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How to Build Democratic Armies

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Journal Article

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University of Texas Austin United States

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Democratization and thus the building of democratic armies usually take place in response to a major change that shocks the political system and sets it on a new path. The pivotal event may have been a long time coming or triggered in response to external causes. There are three categories of events to consider building an army after war, during regime change, and following state formation. Wars, particularly the two kinds of wars discussed in this articlecataclysmic wars such as World War II and civil warstypically upset the status quo and induce major political changes that include the rebuilding of the armed forces. In the case of major wars, I am addressing the losing side, the country that suffered a devastating defeat for example, Germany and Japan. Regime change is another principal reason for building new armies. The old authoritarian regimehere I consider both military and communist regimes such as South Korea and Chile vs. Romania and Russia, respectivelywas, by definition, supported by antidemocratic armed forces that must be reformed in order to be the servants of the emerging democratic political order. Finally, state transformation poses another sort of demand for a new military. The two subcategories of state transformation I take up in this article are those following colonialism for example, India and Ghana, when a former colony becomes an independent state, and after reunification or apartheid for example, Germany and South Africa, when two different political or social entities are joined. The number of these contexts might be further increased or subdivided, but they are broad enough to present most of the different challenges political, military, and civic elites face as they attempt to democratize their armed forces and, more generally, military politics. In my recently published book, The Soldier and the Changing State,1 I examined the following cases in the contexts and settings shown in the table.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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