By Ayesha Siddiqa
The essay printed bellow is a part of the first chapter of Ayesha Siddiqa’s critically acclaimed book Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, published by Oxford University Press, Pakistan, in 2007.
Ayesha Siddiqa’s book gives us valuable insight to understand the Bangladesh military.
The Chapter – Milbus: a theoretical concept – defines and explains ‘the linkage between Milbus and civil military relations.’ By ‘Milbus’ she means ‘military capital that is used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity, especially the officer cadre, but is neither recorded nor part of the defence budget.’ Elaborating further, she says that Milbus ‘is a completely independent genre of capital’ and its ‘most significant component is entrepreneurial activities that do not fall under the scope of normal accountability procedures of the state, and are mainly for the gratification of military personnel and their cronies.’ Siddiqa argues that ‘Milbus is a phenomenon prevalent in most militaries,’ while the ‘extent of the military’s penetration into economy and society is … directly proportional to its political power and its relationship with other societal and political players.’ Explaining that the manner in which a military operates depends on the nature of the civil-military relations and the strength of the political institutions of the state, she outlines six distinct types of civil-military relations. ‘In all these types the power of the military to develop and protect its stakes varies with the strength of the state,’ argues the author.
Typologies of civil-military relations
There are six identifiable typologies of civil-military relations: civil-military partnership, authoritarian-political-bureaucratic partnership, ruler military domination, arbitrator military domination, parent-guardian military domination, and warlord domination. Since the relative power of the political system establishes the strength of the state, which in turn determines the military’s capacity to penetrate the political, social and economic realm, each typology is distinguished by the political and economic system, nature of the civil society, and the level of military’s penetration into the polity, society and economy.
In the first type, the military is subservient to civilian authorities. This is due to the strength of the civil institutions and civil society. The system is known for its free market economy, which allows the military to gain advantages through partnership with the dominant political and economic players rather than to operate independently. The armed forces are distinguished by their professionalism, which includes subservience to the civilian authorities.
The military of the second category is similar in terms of its dependence on civilian authorities. However, the armed forces draw their power from the dominant political party, individual leader/s, or the ruling dispensation. Despite the fact that the economy is not structured on a free-market principle, the military does not operate on its own but benefits from its association with the party/leader. The armed forces are primarily professional except that they have a relatively greater role in internal security and governance.
The next three categories show different forms of military domination. This is because of the praetorian nature of the societies and the historical significance of the armed forces in power politics. The secondary roles of such militaries include policing functions and political control. The key difference between the three types is in what has been defined here as the military’s stated political legitimacy.
The term ‘legitimacy’ does not refer to civil society’s acceptance of the military’s role, but to the mechanism through which the military justifies its political influence. So while the ruler-type military presents itself as an alternative institution that has to control the state, the arbitrator type rationalizes its dominant role as a political and social arbitrator that steps into governance to correct the imbalance created by the political leadership. The parent-guardian type, on the other hand, uses constitutional mechanisms to consolidate its presence as a permanent arbitrator. The permanent role of an arbitrator is meant to secure the state from any internal or external threats posed by outside enemies or domestic actors who might weaken the state through their indiscretion. The warlord type, which is the final category, presents an extreme case of an anarchic society, where the military loots and plunders in partnership with dominant civilian players.
A strong political system or political party control will force the military to take a subservient role. In such cases the role of the armed forces will be defined by the civilian leadership and primarily limited to external security. The role is significant because it determines the level of the military’s penetration into the state and society. Internal security roles tend to increase the military’s involvement in state and societal affairs. The armed forces’ overall penetration, on the other hand, influences the political capacity of the state. In a nutshell, the typologies summarize all the possible interactions between a state and society and its armed forces. (See Table 1.2 for an overview of the comparative types.)
The civil-military partnership type
This type is found mostly in stable democracies known for a strong and vibrant civil society and sturdy civilian institutions. The political environment is known for firm civilian control of the armed forces. Historically, the militaries are subservient to the civilian government and are considered as one of the many players vying for their share of resources. The militaries customarily do not challenge civilian authority because of their sense of professionalism and restricted scope to do so. Hence, the armed forces are professional in the true Huntingtonian sense: a strong corporate culture and submission to civilian authorities. This kind of professionalism is inherently different from the ‘new professionalism’ of praetorian militaries in Latin America, South-East Asia and other regions.
The primary role of militaries in this category is fighting external threats. The armed forces get involved in internal security duties as well, but that is mainly at the behest of the civilian authorities or under their firm political guidance. The military’s sense of professionalism and restriction to an external security role can be attributed to the strong civil society and democratic institutions such as the media, judiciary, human rights organizations, election commissions, political parties and government audit institutions. The media in particular are quite strong, which makes it imperative for the armed forces to operate in their well-defined area of operations.
Broadly speaking, the political system in the countries that fall in this category can be termed as state-corporatist in structure, in which interests are represented ‘through vertical functional organization of officially sanctioned forms of association.’ The state is capable of imposing its will on society as well as allowing for negotiation between multiple stakeholders for control. Consequently, political agendas emerge through a consensus between the players, with each one being able to negotiate its share without fear of the military’s domination. This, however, does not necessarily suggest an ideal form of democracy. In fact, there is a variation in the quality of democracy. As well as the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and France, states such as India, South Africa and Brazil fall in this category.
Table 1.2 Types of civil-military relations
These other states have a different political history, culture and traditions, and the evolution of the state and society has not followed the same trajectory as in the western countries. India, for instance, is termed as a political culture bordering on praetorianism. Bitter periods of political repression, such as during Indira Gandhi’s government in the 1970s, reflect its latent authoritarian tendencies. However, despite this bad patch and the existing authoritarian nature of Indian politics, the military in India has been kept under firm civilian control. The armed forces are viewed essentially as an instrument of policy. Such a character of civil-military relations was deliberately built into the political design of the Indian state, and its civilian leadership has jealously guarded its control of the armed forces. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, ensured the military’s subservience to the political leadership and the civilian bureaucracy through encouraging a particular kind of a defence-administrative culture. Over the years, the military adapted to the civilian domination of the state and defence policy making, and never ventured to challenge the supremacy of the civilian leadership.
