Today, the Greek military is seen to reflect developments that make it look more like the militaries of Greece's allies in West Europe. It appears that the Greek military has broken its historical pattern of intimate participation in the country's political life and has returned to its primary institutional mission, namely, the defense of Greece's independence, constitutional establishment, and territorial integrity against external enemies.1
In the past, the Greek military was a major actor in the country's politics. Conventional explanations attribute the military's political role to the quick and changeable character of Greek history, with particular emphasis on the war of independence against the Ottoman Empire, the enduring conflict over whether to have a monarchy or a republic, the impact of foreign interference, and the gains and losses associated with the extravagant and impractical aspirations of the Greek irredentists for territorial expansion. Unconventional explanations associate the politicization of the Greek armed forces with developments in the class system in Greece. Their basic argument states that rival social groups, in their efforts to win the competition for control of political power, have sought and secured the support of the armed forces. In effect, the military intervened in Greek politics to help certain groups in the society acquire and maintain political power. This chapter refers to both sets of explanations.
The War of Independence of 1821-29 was fought primarily by Greek irregular forces, the forerunner of the regular military. They were controlled and armed by various leaders who represented powerful families. Following independence,