A Military Coup will have four main outcomes:
- It will fail.
- No real regime change, leader may ousted from power without changing the identity of the group in power or the rules for governing.
- Replacement of current regime with another.
- Government ousted followed by gradual democratisation (also called “democratic coup”)
The purpose of our workshop was to focus on outcome 3 and 4. Before even thinking of a military coup we should look at those who are likely to oppose the coup – especially from the government that is currently in place and its supporters who may cause problems as and once the currently government is overthrown.
“Coup Proofing”, is governments creating structures that make it hard for any small group to seize power. These coup-proofing strategies could include the strategic placing of family, ethnic and religious groups in the military; creation of an armed militia parallel to the regular military forces and or a ‘national guard’ based on tribal loyalties or religious/political loyalties. Also multiple internal security agencies with overlapping jurisdiction that constantly monitor one another it will be more difficult to keep planning of a coup secret. These coup-proofing strategies reduce the risk of coups. But, coup-proofing also reduces military effectiveness thus placing the nations defence from outside forces at risk. Coups promoting democracy against authoritarian regimes are more likely to succeed depending upon the mindset of the population and also if those overthrowing the government do so out of a national emergency – rather than outside support.
We need to look at the variables and pressure points which we can adjust to meet our objective of removing the government as we begin to plan.
Plus understand that if a government violently purges the army after a coup has been foiled and start killing elements of the military, including officers who were not involved in the coup, this will trigger a “counter-coup” by soldiers who are afraid they will be next – in some cases these soldiers can bide their time to take revenge that will probably be a more ruthless than we are discussing now, as we wish to ideally have a bloodless soft coup.
Governments that foil coups need to reach out to their military forces and keep them onside – governments should resort to demoting and firing military leaders involved or sympathetic to the initial coup and replacing them with loyalists instead. The defence forces of a nation are its defenders and need to be treated with respect for they represent the nation – even in a widely disliked coup the armed forces, especially the rank and file are part of the solution – not the problem, the high leadership of a failed coup is another matter.
A soft coup is a coup d’état without the use of violence which takes State power by partially or wholly illegal means, in order to midwife a civilian political leadership at the top – ideally this should be the outcome of any coup.
In our workshop our aim was to see how we can overthrow a government. The focus was on simply overthrowing – not installing a new leadership.
We used strategies from The Art of War by Sun Tzu and combined them with principals from Coup D’Etat A Practical Handbook by Edward Luttwak the purpose of this exercise was to develop an understanding of how easy it is to overthrow governments and the findings were how hard it is to replace them if the mindset of the people is not with you. But we didn’t go too much into why we shouldn’t rather – how can we overthrow a government.
This was a ‘strategy/mind expanding’ exercise to help people understand how fortunate they are that we can discuss and strategise something like this that would be considered dangerous outside the UK to many governments which do not have the freedoms we have here in the United Kingdom to discuss something like this so openly.
Naturally and I keep emphasising this – this was NOT to promote the overthrow of governments or any government – rather if anything was and is to help people identify ‘triggers’ that can lead to overthrow of a government so they can understand those triggers and stop the coup or coups in their tracks.
No nations government is immune to being overthrown – by its military. Around 42 years ago in 1974 here in the United Kingdom – our then Prime Minister Harold Wilson faced institutions that were collapsing, inflation was rising and Britain was losing the last outposts of empire.
British Trade Unions were riddled with extreme leftists and communists. Prime Minister Wilson it is said according to British Military Chiefs lacked the will and desire to stand firm against these internal threats to the UK as well as external from the then Soviet Union.
Apparently senior intelligence and military officers plotted a coup d’etat. Here is a documentary which you should watch with an open mind and then do your own research:
Naturally in a coup the military has to seize communication and major transport routes such as Heathrow airport, the BBC and Buckingham Palace. Lord Mountbatten could have acted as our nations interim prime minister. Her Majesty the Queen would read a statement urging the public to support the armed forces, because the government was no longer able to keep order. I don’t know how true this is but then I cam across this:
And here are troops and police at Heathrow Airport in 1974 (of course this can all be just a normal training exercise rather than a dress rehearsal for a coup – but I keep an open mind):
One of the things that people – especially politicians within democracies do not understand – most senior military leaders as part of their overall training have to think of overthrowing their nations governments – its not about thinking of being disloyal rather they need to think out of box ‘strategy’ and contingency planning should this nation face a government that is a threat to its Unity and people.
