Security threats and the military's domestic political role: a comparative study of South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia
This dissertation constructs a structural theory of civil-military relations that identifies security threats as the primary independent variable that influences the military organization and its political role. My structural theory comprises two-stage causal connections. In the first stage, security threats as an independent variable shape the relative power of major domestic political actors: civilian leadership, military organization, and civil society. In the next, interactions among these actors are responsible for specific manifestations of the military's political role, from domination to total subordination. My thesis is that high threats provide the military with favorable conditions to be politically influential, while low threats work against army officers' involvement in politics. At the same time, domestic political dynamics are responsible for more nuanced aspects of the military's political role. This dissertation conducts a structured-focused comparative analysis of four Asian countries: South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The four cases are divided into four historical stages: (1) the state-building period (1940s-1950s), (2) armed forces' assumption of power (1960s-1970s), (3) the army's withdrawal from politics (1980s- 1990s), and (4) civil-military relations in the post-democratization era. The empirical analysis generates four major theoretical conclusions. First, high security threats bring about the expansion of the military organization and its political influence, while low threats weaken its political presence. Second, strong civilian leadership leads to stable civilian control over the armed forces, while weak civilian leadership invites them into politics. Third, a unified and professionalized army is conducive to stable civilian control, while a factionalized military leads to the politicization of army officers. Finally, a strong civil society with moderate ideology works against the armed forces' intervention in politics, while weak or ideologically radical civil society groups deteriorate security conditions, thereby bringing the military into politics. In addition to giving deeper insights into the military's political role, my structural theory provides a good starting point for integrating international relations and comparative politics in one theoretical model. As this study shows, security threats affect the military's domestic political position; at the same time, the military organization and its political position may account for certain international security outcomes.