Military Rebellion in Argentina: Between Coups and Consolidation

Military Rebellion in Argentina: Between Coups and Consolidation

Military Rebellion in Argentina: Between Coups and Consolidation

Military Rebellion in Argentina: Between Coups and Consolidation

Synopsis

Argentina's recently established democracy endured the trauma of four major military uprisings between 1987 and 1990, continuing even after the rebels' original motivations faded. Exploring the causes of the rebellions and the rebel movement's development, Deborah L. Norden's Military Rebellion in Argentina underlines the inherently undefined nature of new democracies and reveals important dimensions of how coalitions are formed within the armed forces. By focusing on a military movement rather than merely separate incidents of insurrection, this study reveals central motivations that could be otherwise overlooked. Norden begins with an analysis of the relation between democracy and military insurrection in previous post-authoritarian civilian periods, then turns to Argentina's long battle against military intervention in politics. The study focuses on the internally divisive effects of the 1976-1983 military regime, which generated the intra-army cleavages that emerged during the subsequent period of civilian rule, and the civilian policies that prompted the rebels to action. At the heart of the study is an examination of the evolution of military rebellion, looking at the shift from policy-provoked reaction to more independent, politically motivated organization. Norden also explores general themes such as intransigent interventionism - and the effects of different military regimes in South America on the likelihood of democratic consolidation.

Excerpt

In Argentina, as in much of Latin America, politics have long appeared as a virtual tug of war between military rule and democracy. Democracy presumes the military's absence from politics; military rule forbids open democratic competition. Yet somewhere between military coups and democratic consolidation are a variety of political alternatives that may collide with expectations of democracy, but that nevertheless fail to trigger its collapse.

During transitional periods, these alternatives represent both the hopes and fears of democratizers. Adjusting the armed forces to the new political order reveals the fragility of the new regime. Military rebellion, in which rebels use the threat of force to pursue institutional interests, provokes particular concern, dramatically brandishing the specter of political reversal. Argentina's military rebellions from 1987 to 1990 demonstrated that such events do not necessarily signal a return to authoritarianism. Even so, rebellions indicate a lack of political control over the armed forces, which may be further diminished in the process. Military rebellion can thereby obstruct the process of democratic consolidation.

Given the importance of military rebellion, discerning its causes and implications is a critical (and largely neglected) task. Why do military officers rebel? in particular, why do they choose this mode of expressing dissent with political decisions, rather than either coups or political lobbying? How do traditions of military interventionism, recent experiences of the armed forces, and the government's military policies affect the likelihood of rebellion? Why do military rebellions succeed or fail? How does the incidence of military rebellion affect the probability of future rebellion, or even direct military intervention?

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