How to Prevent Coups d'Etat | 2021 | Events

How to Prevent Coups d'Etat
Erica De Bruin
Erica De Bruin
Hamilton College
October 20, 2021


Why are some leaders able to head off challenges to their rule from their own armed forces, while others are not? How to Prevent Coups d’état: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival argues that part of the answer lies in the ways in which rulers organize and use their coercive institutions. Where rulers counterbalance the military with presidential guards, militarized police, and militia, efforts to oust them from power are less likely to succeed. At the same time, however, this strategy can generate resentment within the military that ends up provoking new coup attempts. Drawing on an original dataset of coercive institutions in 110 countries over a span of fifty years, as well as case studies of coup attempts in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, the book sheds light on whether and how rulers can make their regimes impervious to coups. It shows that while counterbalancing may prevent successful coup attempts, it is a risky strategy to pursue—and one that may weaken regimes in the long term.


Erica De Bruin is an Associate Professor of Government at Hamilton College, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Her research focuses on civil-military relations, civil war, and policing. She is the author of How to Prevent Coups d’état: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival (Cornell University Press). Her research has also been published or is forthcoming in the Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Journal of the Middle East and Africa, and Foreign Affairs, and has been supported by the National Science Foundation and American Political Science Association's Centennial Center. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University, and a B.A. from Columbia University. She is currently working on a new project on the spread of militarized policing internationally.