violent and nonviolent tactics of the public differently motivate soldiers to intervene in politics. Violent tactics like terror or guerrilla attacks are regular manifestations of a volatile security situation that match the jurisdiction of the military and do not require soldiers to violate the subordination to their civilian government. Yet, militaries oftentimes see nonviolent opposition activities as government failure and as mass-based attempts to subvert state institutions that necessitate the expansion of their political roles. We expect nonviolent activities by social movements to have a stronger effect on coup attempts than activities that can be directly ascribed to insurgents. We test this argument with a macro-comparative analysis (1950-2005). The empirical results indicate that nonviolent opposition tactics increase the risk of coups hereby augmenting structural explanations of military take-overs.