Similarly, South Africa has a democratic culture distinguished by control of the armed forces. Although the country is known for its history of apartheid, a liberal political culture and professionalism in the armed forces were created through reforms of the security sector. The restructuring was meant to introduce a culture where the military would not dominate the political discourse and governance.
These countries have over the years moved towards a civil-military partnership in politico-military terms and/or in the economic sphere. In the first instance, the military has become more than just an instrument of policy, and has gained greater significance in the country’s politics and policy making because of the evolution in its role. The greater role in countering internal threats has resulted in a partnership between the civil and military in a number of countries such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Israel and India.
The Israeli military’s role in fighting the Arab intifada brought substantive changes in civil-military relations, making the armed forces much more significant for the state than in the past. The new role also means that the military cannot be overruled in the same fashion as was envisaged by earlier Israeli leaders such as David Ben-Gurion. Similarly, the change in the nature of threat after 9/11 altered the relationship between the military and the civilian authorities in the United States. The changed role meant an increase in the defence establishment’s role in governance. The CIA, FBI and other agencies play powerful roles and often deal with more than internal security. From a planning perspective, a closer link between the home, foreign and defence departments, which often happens with a rise in internal threat resulting in a greater internal security role for the armed forces, almost always leads to a stronger civil-military partnership. The military becomes a more important member of the policy-making power coalition.
In the United States, the changing of the state’s role – the public sector was downsized after the end of the cold war – transformed the role of the armed forces as well. The relative strengthening of the armed forces led to a greater involvement of serving and retired military personnel in decision making. The US-Israeli civil-military relations model, which is also found in other countries in this category, is not confrontational but brokers a partnership approach. This does not mean that the military is not controlled by the civilian authorities or is involved in politics. However, the greater role in internal security increases the military’s influence in decision making and governance.
The civil-military partnership has in fact both a politico-military and an economic dimension. While a closer linkage between the civilian decision makers and military authorities is established through changes in the military’s role which lead it to focus more on internal security, a partnership is formulated in developed economies for reasons of profit making as well. This economy also falls into the category of Milbus. The private military enterprises (PMEs) and private security businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and South Africa are some of the examples of economic benefits accruing to the civilian-corporate sector and the military from a partnership. Established mainly during the 1990s, the PME businesses employed retired military personnel for security duties in countries like Bosnia, Rwanda, Croatia, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Iraq.
This type of partnership allowed the military organizations in these countries to use the PMEs for furthering geopolitical interests, much more conveniently than by acting directly. In most cases, the private security contractors can undertake tasks that governments or militaries would not risk for political or other reasons. The organizational and human resource capacity of the military fraternity, made available after ‘rightsizing’ (or downsizing) of the security sector, was viewed as a potential that could be employed effectively rather than wasted. Numerous PMEs such as Halliburton, MPRI, Kellogg, Brown & Root and DynCorps benefited from the ongoing Iraq war. The war created opportunities for a variety of stake-holders from the private sector, political society and the armed forces. The private sector benefits were clearly financial. The PMEs did not have to invest resources in training people, since retired military personnel brought priceless training with them.
The politicians reaped both political and financial dividends. Most of the top hundred companies benefiting from defence contracts had also contributed to the election campaigns of top lawmakers, especially members of the US House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittees. The civil-military collaboration provided lucrative post-retirement job opportunities for military personnel. The ‘beltway’ jobs (jobs outside Washington, DC, and in various areas of activity) in the United States have led to ‘double-dipping’, or in some cases ‘triple-dipping’, by security personnel. These terms refer to military personnel having two to three sources of income other than the pension they get after retirement.
The existing literature has not analysed the real cost of this three-way collaboration. There are definite financial costs for the government, in terms of resources wasted on training personnel who leave the military and join the PMEs. Moreover, the PMEs carry out tasks at a higher price. Government accountants would argue that privatization of security has long-term financial and diplomatic advantages, as it actually reduces the cost of maintenance and also saves regimes from political embarrassment at the return of body bags. However, this leads to an increased lack of transparency and risk of corruption. There is the threat of potential profiteers pursuing policies that benefit them in the long run.
There were numerous references to questionable decision making during the Iraq war. For instance, out of the US$4.3 billion worth of contracts won by Halliburton during 2003, only half were based on competitive bidding. According to a 2004 Department of Defense (DoD) report, ‘these were not cases of dollars themselves being routed to the wrong company, but rather of the Pentagon misreporting of where the money went in its procurement database’. Another report highlighted the fact that a private contractor, MPRI, wrote the Pentagon rules for contractors on the battlefield and performed intelligence work in the battlefield. MPRI’s ability to undertake such tasks raises serious concerns about the standards of management, and the impact of this collaboration on the overall integrity of the government and the defence establishment.
The PME business creates an incentive for a more militaristic perspective to policy making, particularly in the upper echelons of the armed forces where the bulk of the economic dividends are concentrated. A militarily aggressive policy, either domestically or geopolitically, will increase the significance of the armed forces, and increase the state’s dependence on the institution. The officer cadre in a capitalist economy, unlike in a pre-capitalist politico-economic structure, vies for greater share in capital formation rather than in accumulating assets. This does not make this kind of Milbus benign. If it is not controlled and monitored properly, this type of Milbus can impact the functioning of the state and the future of democratic institutions. Those benefiting from a partnership would, for instance, propagate a more authoritarian political structure where questionable decisions cannot be challenged by civil society. The threat to democratic and civil society institutions posed by this kind of Milbus is comparable to the threat from the military-industrial complex in the United States that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned his nation against in 1961. In his famous farewell speech to the nation, the US President warned his people against the ‘unwarranted influence’ of this burgeoning sector.
In this typology, it is the existence of democratic norms that stops the military’s influence from penetrating all segments of the economy, polity and society.
The authoritarian-political-military partnership type
This type is found mostly in communist states or countries with authoritarian political party control. Power is concentrated in a single party, or in an individual or group of people who dominate the political system. Some of the representative cases in this category are China, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Russia, Sri Lanka and post-Islamic revolution Iran. Contrary to Amos Perlmutter’s classification of Cuba as a military regime of the army-party type, Cuba has been bracketed here with Syria, Iraq and Egypt as cases of a political-party-military partnership. This is because the military in Cuba is subservient to Fidel Castro and his family.