Anyway now we are at the stage of wanting to overthrow the government (not the UK Government or any specific government – just a government, this is a strategy workshop and not targeting any government remember).
FIRST STEP – THINK WHY?:
IF WE WERE TO OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT – WOULD THE PEOPLE SUPPORT THE OVERTHROW?
Think exactly what are you trying to do?
Master Sun recommends that military commanders avoid spreading their forces too thin as that makes an army weaker throughout. The military cannot suddenly take over and ‘multitask’ – generals on average are politicians abet more able to give orders as well as take orders, this is in our favour. There needs to be a list of those senior military officers who will be seconded to ‘command’ the various government ministries and departments once the order comes. Their purpose is to ‘look after’ the ministries and senior civil servants and make sure they are continuing with their jobs to keep the ‘machine’ of government running. Their role is not to micromanage.
The Junta is recommended to follow the path of least resistance – so we let the ministries and departments continue to run as before and then systematically eliminate those resisting our junta by taking out the weakest ones and slowly working our way to the top of the political opposition. Think of when Master Sun uses the metaphor of water flowing through the path of least resistance to describe the optimal course of action. This will be the role of our senior leaders of the Junta.
As the masses see that effects to their lives are minimal they are more likely to remain followers as their political leadership will be held in special holding facilities – likely military camps and they will have no other option (depending on how their minds have been prepared) but to remain short –term spectators to what is happening.
SECOND STEP – THINK WHO?:
WHO DO YOU HAVE SUPPORTING THE PLANNING?
Who is going to be the public head of this ‘coup’
Master Sun said “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”
The plotters need to be prudent in choosing the timing of when to engage the enemy (in this case the current government). A good strategy in mind is essential (which is what we discussed in the FIRST section above), a plan is only as good as it is appropriate for the situation.
Timing will come after we have found our KEY PLOTTERS and SUPPORTERS within the ‘current structure of government’. Within politicians there will be more resistance to the military coup and we will need allies within some of them to play divide and rule – so best to use intelligence service colleagues in parliament and civil service will need identify potential ‘troublemakers’ who can be the first to be ‘secured’ once the coup commences.
The coup must be kept flexible as there will be friends who will end up opposing and enemies who will end up supporting for different reasons. This is why its very important to keep the coup planning team – very small at the beginning and identify senior military and intelligence officers who can follow the Junta orders without question – these will be the key that moves the coup to success or failure.
THIRD STEP – THINK WHAT?:
DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO THROUGH WITH THIS?
Understand you will end up arresting scores of people from all walks of life some who you respect and admire. Your personal feelings need to put aside.
Master Sun said – “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies abut do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
Information matters and an educated guess is better than a gut decision – this is a serious path and everything needs to be taken into account as the smallest issue not considered will undo the coup as it commences. The enemy (the current government and those who wish it to remain in place) will take advantage of any weak points – so the Junta leaders need to look at the environment (popular support), weather (and time execution of coup) as well as morale of troops. Do not underestimate the enemy and do not overestimate yourself or the Junta.
FOURTH STEP – PLAN IT:
SO WHATS THE PLAN?
Are you seriously prepared to overthrow the whole government? As that is something you will need to do to stop the other structures of government from raising mayhem.
Master Sun said “All warfare is based on deception. ”
While this well-known quote from Sun Tzu’s text sounds sinister, but it has profound meaning in when a coup is in process. It is well-known that it is essential to differentiate your ultimate strategy in order to come out on top. The “military calculus” Sun wanted generals to be adept in was meant to incorporate one’s own unique perspective so that it would not be possible for the enemy (current government) to anticipate it.
Its very important to do preparation work, but if you really want to remove the entire government, you should prepare in a way that is either more extensive or more creative than anyone else. Also keep in mind whether there are systems within the current government structure that can be used in the initial phase of the coup.
