Coup-Proofing for Dummies

The Benefits of Following the Maliki Playbook

The ink-stained finger of an Iraqi soldier, April 13, 2013. Mohammed Ameen / Courtesy Reuters

Last month, when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) easily captured much of northern Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took most of the blame for his army’s utter ineffectiveness against the much smaller enemy.

And it is true that, in an effort to insulate his regime from coups, Maliki staffed his security forces with loyalists, separated key army units from the military chain of command, and built up forces under the Interior Ministry to counterbalance the army. These efforts undermined soldiers’ morale and made it nearly impossible for the multiple forces that were responsible for security in the north to coordinate effectively. 

Yet the condemnation of Maliki misses something: the dilemma he faces is not unique. A military that is strong enough to defeat insurgents and deter invaders is also strong enough to seize power. And for individual leaders, the consequences of a coup are far

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