As in a civil-military partnership, the second type represents a military that is basically an instrument of policy used by the key political party or individual leader controlling the state. This is not to suggest that the political structure is similar to the one found in democratic states. The political system is less pluralist, and the civil society is restricted and dominated by the ruling political dispensation. In this type, the military plays a crucial and a far more significant role to enforce the policies of the top leadership. However, the political legitimacy rests primarily with the political party or a charismatic leader. Individual rulers, such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro or Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, benefit from keeping the military to play second fiddle to them. Nasser, for instance, created alternative civilian institutions to counter the military, which he otherwise depended upon to ensure his political survival. Conscious of the organizational power of the armed forces, the political parties or individual leaders do not risk giving the military greater authority.
The political party is a forum for societal consensus. The strength of the political system lies in the power of the political party or the ruling civilian elite, which does not permit the armed forces to take control. In this respect, the political party or ruling dispensation substitutes for the strong civil society that is found in the first category. The military or paramilitary forces are used as instruments to back the sociopolitical agenda of the ruling party and ensure the stability of the state. In most cases, the military’s significance in policy making is recognized primarily in its role in state formation or securing the integrity of the country.
The political-military partnership is based on the symbiotic relationship between the centralized political party and the armed forces. The latter draws strength from the party as well as giving strength to it. This is because, as in China’s case (between 1920 and 1980), the revolutionary military that spread out in the regions, operating at a regional level, provided support to the Communist Party. In doing so, however, the armed forces also consolidated their political position in the regions. The Communist Party and the military supported each other and vied for a greater share in a cooperative framework. The military, in a Communist Party system, is viewed as: ‘Janus-faced. It is the guarantor of the civilian party regime and protector of party hegemony.’ This makes a case for cooperation rather than confrontation.
The militaries in this category are trained to be professional. The professionalism includes subordination to the civilian authorities. However, it must be noted that most countries in this category have revolutionary-turned-professional armed forces. The one exception is Sri Lanka, where a ceremonial military evolved into an agent of state coercion, exhibiting the praetorian tendencies of the ruling ethnic group, the Sinhalese. Over the years, the Sri Lankan military was responsible for killing thousands of Sinhalese and Tamils. It butchered 60,000 youths in the insurrection in the island’s south in 1977 alone.
Such militaries are generally known for greater involvement in internal security. There is a thin line between the military, paramilitary forces and the police force. Therefore, the militaries of this category act as a tool of coercion for the ruling party. It must be reiterated that the coercion is carried out at the behest of the ruling party/leader. So, while the military has a lot of influence, as in China, Sri Lanka, Syria and Iraq, the armed forces remain subordinate to the political leaders or parties. Governance in particular remains the forte of the political party or individual leadership. Civil society institutions are relatively weak, except for the key political party or group. The political party/leader acts not only as a forum, but also as a controller of all political discourse.
From a Milbus perspective, these militaries have a deep penetration into the economy. The defence establishment’s logic for establishing an internal economy is not to accumulate assets but to generate capital for personal and organizational benefit, in partnership with the ruling party. One of the reasons for the military’s involvement in the economy directly relates to the origins of the organization. As a result of its involvement in state/nation building, such militaries are expected to play a larger role in governance than the earlier category. The organization’s role in socioeconomic development allows it a role in the economy. This is certainly true of countries such as China, Syria, Cuba and Iran. The armed forces are used systematically to help the ruling party govern the state. This includes participating in running the economy.
The military is often engaged in profit making to bridge the financial resource gap in the defence sector. In these states the governments do not have the capacity to provide for the armed forces, or face a shortage of funds to foot the total bill for the defence sector, so the secondary role of the armed forces is significant. As an instrument of the political party, the military also undertakes development work, contributing to the state’s resources. The party remains central to political and economic exploitation. The power of the political party presents the possibility of divesting the military of its internal economic mechanisms, as is evident from the Chinese case. In 1998, Beijing removed financial stakes held by its armed forces in order to professionalize a ‘people’s army’. The official order, however, did not automatically lead to a complete divestiture. The top echelon of the officer cadre was reluctant to close shop because of its personal financial interests. Thus, as pointed out by Frank O. Mora, the Chinese PLA continued to have an influence on the economy despite the emphasis on reorganization. The development of a symbiotic relationship between the military and the leadership at the top of the political party structure presented the military with the opportunity to negotiate concessions for itself, and dissuade the political leadership from punishing the armed forces for ‘shirking’.
The party leadership may also be unwilling to demand a professional cleansing of the armed forces because the political and military leadership have shared interests. Being direct beneficiaries of the economic redistribution, senior commanders of the armed forces are reluctant to enforce a complete turnaround. The reluctance to contain the military’s activities, as suggested by James Mulvenon, is a deliberate design. The Chinese armed forces were taken out of the service sector but not stopped from playing a role in manufacturing industry.
An authoritarian political system is geared to redistribute resources among its own members and its affies. In Iran’s case, kleptocratic redistribution became sharper after the Islamic revolution as a result of the involvement of vital political players such as the former president, Hashmi Rafsanjani. This influential leader provided patronage to the Hezbollah militia to exploit resources and feed religious charities (bonyads). Equally noticeable is the joint exploitation of national resources by the dictator Fidel Castro’s family and the armed forces in Cuba. The Iranian Hezbollah, Cuban Army, and even the Chinese PLA represent instruments of power, coercion and extraction. There is a symbiotic relationship between authoritarian regimes and auxiliary agencies like the military or paramilitary, which is often used for political suppression, securing continuity of the regime and extracting resources.
Some militaries act independently of the political party structure in looting resources. However, these are instances of individual rather than institutional involvement, such as in post-1991 Russia. The restructuring of the Soviet Union and lack of sufficient funds led desperate soldiers to engage in looting and plunder. The financial autonomy of the defence establishment can be minimized through an increase in financing and oversight.
The ruler military type
A ruler military refers to the type that considers itself as an alternative to civilian institutions and installs itself in direct power permanently. The defence establishment views itself as key to the security and integrity of the state, state building and socioeconomic development. This self-acquired role allows the armed forces to impose totalitarian control on the state and launch themselves into politics without any promise of a return to democracy. However, because of its totalitarian nature this type of military is normally challenged by civil society, especially when the armed forces engage in systematic and prolonged human rights violations.
