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Regime Vulnerability and the Diversionary Threat of Force

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


In this article, I move beyond prior efforts to explore the relationship between the risk of a coup and international conflict by considering alternatives that leaders can utilize to strengthen their regimes. I offer two theoretical expectations. First, I theorize that leaders lose the incentive and ability to use diversion when the structural coup-proofing apparatus is strengthened. Second, I expect military finances to lead to disparate behavior when considering regime type. Autocrats are expected to use military funds to provide private incentives to the armed forces, largely in the form of allowances. Democracies, in contrast, will be required to use expenditures to promote the public good of national security due to the transparency of their regimes. Autocrats are expected to lose the incentive to use diversion as the financial endowment of their militaries increase, while democracies will continue to show a diversionary trend due to their increased military capabilities. The theory is tested using global data from 1962 to 2000, with the findings strongly supporting the theory.