The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics

By S. E. Finer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

THE armed forces have three massive political advantages over civilian organizations: a marked superiority in organization, a highly emotionalized symbolic status, and a monopoly of arms. They form a prestigious corporation or Order, enjoying overwhelming superiority in the means of applying force. The wonder, therefore, is not why this rebels against its civilian masters, but why it ever obeys them.


The Modern Army 1

In practically every country of the world today, except possibly in one or two of the proto-dynastic survivals such as the Yemen, the army is marked by the superior quality of its organization. Even the most poorly organized or maintained of such armies is far more highly and tightly structured than any civilian group.

The fact that not all armies were highly organized in the past, or that they need not necessarily be so, is irrelevant here. Modern armies are cohesive and hierarchical. Some armies of the past have not been cohesive but have consisted of a mere multitude of men independent of one another and maintaining little contact between themselves. Others have not been hierarchical, but almost republican in their relations to their chiefs. The Spartan host and the Cossack settlements were cohesive enough, but republican as to command. The voortrekkers and the American frontiersmen were neither cohesive nor hierarchical formations. In the early stages of their development, some revolutionary armies (e.g. Fidel Castro's, or Pancho Villa's

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What is said of the army here is to be taken also to apply, mutatis mutandis, to the air force and the navy.

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