The primary difference between this and the other two typologies of military domination is the control of politics. Politically, it is different from the other two types because this type of military tends to acquire long-term and direct political control. The prolonged direct rule exhausts any element of moral legitimacy that the military has, resulting in resistance from civil society. The military’s civilian partners can be among those who tend to rebel. The resultant political chaos results in greater human rights violations, and this further increases the chasm between the military and the wider society. This is where this type differs from the other two military types. The arbitrator, for instance, does not remain in direct control for long. The parent-guardian creates constitutional provisions for indirect political control. In this respect, the ruler type is totalitarian in character (see Table 1.3).
The typology of military rule draws upon Perlmutter’s classification of praetorian militaries into rulers and arbitrators. A ruler military has a propensity to remain in power. The nature of civil-military relations is inherently different from the other two types of military rule because the armed forces in this category are averse to transferring power to the civilian leadership, and fully acquire control of the state and governance. This model includes Latin American states during the 1970s and the 1980s such as Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Haiti, and others that experienced prolonged military rule. The list also includes modern-day Myanmar, where the military continues to be in direct control.
One of the main reasons for prolonged direct rule is the weak nature of civil society. However, since the ruler type lacks political legitimacy, it can be pushed out of politics and governance through a combination of external and internal pressure. The return of democracy to Chile, Argentina and other Latin American countries is a case in point. The years of military coercion in the form of human rights violations drew reactions from the civil society, which managed to organize itself with financial, moral and political support from outside.
The ruler military is not professional or trained to deal with external threats. Despite tension at the borders and ongoing military conflicts, there is no major external threat to the survival of the state. The militaries relish in large budgetary allocations and enjoy significance because of their role as guarantors of national security. However, the emphasis on internal threat allows for a greater emphasis on internal security and the military’s link with domestic politics. The internal security role also exposes the military more to political stakeholders, and makes the institution sensitive to political ills.
The literature on bureaucratic authoritarianism in Latin America sheds ample light on the rise of militaries to power. The ruler militaries are inherently revolutionary armed forces that lack a professional ethos in terms of their organizational capabilities and subjecting themselves to civilian control. Huntingtonian professionalism is not the ethos of these defence establishments. Such militaries gravitate toward politics as a result of the lack of a political consensus and unity in these countries. The lack of an elite consensus keeps the militaries in power. The military sees itself as an alternative institution capable of modernizing the society and forcing it to conform through coercion. In most of these postcolonial states there are few people or groups of people who have an exposure to the foreign/western concept of modernity.
Military rule takes three forms: personal, oligarchic and corporatist. These subgroups signify various degrees of civil-military relation. They also indicate the extent to which the military leadership relies on partners among civilian bureaucrats, technocrats or the political leadership for governance. The civilian partners, however, remain subservient to and dependent on the armed forces. In addition, these three categories are critical in understanding the nature of kleptocratic distribution in states ruled by a ruler-type military.
The first subtype includes Idi Amin’s Uganda, General Somoza’s Nicaragua and Francois Duvalier’s Haiti. The political system is dominated by the dictator/despot who distributes restrictively among his sycophants. This style of rule, however, creates dissension within the military. Nevertheless, the military acts as a key player in power sharing. The organization’s support is crucial for the dictator, who uses coercion within the defence establishment as well as the society to expand his political support base.
Table 1.3 The three military types
* In this type, the military does not exercise direct control permanently. In fact, it controls through building partnerships with civilian players.
** Hegemonic relates to subtle but complete control of the society, politics and the economy. These militaries establish pervasive control of the state and the society through political as well as constitutional and legal measures.
Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Myanmar fall into the second subgroup, the oligarchic type. The ruling class relies on the support of an otherwise autonomous military institution. The dependence is also structural, with greater use of the military institution for governance and for political partnership. The ruler-oligarchic type tends not to go into a partnership with a political party. The group of officers consider themselves capable of governing without civil-political stakeholders, whom the military replaces. In a post-colonial paradigm, the military views itself as an alternative institution with the capacity to build and modernize the state. In doing so, however, it alienates other players; so it becomes like the colonial state itself, which, according to political analyst Kalevi J. Holsti, did not hold the intention of building a state.
Finally, the corporatist design refers to the institutional involvement of the, military in politics and governance. It is also marked by an inverted military-civil partnership: the military acts as a principal rather than an agent of civilian leaders. The civil and political societies are transformed into an instrument of modernization directed by the armed forces. Quintessential states following this pattern are Brazil and Argentina. While the military becomes the patron and remains the locus, it inducts other institutions and partners in policy making and modernizing the state. For instance, the technocrats are included in the power alliance to manage the state through a highly centralized control system which curbs political growth. The highly bureaucratic-authoritarian system builds a tactical relationship with other players. The idea is to get ‘technical’ support for governance and the implementation of policies.
As mentioned earlier, the distribution of resources under the ruler military type is highly kleptocratic. The key beneficiaries are the military and its cronies. In fact, there is greater rank-and-file military involvement in the exploitation of resources. Since the military considers itself as the primary institution for state building, the security and integrity of the state, and societal modernization, it dominates resource distribution. However, this has high costs as well. The ruler military type creates conditions that are best explained using Mancur Olson’s roving bandit metaphor. This refers to authoritarianism creating socioeconomic anarchy. Roving banditry, as opposed to stationary banditry, increases transaction costs and reduces the productivity of an economy. Although all military-authoritarian rules have high cost, the ruler type is most expensive because of the damage it does to politics and civil society. The anarchy is not only caused by kleptocratic distribution (this kind of redistributive system can be found in the other two military types as well), but is also a manifestation of the violence and socio-political chaos caused by the armed forces. Myanmar, for instance, is one of the obvious cases of a military generating a high cost for the economy, the politics and society.
Economically, Myanmar suffered because of the direct involvement of military officers in looting, illegal possession of private property and opium smuggling. Minimizing or curbing such activities becomes an arduous task mainly because, as Mary Callahan puts it:
States that pursue coercion-intensive, military solutions to internal security and political crisis will likely see their military take on a range of functions – law enforcement, economic regulation, tax collection, census taking, magazine publishing, political party registration, food aid distribution, and so on – that have little to do with traditional defence responsibilities.
