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

By S. E. Finer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The Political Weaknesses of the Military

POLITICALLY the armed forces suffer from two crippling weaknesses. These preclude them, save in exceptional cases and for brief periods of time, from ruling without civilian collaboration and openly in their own name. Soldiers must either rule through civilian cabinets or else pretend to be something other than they are.

One weakness is the armed forces' technical inability to administer any but the most primitive community. The second is their lack of legitimacy: that is to say, their lack of a moral title to rule.


The technical inadequacy of the armed forces

Even in those states commonly described as 'military dictatorships', the ruling body, junta or cabinet, will be found not to consist exclusively of military men. In Iraq, for instance (in March 1961), only 7 out of the 16 cabinet members were soldiers; in Pakistan, only 3 out of 14; in Spain, only 6 out of 18. There have been few exceptions to this rule, and those have been shortlived. Primo de Rivera's first government, 1923, was called a 'Military Directorate' and consisted entirely of military, but in 1925 he changed to a largely civilian cabinet. In the first phase of the Argentine military régime in 1943, nearly all the cabinet posts and top administrative positions at federal and provincial level were manned by soldiers, but after 1944 civilians replaced them. In Peru, in 1948, General Odria formed an all-military cabinet in which colonels headed the ministries of public health, education, labour, the interior, the treasury and justice, while a rear-admiral conducted foreign relations; but this stage lasted only until 1950, after which the cabinet was composed of six officers and six civilians.

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