FIFTH STEP – FOCUS IT:
WHO ARE YOU GOING TO WORK WITH AND WHATS THEIR FOCUS?
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. Nationalistic jingoism brings enough idiots out of the woodwork and these can be used either for or against the coup planners if the coup starts backfiring – the plotters need to have saner voices that are able to use the media – both social and mass to put there side of the story out quickly once the masses start realising what is happening or happened. Look for demoractic watchdog groups and similar institutions which safeguard the democratic rights of the citizen as they may cause trouble if not dealt with at the second stage of the coup. If possible replace the heads of these with your own candidates before the coup.
Master Sun said: “When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
Sun Tzu believes it is not enough to have a unique plan, and that a plan must also be disguised by means of deception. For example, if a general was planning an attack from his left flank, he should confuse the enemy by using decoys on his right, which would make it appear as if the attack was coming from the right. Ideally, an army should also be in constant motion so as to appear formless.
Deception is also common in politics. Large political parties will often take measures to appear smaller, while smaller political parties and groups claim they are changing the world. Master Sun recommends that that the plotters act with humility and they will eventually reach the point where all the systems of government will be open for them once the go ahead for the coup is given taking over the government will be much easier.
SIXTH STEP – OPPOSE IT:
IS THERE ANOTHER WAY OUT OF THIS?
Question each other, oppose each other, look for ways of not taking over, what can go wrong?
Master Sun said: “To win 100 battles is not the height of skill, to subdue the enemy without fighting is.”
The best tacticians are those who are able to defeat the enemy by diplomacy or other means. Are you prepared take cities without laying siege and arresting politicians and activists enmasse including citizens to surrender due to your psychological warfare?
Have in place more than one tool to engage the enemy in a conventional manner. Being resourceful as the coup is taking place the plotters need to think on their feet – so much can go wrong.
SEVENTH STEP – DO SWOT:
WHATS THE STRONG POINTS AND WEAKNESSES OF YOUR POSITION?
Master Sun said: “In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.”
Anything can happen in warfare, and the leaders of the coup must always prepare for the worst. It is recommended that the coup plotters remain calm, focused and keep an open mind so they take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Being aware those under your command who are to ready to deal ruthlessly with the civilian population as the people need to understand that the coup is for them – not against them. So the plotters must know which laws or regulations can be suspended and to clear instructions given to soldiers and civilians alike to build the momentum for the armed forces to take charge across the nation and this in turn will uncover opportunities for the coup plotters which must be seized if their coup is to successful.
EIGHTH STEP – DO MOMENTUM: SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS
Master Sun said “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
Momentum was very important to warfare. The same in politics. On defeating or acquiring allies, the plotters need to build on their string of victories…
THIS HAS BEEN TAKEN OUT DUE TO PEOPLE GETTING SENSITIVE.
NINTH STEP – DO COUP: ON OVERTHROWING THE GOVERNMENT WHAT NOW?
Master Sun said “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”
THIS HAS BEEN TAKEN OUT DUE TO PEOPLE GETTING SENSITIVE.
So now the coup has happened and the government is overthrown and some 2500 officials have been ‘secured’ in holding facilities outside the main cities within military camps, around a 100 others – both civil servants, senior politicians from main parties, media and businesspeople have been taken to facilities within the capital for protection. A further list of 8,000 will be ‘secured’ within the next 12 hours – through the assistance of local police forces who will follow the orders of coup plotters.
The coup was effective and took place quickly it started around 02:30AM with the taking over of government command and communication facilities and media outlets – most of the internet was also blocked and the initial phase finished at 03:15AM all the senior government and opposition figures were picked up along with the those who were likely to cause trouble.
THIS HAS BEEN TAKEN OUT DUE TO PEOPLE GETTING SENSITIVE.
A statement of why the coup had to happen will be announced at 09:00AM
Hope you enjoyed this exercise.
By the way the last thing you want to do is have a military coup at 21:00 (9pm) in the evening, block a busy bridge and let the worlds media know whats happening – thats silly…
Hope you enjoyed this exercise/article and if you really want to take over a government – the main thing you need to know is what are you going to replace it with?
Remember its easy to overthrow a government…