Such unfortunate conditions create economic anarchy and transform the socio-political and socioeconomic environment into an unfriendly atmosphere for the general public. In Myanmar’s case, the military’s totalitarian behaviour even forced capable people into exile.
Some of the larger economic costs of kleptocratic redistribution come from the creation of unhealthy monopolies. Personalized and oligarchic rules in particular tend to breed monopolies. The ruler military tends to distribute resources to the armed forces and its cronies. The number of beneficiaries increases with the subtype. The corporate model, for instance, redistributes comparatively more because of its alignment with other groups. Brazil is a key example of the distribution of resources to the military and a group of technocrats and businessmen who were put in charge of economic planning.
Contrary to the view that militaries in developing states are modernizers, the benefits of the military’s involvement in politics and the economy are much lower than the costs. Studying the impact of military rule in Latin America, Jerry Weaver goes a long way to challenge the notion that military rule benefits the middle class.
The arbitrator military type
This military type, which is derived from Perlmutter’s classification, is known for acquiring direct political control periodically but shirks from prolonging its rule. Hence, this type has a propensity to return to barracks soon after it appears to have solved the problem it came to fix by taking control of the government. The arbitrator type has a proclivity to act as a back-seat driver. It tends to remain in the back seat until it is forced by circumstances to intervene directly. The decision to intervene, however, is based on the organization’s own assessment of the situation.
Arbitrator militaries view themselves essentially as a balancer of power between the various competing political forces. They draw the moral legitimacy to intervene from their self-acquired role of providing stability and bringing progress to the nation. Suspicious of the capacity of political players to protect the state, internally and externally, such militaries acquire a watchdog role to stop the corruption of civilian actors. In doing so, they also create the logic for their periodic intervention.
The military’s role as an arbitrator is also a result of the peculiar nature of the society. In a praetorian society, where politics is ‘formless’ and ridden with factionalism, the military get an opportunity to step in occasionally as a substitute for social forces that do not exist. Some examples in this category are Indonesia (pre-1966), Pakistan (pre-1977), Turkey (pre-1961), South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Why does the military not prolong its rule? Is the temporary intervention an indicator of the strength of the civil society? In some cases like Bangladesh the military is kept out of prolonged direct rule because of the relative strength of the society. The civil society’s ability to agitate vociferously against a totalitarian dispensation forced the Bangladeshi military out from governance and direct rule. However, such societies are not strong enough to reduce the armed forces’ role as an arbitrator. The society is considerably fragmented, and this is detrimental to the strengthening of pluralism in the state.
Perlmutter provides a host of explanations for the military not prolonging its direct rule. The military might remain in the back seat because of:
acceptance of the existing social order
willingness to return to the barracks
the military’s lack of an independent political organization
the concept of a time limit for army rule
the military’s character as a pressure group
a low level of national consciousness
fear of civilian retribution
concern for professionalism
The author’s third point regarding the military’s lack of an independent political organization is very important. Since the military is trained to be a professional force to deal with external threats, it does not have the political legitimacy to continue in power. The realization of its lack of political legitimacy keeps the military in the background, although in an influential position. So despite the moral legitimacy to intervene periodically, the military cannot continue in power for long. The civil society is fragmented but not sufficiently weak to allow for prolonged totalitarian control by the armed forces. The inability of the armed forces to prolong its rule as a result of resistance from the civil society is clear from the case of Bangladesh.
In some cases, such as pre-1961 Turkey and pre-1977 Pakistan, the defence establishments were not fully prepared to introduce long-term direct rule or build alternative mechanisms such as constitutional arrangements for perpetuating their influence. The military’s political intervention in Pakistan, for instance, started with General Ayub Khan (1958-69), who was followed by General Yahya Khan (1969-71). The Ayuh Khan regime in particular depended on the civilian bureaucracy because it did not have sufficient experience in ruling the country. Moreover, after they lost the war with India it was impossible for the armed forces not to transfer power to the elected civilian leadership. The subsequent regimes of General Zia ul Haq (1977-88) and General Pervez Musharraf (1999 to date) were more prepared to seek extraordinary arrangements to prolong the military’s participation in governance.
As mentioned earlier, the arbitrator military is different from the rule type because of its greater sense of professionalism. The tendency is to keep the rank and file out of politics and economic management. There are, however, two types of militaries that fall in this category. One is represented by the Indonesian military, and has greater rank and file involvement in governance and economic management. The other, exemplified by Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, seeks political partnership for enhancing its influence. In the second case in particular, the armed forces use internal and external threats as the main reason for perpetuating their role in governance. In Kemalist Turkey, Ataturk legitimized the military’s role in governance as a defender and protector of the constitution and the national integrity from the threat from outside, as well as the hazard of corrupt civilian rule. Hence, the military was also the guarantor of good governance and honest civilian rule.
In most cases in this category, ‘professionalism’ refers to a new professionalism in which the role of the armed forces extends beyond fighting wars. This means a greater role in internal security and governance. Thus, the armed forces in all these countries are involved with issues of political instability, meeting challenges to national ideology, or countering various sources of internal and external violence. The military regards itself as the guardian and guarantor of national security, extending beyond the simple definition of territorial security.
According to Perlmutter’s definition, this type of military seeks civilian partners to whom it hands over power from time to time. The military merely projects itself as an arbitrator. This means returning to barracks as soon as the problem is solved. The officer cadre claims to aim to transfer power to an ‘acceptable’ civilian regime at the earliest opportunity to give semblance of democracy, but the military always operates as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ pressure group which establishes partnerships with political parties, and other groups or associations. This is another case of an inverted principal-agent relationship in which the military is generally in the driving seat. The military seeks out partners among civilians such as bureaucrats, technocrats, businessmen and religious and ethnic groups, so both parties can perpetuate the existing power relationship to their mutual benefit.
