Wed February 23, 2011
The Two-Way

For Dictators, 'Coup-Proofing' Is Key To Survival; Here's How They Do It

We've passed along the thoughts of Gene Sharp, the influential advocate of nonviolent resistance whose writings helped guide the protesters in Egypt as they successfully pressured President Hosni Mubarak into stepping down.

Today, The Daily Beast looks at things from a dictator's point of view. How does a despot stay in power? Well, it writes that "the real key to regime survival has been what RAND Corporation analyst James Quinlivan calls 'coup-proofing.' "

Quinlivan's paper on the subject is out of print, but it is summarized here. And that summary says that regimes that maintain control have usually:

"Created structures that minimize the possibility that a small group can seize power. These include effectively exploiting family, ethnic, and religious loyalties; creation of an armed force parallel to the regular military; development of multiple internal security agencies with overlapping jurisdiction that constantly monitor one another; fostering of expertness in the regular military; and adequately financing such measures."

Or, as The Daily Beast puts it:

-- Create "a mafia, with goodfellas in various guises protecting the big guy's back."

-- "Create a parallel military devoted to regime protection, like Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which does the supreme leader's bidding."

-- "Maintain multiple secret police, security, and espionage services that spend much of their time keeping each other in check."

We suggest another bullet (pun intended) point: Be willing to use those forces to brutally suppress any opposition.

(H/T NPR's Eyder Peralta.) Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.