The Thirst for Knowledge to read the #Teaparty Leaves is STRONG .... Paperback Copies of "Coup D'Etat" are TEMPORARILY OUT OF STOCK !!
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"Coup d'Etat - A Practical Handbook - Brilliant Guide to Taking over a Nation"
A PZ Tuesday "Must Have" Book ReviewFirst off, I want to address all the "folks" out there that may be concerned about the title of this work. I am not advocating or urging anything of the sort, although coup d'etat remains a more common means of installing a government than elections. This is a book review. It is only that.
Put your tin foil hats, bags of Doritos and "MoveOn.org" t-shirts, cups of hot cocoa and flannel jammies away before you embarrass yourself (any more than you already have, and you know who I am talking to).
This is the edition of Luttwak's classic on my shelf. The cover price was seventy-five cents, as I bought it years ago. It currently retails for an eye-popping $59.94, although there are less expensive editions out there. I'm an old-school kind of guy, so you are getting a review of the first printing of the Fawcett paperback, circa October 1969. Since this book is in absolute cherry condition, all my markings and notations are in a less spendy and more recent edition. My well loved original is kept pristine. A good choice of your note taking edition would be:
Amazon Link to Purchase Coup D'Etat
Knowledge is power. Reading is Fundamental to this knowledge and should be as high a priority as other "tasks". My advice is always to set aside some quiet reading time, where one can reflect on the information conveyed, synthesize it, make notes, and then apply that knowledge in everyday life.
In his 1967 classic, "Coup D'Etat", Luttwak states that although in retrospect coups look easy, it is the
"crucial achievement passes unnoticed- the dangerous and elaborate process by which the armed forces and other means of coercion are neutralized and the political forces temporarily forced into passivity."
Examples are provided of 3rd world coups that show mere tiny factions being an effective lever to move the mountain of regime. The overall concept is considered a form of military and political judo. In this reading, it would appear that the art of the coup has much more in common with 4th generation warfare than any drill field or field exercise of massed troops ever will.
|Jammu Army, Central Asia|
On to the book itself. 5 chapters and 3 appendices, 200 pages of crispness and pure, distilled information. Diagrams, case studies and the mechanics of planning are meticulously laid out. As the technique of the Coup d'Etat is a popular career move in 3rd world nations, the research that went into this book rings solid with contemporary examples. The figure on page 115, "The Formal Government and the Real One" is of note, particularly in the modern American context of "the Deep State" and the public Uniparty system.
plum positions". The bureaus are cogs and levers in a machine, the coup is merely a replacement of the hands on the levers of power.
The historical path of regimes appointing either tribal members or ethnic members to control the sensitive posts is as ancient as time. The Manchu Dynasty, Han Chinese and various African political entities are examples. How would such a system function in a "proposition nation" of great diversity, such as our own? Perhaps through identification with common ideological points and concepts. Strong defense? Welfare state? Subsidize a particular set of values through tax policy? All of these may qualify for a latter day "tribe" mentality as it applies in this book.
Many readers will be conceptually familiar with the path of autodelegitimization that leads to the fall of a regime. Luttwak boils it to its essence, in that "comes about when a long series of illegal seizures of power leads to a decay of the legal and political structures which are needed to produce new governments." In this, governments actually have a key role in their own overthrow, they prepare the ground by sowing deeply the seeds of discontent.
|Tea Party Protests overwhelmed the Capitol in 2009|
The formation of a "party militia" is addressed. The primordial ooze that fosters such party militias is of general political freedom while the state is largely ineffectual at enforcing any sense of law and order. Contemporary examples would be the AUC in Colombia, the Phalange in Lebanon. These structures provide the teeth to political parties and enable coups. Page 56 has an especially cogent section on the potency of small units as applied to coup strategy.
A global common denominator of regimes is to recruit numerous minority elements. This may seem paradoxical from a standpoint of unity, but consider that the minorities (look at Lebanon, or Syria for instance) become the staunchest supporters of the regime. This chapter is just a wealth of insight into the recruitment process. The points made can be applied across a range of human endeavor.
