Impact of Foreign Military Education and Training on Coups



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U.S. Security Sector Assistance (SSA) has grown substantially since 2001 in both policy emphasis and funding. SSA provides U.S. policymakers with a way to advance U.S. foreign policy goals that is visible, low-risk for U.S. personnel, and inexpensive relative to other U.S. military activities. However, substantial debate exists over the effectiveness of SSA programs. This dissertation examines one aspect of SSA, Foreign Military Education and Training (FMET), and its relationship with military coup attempts; a relationship that the extant literature produces diametrically opposed conclusions about. Some scholars find direct correlation between FMET and coup attempts while others observe inverse correlation. The differences result from the use of different data sources, definitions, and time periods. Using more recent data and improved evaluation methods this dissertation concludes both arguments are likely wrong for the 21st century; there is neither a causal nor correlational relationship between FMET and military coup attempts in the post-Cold War era. This dissertation reaches its conclusions by building on the existing literature with a quantitative examination of post-Cold War data and a qualitative examination of an edge case, where there is a large amount of FMET and many coup risk factors, but no military coup attempts for a half-century. The literature review examines SSA, principal-agent theory, civil-military relations, and military coups to provide a foundation for understanding the relationship between SSA and military coup attempts. The quantitative analysis highlights some of the issues with past research into the relationship between military coup attempts and FMET. The analysis demonstrates the problems of aggregating Cold War and post-Cold War data while producing no evidence of a relationship between IMET and military coup attempts, on average, using updated data from 1991 to 2012. The subsequent qualitative case study demonstrates that massive amounts of FMET do not materially affect military coup attempt decisions in Jordan. Jordan’s demographics and the Royal Court’s effective management of competing interests is the underlying cause for a dearth of military coup attempts despite many structural factors that increase the probability of a military coup on average. The quantitative and qualitative data suggest patronage is likely a more effective method of coup-proofing than fractionalization. However, a lack of consistent quantitative and qualitative data for FMET prevents this dissertation from reaching broader conclusions and is probably the underlying cause for opposing and likely inaccurate conclusions in the literature to date. If the U.S. Congress or Executive Branch want to better understand how effective FMET programs are, then the U.S. government needs to improve the production and availability of data on FMET programs. Only the U.S. government can do this because no one else has the data. However, improving data on FMET is insufficient for good program evaluations. Accurate and consistent data is also necessary for the proxies representing the objectives FMET seeks to achieve. The U.S. government should make an effort to identify the data sources most useful to evaluating U.S. SSA programs, and then dedicate funding to ensure consistent collection of that data. Making sure data is available to government, think tank, and academic evaluators will improve the accuracy and reliability of evaluations for a variety of SSA activities that go beyond FMET and military coup attempts.