The best book on coups is Naunihal Singh’s Seizing Power: The Strategic Logic of Military Coups. It answers many of the questions I had earlier about the attempted coup in Turkey. Singh is at the Air War College in Montgomery, where I am visiting. The below picture is neither from Montgomery nor recent.
The book is excellent. And it answers two questions raised in my last post. First, seizing the means of communication is key. This is not because they are key in-and-of-themselves, but because controlling them is key to convincing all actors that the coup will succeed. The putschists in Turkey failed abysmally at doing that, even before Erdogan used his smartphone to make a videocall.
Second, popular opinion does not matter. In Singh’s words: “Public opinion has no effect on coup outcomes. Once a coup attempt begins, military actors rarely consider the reaction of civilians to the coup, and their decision to support or oppose the coup attempt had nothing to do with which side had more popular support. Statistically, coups were no less likely to succeed in countries with governments that could be assumed to have reasonably high levels of support (countries with high economic growth, democracies or one-party regimes) than the opposite.”