The military seeks civilian partners for both political and economic benefit. Indonesia is a typical example of an arbitrator military. The civilian and military leadership have an almost equal share in Milbus. Starting with Sukarno, and under Suharto and all subsequent political leaders, the military was granted a share in exploiting the national resources. The armed forces were in fact partners with the civilian leaders from the beginning of the Indonesian state, as a result of the military’s role in fighting the Dutch forces during the War of Independence in 1945-9. The tension between the revolutionary political set-up, the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), and the armed forces of the Republic of Indonesia, Angkatan Bersenjata Republic Indonesia (ABRI), compounded with the problem of weak democratic institutions, resulted in the military’s repeated political intervention. The political anarchy established the military’s non-military role, which was officially endorsed through three fundamental documents: the 1945 Constitution, the Pancasila (the state ideology), and the Sapta Marga, the code of honour of the ABRI which requires the army to defend the Pancasila. Such legal provisions enhanced the military’s role in politics and the economy.
The military’s involvement in socioeconomic and political governance has a high cost, however, especially in terms of its professionalism. The expansion of the military’s role in the economy deepens its influence in politics. As a result the armed forces begin to face problems in the performance of their core function of territorial security. The challenges the military faces as a result of the fusion of external and internal security roles were sharpened in the case of Indonesia, where the military predominantly played an internal security function.
The fundamental question is whether a political system that engenders the military’s financial autonomy can strengthen the civil society to reduce the military’s influence. Will an arbitrator military that has built economic interests remain an arbitrator for ever, taking over the reigns of government only at times of perceived crisis? The military’s role can only be limited to arbitration in cases such as Bangladesh, where the government has systematically encouraged the armed forces to look at other options for their financial survival. One of the reasons for the Bangladeshi military’s abstinence from taking over direct control lies in the source of the armed forces’ financial autonomy. Dhaka’s military depends on UN peacekeeping missions to earn financial benefits, and as a result it has remained out of power since 1990-1. The Bangladeshi armed forces depend on their good relations with the civilian government to seek greater opportunities of involvement in the peacekeeping missions. The Bangladeshi military’s commercial ventures are also dependent on the earnings from the peacekeeping missions. Over the years, Dhaka’s armed forces have built stakes in the hotel industry, in textile and jute manufacturing, and in education. Bangladeshi civil society is, perhaps naively, not alarmed by such developments. The political analysts see the commercial ventures as a tradition passed on by the pre-1971 Pakistan army. Furthermore, it is believed that the military would not risk losing its profit-making opportunities through the UN missions. There is very little thought given to the possibility that the military might not be offered opportunities by the United Nations, in which case it might be forced to look at other options to gain financial advantage.
Despite their involvement in the UN peacekeeping missions, the militaries of Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia engage in profit-making ventures. Their economic exploitation is a result of their political power. These three militaries have in fact been politically powerful since the early days of independence of their states, as a result of their involvement in politics. The financial autonomy of these armed forces is dependent on their political autonomy, and their political influence is likely to grow undeterred, or at least not be minimized, unless their authority is seriously challenged both internally and externally.
In analysing military intervention Perlmutter did not look at the armed forces’ influence on the political economy, especially the financial interests of the officer cadre. Once a military is allowed to ‘shirk’, it tends to expand its role in politics and the economy. The term ‘shirk’ is drawn from Peter Feaver’s work on civil-military relations in the United States, and refers to the military’s refusal to obey the commands of civilian policy makers. Weak political forces, unable to play the strong principal, find it increasingly difficult to avoid conceding greater political and economic space to the armed forces. The Pakistani, Turkish and Indonesian militaries, for example, gradually built political power to support their economic interests. Each successive military dictator learns from his predecessors how to maximize political influence to gain greater economic dividends. The militaries then find constitutional ways of perpetuating their control of the state and society. It is for this reason that these three cases have been put into a separate category, which is discussed in the next subsection.
The parent-guardian military type
As mentioned earlier, the three countries that qualify for this category are Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia. These armed forces are known for institutionalizing their political power through constitutional/legal provisions. Such changes are brought about through the help of civilian partners that are dependent on the military for their survival. So while the rank and file is kept out of governance, a select group of top and middle-ranking officers continues to control the state in partnership with the other members of the larger military fraternity.
The civilian partners play a crucial role in endorsing the political role of the armed forces. This can be done through simple parliamentary approval, as in the case of Indonesia, or through constitutional changes such as the establishment of a National Security Council (NSC), as in Turkey and Pakistan. It is important to note that the three cases in this category are of arbitrator militaries turned into the parent-guardian type. The key argument is that because of their growing economic interests, the armed forces tend to institutionalize their political power to secure their dominant position as part of the ruling elite. With constitutional/legal changes endorsing their extra-military role, the armed forces no longer remain just an instrument of policy, but become an equal partner, sharing power and national resources with other members of the ruling elite. In fact, the ruling elite tends to draw its power and influence from its partnership with the military.
The shift from one type to the other indicates a change in the thinking of the military regarding its placement in the political power hierarchy of a state. (This type of change, as mentioned earlier, is not documented or analysed by Perlmutter in his several works on civil-military relations.) Henceforth, the military institutes itself as a permanent element in the country’s power politics and governance. The institutionalizing of the military’s power is considered necessary to protect the corporate interests of the armed forces, and is an indicator of the officer cadre’s suspicion of the political players. Since the civil society and political actors cannot be trusted to protect the integrity of the state or ensure that the military’s interests are safeguarded, it is vital for the defence establishment to create a permanent place for itself in politics, which transcends all political dispensations.
The civil society has to be made aware of the looming presence of its protector in hindering any indiscretions. Militaries in this role are intellectually sharp in analysing the environment and formulating survival strategies accordingly. Since they do not intend to relinquish control of the state, such militaries hide their intentions by partnering with civilian players who are usually kept in the forefront. The civilian-military relationship is a patron-client type, which also serves the purpose of weakening any strong agitation against the military. The military’s civilian clients thwart any move towards consolidated agitation against the military’s domination. The adaptability of the organization is almost chameleon-like.
In Indonesia’s case, a permanent institutionalized role was endorsed by the Provisional People’s Congress, which recognized the dual function of security and political control of the armed forces in 1966. According to the official statement:
The non-military function of the Indonesian Republican Armed Forces’ members, as citizens and Pancasiliast revolutionaries to devote themselves in every field to fulfil ‘the message of the people’s suffering’ and for the sake of the Revolution’s resilience, must be acknowledged and continuance guaranteed.
