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

By S. E. Finer | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SEVEN
The Levels of Intervention

(1) Countries of Developed Political Culture

'Levels' of intervention

INTERVENTION can be pushed to various levels of completeness. The activities of a Von Seeckt are not different in kind from the activities of, say, a Kassim or Nasser, but differ in degree.

We can recognize four levels of military intervention. First we have the level of influence upon the civil authorities. By this is meant the effort to convince the civil authorities by appealing to their reason or their emotions. This level is the constitutional and legitimate one, entirely consistent with the supremacy of the civil power. The military authorities act in precisely the same way and with the same authority as any elements in the bureaucracy, though their influence may well be weightier and on occasion over-riding, in view of the greater risks involved by the rejection of their advice.

The second level is the level of pressures, or 'blackmail'. Here the military seek to convince the civil power by the threat of some sanction. The span of such pressures is wide. It can range from hints or actions that are just barely constitutional at one end to intimidation and threats that are clearly unconstitutional at the other. It would be difficult to say that the Curragh 'mutiny' was downright unconstitutional, and it can even be argued that in strict legal terms it was not unconstitutional at all. Nevertheless, it constituted an effective exercise of pressure on the British government. In his Memoirs, Lord Montgomery says that he assembled the military members of the Army Council and got them to agree to resign in a body if the cabinet decided on anything less than 18 months' National Service, and that he notified the Secretary of State of this decision.1

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1
The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery. ( Fontana Edn. 1960), pp. 486-7.

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