Chapter 4 covers the actual planning of the coup. The vivid example of the French coup attempt from Algeria is laid out in the first few pages to illustrate the vagaries of planning and that victory is a fleeting concept indeed. Considerable time is devoted to mapping out the human terrain within the existing political structure, so as to best triangulate a solution. The concept of key terrain as made relevant through relative superiority is developed here. Relative superiority is a term coined by Admiral McRaven in his seminal work "Spec Ops". This term means that you do not have to be the 800 pound gorilla, you just have to have massed at a point in time and place of decision that your enemy cannot effectively respond to in time.
Page 132 of this chapter has an important bit of "inside baseball" on the politics as a coup unfolds. It bears reading "certain political forces which must not be neutralized (apart from those groups which have agreed to support us). These are those groups which are generally regarded as extremist but whose effective powers are limited. By allowing them a certain freedom of action we will give them an opportunity to oppose us, and their opposition will have two favorable by-products;
(a) we will be able to gain the support of those political forces which fear them more than us;
(b) we will be able to step forward and fight other groups after having associated them with the extremists in question."
This lengthy quote is quite astonishing in that it really opens the eyes to what goes on behind closed doors in mahogany panelled rooms.
Chapter 5 is the denouement of the work, it details timelines of coups and the execution thereof. All of this is predicated upon the successful plotting and planning as laid out by Luttwak in the previous chapters. Coups are not like wars, in that they are not iterative. Coups are binary - they succeed or fail in a very short time line. I direct your attention if you have a copy of this work to page 155, figure 6, "Operational Sequence and Timing". It shows a conceptual model of multiple teams working on the same time line, and the interrelations between their objectives to the success of the whole enterprise. Figure 7 on page 158 is close to my own heart, "Intelligence "Noise" and Analysis". The reader is drawn into a sense of the multidimensional and temporal nature of coups, how fraught with tension and danger they are. Not just the text, but the graphs show the relative possibilities in time. The final chapter closes out with a section on post-coup announcements and styles and diplomatic recognition. This fine level of detail one would not find elsewhere, and is a hallmark of the classical educational background of the author, Edward Luttwak (London School of Economics, Johns-Hopkins, Georgetown).
On page 188, there is a terse little graph titled, "Fig. 10 POLITICAL SURVIVAL LIMIT ON TAXATION". On page 189, the following graph is "Fig. 11 THE DUVALIER FORMULA", with the subtitle "Political security - maximum economic development = zero".
These two graphs and the interconnecting paragraphs are expertly distilled wisdom. To articulate this concept so effortlessly, Luttwak should have been up for a literary prize. The Duvalier formula... one may creditably wonder if this same formula has been applied here in the United States, as domestic repression (both official and unofficial) skyrocket, development is charitably said to be stagnant and the policies never really change. Ask yourself, "Cui Bono?". It probably is not you or me "bono", that is for sure.
You can read other books on coups as well for a greater understanding of the obstacles and typical timeline. One I would recommend is "Technique of the Coup d'Etat", by Curzio Malaparte (1931). At $744 on Amazon (English language edition), you may want to find this at your local library or professional military education lending library reading list. The affordable editions that I have found available for sale are all in French, so it looks like I have something else to save up for!
Amazon Link to Kindle E-Book English Language Version of Malaparte Technique
While Luttwak is not without his detractors and critics, it is not reasonable to dismiss this work as a work of satire. The logical progression of topics and deep knowledge required to produce such a work, as well as the author's professional life do not lend this theory any credence. If you have not yet read this work, time is short and you will definitely learn from it.
The author suggests further reading on the topic. His recommendations are:
The Role of the Military in Underdeveloped Countries, edited by J.J. Johnson
Buy The Role of the Military (1967) Edition HERE
The Man on Horseback, by S.E. Finer
The Man on Horseback by Samuel Finer HERE
Modernization and Structure of Societies (1966 Edition) HERE
You may also enjoy reading some of the other previously published SHTF self-education series Tuesday Book Reviews. An ongoing list with links to the original review can be found HERE. Many of the books reviewed are available in Kindle (E-book) format.
Tuesday Book Review Written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer.
When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales. You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski
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