The military’s political role was added to its security function as part of the concept of dwifungsi, or dual roles. The civilian partners, namely President Suharto and his cabal, who had ridden to power on the shoulders of the military, allowed the armed forces to dominate the civil bureaucracy as well as acquire control of the economy.
The Turkish military, on the other hand, institutionalized its role through establishing the NSC, an organ of power numerically tilted in favour of the armed forces. Its composition – six officers and five civilians – gave a clear advantage to the armed forces, which had already penetrated the political system and had members in the civil bureaucracy and the parliament. (The issue, however, is not of numerical strength. The military members of the NSC in Pakistan are fewer in number – four military, nine civil – but have greater power, which can be attributed to the military’s traditional control of power politics.) The Turkish military also possesses a huge presence in the society and the economy. Public surveys have been supportive of the armed forces, which is attributable to their popularity as well as their powers of coercion. For instance, it is illegal to criticize the military in Turkey or to discuss its budgetary or off-budgetary allocation.
Similarly, Pakistan’s military started to seek an independent institutionalized presence in politics after 1977. The regime of General Muhammad Zia ul Haq (1977-88) initiated the idea of a NSC, and one was finally established in April 2004 by General Pervez Musharraf (1999 to date). Unlike the first military regime of Generals Ayub and Yahya Khan (1958-71), the Zia government understood the significance of institutionalizing the military’s role in politics and governance, and found a recipe for achieving this objective. One of the lessons that the military dictator Zia learnt from the past was the need to protect the military’s interests. Despite rebuilding the military after an embarrassing defeat in a war with India, the civilian regime of Zulfiqar All Bhutto had relegated the armed forces to a subordinate position. The problem of the reduction of the military’s power could only be tackled through institutionalizing the military’s role in governance.
Having evolved from an arbitrator type, the parent-guardian military contains some of the characteristics of the former type, such as building partnership with technocrats, civil bureaucrats, businessmen and selected political players. These civilian partners render support to the military establishment, and in turn depend on it for their political survival and economic benefits. A military-sponsored system of patronage is one of the features of the armed forces’ institutional-political power. An institution such as the NSC indicates the military’s permanent position in the country’s power politics. A realization of this power forces some civilian players to support the military, and vice versa.
The transformation of the military from an arbiter to a parent-guardian is a gradual process, which is attributable to the prolongation of a combination of the military’s political and economic interests. The military justifies the institutionalizing of its power as a prerequisite for strengthening democracy. The inclusion of senior generals in decision making at the highest level of the government is meant to serve as a firewall against any irresponsible behaviour by the civilian leadership. In fact, the civilians (civil bureaucracy, political leadership or the indigenous bourgeoisie) misread the military’s withdrawal to the barracks as the organization’s willingness to transfer power. The civilians also misjudge the military’s appetite for power, because they do not understand the connection between the armed forces’ financial and political autonomy. It is generally believed that if they offer the military economic advantages, it can be bribed into a compliant partnership in which the generals allow a particular political dispensation to rule. It is often not realized that it is hazardous to bribe soldiers with greater economic, political and social advantages, exposing them to the vulnerabilities of the political leadership, as has happened in Pakistan’s case. Exposed to the failings of the political class, ‘soldiers’ tend to become insecure about their benefits, leisure and income, all of which they associate with the survival of the state; hence the need for the military’s intervention. This perpetuates the military’s interest in institutionalizing its control of the state and decision making.
The parent-guardian military is central to the process of redistribution of national resources. When the military is one of the dominant economic players, it tends to distribute resources among the members of its own fraternity. The military aims at institutionalizing both its political and economic control. The expansion of economic interests is undertaken through a complex network that binds together serving and retired military as well as certain civilians who benefit directly from the military-business complex. For instance, the Turkish military interventions of the 1960s and the 1980s were aimed at strengthening the oligarchic position of a coterie of senior generals, who had forged an alliance with the business elite as well.
So an assessment of Milbus must include the value of the military’s economic interests and those of its civilian partners. The parent-guardian type of military encourages crony capitalism. The behaviour of the corporate sector is influenced by the presence of the military, because the major civilian-corporate players depend on the armed forces’ patronage for their survival and growth. The economic partners rarely confront the military on its share or extra-legal concessions, mainly because (as was reported in Turkey’s case) of fear, or concern for rewards that the military could deny or ensure to them through its powerful position.
The redistribution mechanism has a direct bearing on the structure of Milbus. The military’s internal economy is operated through the organization, its subsidiaries and individual members. These are not different levels but three interconnected strands which support each other. The influence of the institution is used to build channels of opportunity for its members to explore arid monopolize resources. This is different from establishing monopolies, as ruler militaries often tend to do.66 Although Milbus could result in creating monopolies in some areas, the tendency is to monopolize resources along with other partners. Under a parent-guardian type of structure, individual members and subsidiary organizations play as crucial a role as the institution itself. Individuals work as drivers of the internal economy. While they benefit from the organization’s influence, the individuals also work as a source for creating opportunities for the organization. Thus, an assessment of the net value of Milbus needs to include benefits distributed at all three levels: institutional, subsidiaries and individuals.
The net value of the internal economy is better hidden in this typology than in the two previous categories, mainly because of the limited involvement of the rank and file in economic ventures. The military institution acts as a patron that provides opportunities and financial capital to its members. The dividends of Milbus are highly concentrated at the top. Although some benefits are distributed to the soldiers, the bulk of the dividends are creamed off by the officer cadre. The peculiar structure of power and resource distribution can be found in all the three countries listed in this category.
The combined political and economic influence of the armed forces has a huge socio-political and economic cost. However, the military’s influence cannot be reduced because of the fragmentation of civil society, especially the weak political parties. A major change can only be made possible through mass mobilization combined with pressure from outside the country.
The warlord type
Finally, the warlord type refers to a political system where the nation-state is on the verge of disintegration or has failed. The collapse of the state gives rise to the power of individual leaders or groups that use military force for political and economic exploitation. A number of African states like Ethiopia, Zaire, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Rwanda, and Afghanistan are representative of this typology.
