Princeton University Library Catalog

Transitions from Military Rule: Examining Transnational Forces’ Role in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand

Sng, David [Browse]
Senior thesis
Slaughter, Anne-Marie [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
114 pages
Restrictions note:
Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Summary note:
The complications with transitions from military rule are aplenty. Former military rulers have the incentive and power to restore military rule when their interests are threatened. Entrenched military influence can create future opportunities for military comebacks. However, existing strategies to overcome potential military spoilers have their shortfalls as excessive executive constraint can risk sparking a coup. Furthermore, policymakers tend to oversimplify potential military spoilers’ cost calculus and do not adequately understand how external agents affect transitions from military rule. I first ask: what actually prevents relapses back to military rule? I conduct survival analysis (i.e. hazard proportion model) on all post-1972 transitions from military rule to test nine potential hypotheses related to changes in economic, political and security conditions. I find robust evidence that shows likelihood of military relapse reduces by at least 18% when levels of transnational forces increase. I define transnational forces to be a set of states, organizations, actors and events that transfer ideas, information and resources across state boundaries via formal and informal interactions. My qualitative research then asks: how do transnational forces reduce the likelihood of relapses back to military rule? I select for three case studies— Indonesia 1998 (success), Bangladesh 1991 (success) and Thailand 1992 (failure)—in order to trace a possible causal theory. My interviews with thirty military generals, government officials, NGO staff and civil society members proposes a formulation of the military’s cost calculus: Military’s cost-benefit calculus =(Livelihood)+(Legitimacy)+(Likelihood of Success) My main argument is simple: Transnational forces change the cost-benefit balance for potential military spoilers and for the citizens who both fear and need them by (1) increasing costs of military interference and raising benefits for non-interference in the short term, (2) decreasing demand for military interference by managing pressure build-up and improving civilian governance, (3) reducing entrenched military influence by limiting military involvement in domestic affairs and reversing perception of military impunity, and (4) reshaping the military’s future preferences by changing military norms and improving civilmilitary relations. Specifically, foreign governments’ military sanctions levy direct costs against any military interference; external resources help improve civilian governance so that people have less need for military rule; foreign diplomats help manage pressures for military rule from the public and within military; transnational activist networks reverse the perception of military impunity by shaming and threatening to convict human rights abusers; involvement in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations not only creates direct benefits (e.g. ten-fold salary and global reputation) for non-interference but also changes military norms; and NGOs create security sector reform that improves civil-military relations. The cases point out two limitations of transnational forces: (1) sovereignty concerns limit demand for transnational forces; strategic interests limit supply of transnational forces; (2) domestic political structure determines how effective transnational forces can be. My findings also point out three policy implications for the US government in handling Burma’s transition. First, develop military-as-diplomat strategy, as former military rulers are receptive to foreign counterparts: reevaluate military aid and sanction policies based on the cost calculus I present; strengthen M2M networks; and engage NGOs and ASEAN to change the military’s future preferences. Second, strengthen existing transnational mechanisms that create benefits for non-interference (train Burmese soldiers for UN peacekeeping), and decrease demand for military rule (increase diplomatic presence and create transnational reform networks). Third, similarities with the Indonesia case advocates issuing credible threats, rather than assurances, to overcome initial Burmese military resistance to change.