In This Review

The Coup: Tactics in the Seizure of Power
The Coup: Tactics in the Seizure of Power
By Bruce W. Farcau
Praeger Publishers, 1994, 222 pp

The author, a foreign service officer who appears to have seen a coup or two close-up, offers a well-written account of the mechanics of coups, primarily in Latin America. After reviewing (and in most cases, disposing of) the relevant academic literature, he explores the practicalities of coup-making, including such mundane affairs as logistics. The odd anecdote (the indisposition of officers in one country to support an otherwise suitable coup leader because he was a cuckold, for example) enlivens his account. Farcau stumbles here and there, using such hackneyed bureaucratese as "viable option," giving the noted military sociologist Morris Janowitz a new first name (Irving), and resorting to a not very useful tabular assessment of the "coup value" of different Bolivian army units. One wonders how applicable the Latin American cases are to the more heavily armed autocracies of the Arab world, let alone the more complicated circumstances in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Still, this book makes a useful contribution to the study of a way of attaining political power that was particularly important in the past, and may be again in the future. Unfortunately, the price ensures that only prosperous libraries will acquire it.