Such states represent a breakdown of centralized political control and are unable to deliver services to their people. Thus, the standards of service delivery and governance are extremely poor. The political system is highly clientist, in which the political, ethnic or group leaders offer patronage to groups of people, as in the feudal system prevalent in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe. Prominent political leaders depend on ethnic and clan politics for winning popularity and controlling national resources. The warlords provide patronage to the group of people who submit to their authority. In a conflict between warlords, as happened in Ethiopia and Afghanistan, the warring parties try to deny basic services such as food and shelter to the rival warlord and the population aligned with him.
The warlord’s power is dependent on military force, which might be either local or bought in from outside. The use of private military contractors hired from the West by some African warlords is an example of dependence on externally acquired military force.
The inability to reach an elite consensus makes warlordism a preferred method of exploitation. Sierra Leone is cited as an example of the deliberate destruction of the state by its leaders, who later turned themselves into warlords. In such cases the power of the warlord determines the extent of the exploitation of resources. The warlords are driven by ethnic or religious rivalry and aim at both capturing resources for themselves and their clients and denying them to the rival group/s. There is, in fact, no concept of a unitary consolidated state interest. In cases such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, the state is in fact unable to raise funds for its civil and military bureaucracy. Under these circumstances, the warlord plays a key role in projecting military power and using his military force to generate resources for those under his patronage. ‘
The lack of resources does not allow the emergence of professional militaries, for the state to ensure the military’s allegiance, or for military professionalism. The underpaid military is tempted to engage in looting resources personally or forming smaller associations to do so. Ruling regimes often hire gunpower from outside, as well for their own protection against rival groups or to exploit natural resources such as diamond and gold mines. Regimes tend to develop a dependency on foreign state and non-state allies, resulting in the ‘crowding out’ of state institutions. The military and ex-combatants are tools for exploiting economic resources, as are hired armed men from other countries. The might of the warlord rests on mustering the military strength to create a monopoly over plunder in a specific area. The tools and forces of war are an essential component of the fragmented exploitation of resources. Militaries are instrumental in assisting the warlords in robbing the state of its resources. At times armed forces could take direct control, but instead they engage in a joint plundering of the state in partnership with a political leader who has the charisma and power to muster public support and following.
The militaries are ragtag, revolutionary and non-professional. These are combatants on the loose or under the command of a warlord, who engage in looting for survival.
While the warlord-type militaries and their personnel plunder the state for their gains, other armed forces use institutional methods to get a greater share of national resources. The militaries all over the world are one of the many institutions of a state vying for influence and a share of national resources. While some militaries are instruments of the state or the ruling dispensation, others dominate the state to a degree where the organization becomes synonymous with the state. Such differences in a country’s political and military structure must be analysed to understand the fundamental nature pf political and economic exploitation.
What the armed forces get in terms of national resources is directly proportional to the political influence they exercise. The civil-military relations in a particular state are therefore central to the larger issue of understanding the depth of a military’s internal economy. The greater the defence establishment’s influence, the lesser the transparency of its resources and the more ability it has to exploit resources compared with other players. It is important to understand the connection between civil-military relations and Milbus, or the link between the military’s political influence and its ability to exploit resources for the personal gratification of the officer cadre.
The fundamental argument presented in this chapter is that despite the fact that all militaries tend to engage in profit-making ventures, the nature of the economic exploitation is related to the nature of the political system and environment. In states where the military is subservient to the political players, whether these are the civilian authority at large, a political party or an influential leader, the exploitation inside the state and the military’s penetration into the society and economy is comparatively less deep and controllable. A pluralist political system tends to treat the armed forces as one of the important institutions vying for political control or share of resources. Moreover, in such a system the military is primarily an instrument of policy, used strategically by other dominant actors to draw political and economic dividends.
The pluralist tone of the political system, however, begins to fade in systems where the military become influential. Furthermore, as militaries establish political influence, they tend to penetrate the economy in a much more intense manner. The militaries then transform themselves into patrons responsible for, or playing a dominant role in, the distribution of resources. Although in the three military domination models of politics the armed forces take over governance or political control to ensure national integrity, their economic activities are not altruistic. The economic role in part is an outgrowth of their political influence. In fact, the picture of the military’s political power is incomplete without an analysis of its ability to exploit resources. The generals tend to use the logic for the dominant role of the military as a guardian of the state to draw benefits for its members. Thus, there is an economic logic for the continued political power of the defence establishment.
The civilian authorities or political players tend to give less credence to the military’s internal economy, as will be observed later through the case study on Pakistan, The financial stakes of the officer cadre are, at best, considered critical to the interests of the generals, but are not seen as something linked with the military’s political ambitions. It is true that the military does not necessarily have to acquire power to allow the officer cadre profit-making opportunities. However, the prolongation of the military’s power, or the deepening of its influence in decision making and governance, is bound to expose the officer cadre to the economic benefits of perpetuating its political influence. Therefore, the more the military’s influence in politics, the greater are the economic advantages that accrue to the senior officers, and these in turn increase their interest in perpetuating the military’s influence and political control.
The six civil-military relations typologies are also representative of different levels of economic exploitation by the armed forces. The first two types refer to cases where the military is used by other dominant players to gain economic advantages. In such cases, the military is instrumental in economic exploitation, but as a secondary player and not as a primary actor. In the later types, however, the military is a primary beneficiary. Furthermore, the armed forces play the role of a patron, providing political and economic benefits to their civilian clients or partners.
It has been argued that the military’s financial and political autonomy are interconnected. While the organization’s political influence may vary according to the nature of the political system, the military’s financial autonomy plays a critical role in enhancing its desire to influence politics and policy making. From the standpoint of Milbus, it is important to understand the relationship between the political and financial autonomy of the armed forces. It must be understood that even in pluralist political environments the military will lobby for a greater share of resources by influencing policy making. Since the military is one of the key players vying for a greater share, it is bound to lobby for greater opportunities, as has happened in the United States, Israel and other more politically developed states.
In less pluralist political settings such as Pakistan, the case of which will be discussed at length in this study, the military’s financial autonomy will increase an interest in strengthening and institutionalizing the organization’s dominant position in power politics. The institutionalizing of the military’s power does not bode well for the future of democracy in a country. Unless there are significant external or internal pressures that force the military to surrender its power, the military will continue to dominate the state.
Ayesha Siddiqa is a Pakistani military analyst.