Military Disengagement and Democratic Consolidation in Post-Military Regimes

Author: Miller, Andrew P.
This book addresses the question of military disengagement from politics in states emerging from prolonged cycles of military intervention in politics. The case of El Salvador is particularly interesting given the decades of repeated intervention by the Salvadoran military. These cycles of military intervention indicate that intervention in politics is seen by the military as part of their job. Long-term military disengagement, therefore, comes from a change in the military’s self-identity and orientation toward intervention in politics because the military will always have the ability to intervene due to their preponderance of force. The case study approach is used in order to discern the historic difficulties facing permanent removal of the Salvadoran military from politics and the prospects for the future. As the preponderant holder of force is society, the military will disengage from politics when external pressures elicit a voluntary withdrawal based upon the military’s perception of those external pressures and the possibility of a face-saving return to the barracks with a maximum preservation of power and prestige.


“In a world in which the news is dominated by the US-led war on terror, a study on Latin American civil military relations may come across as somewhat anachronistic. Dr. Andrew Miller’s study however, shows that nothing is further from the truth. In this book, he presents us with an historical case study of civil military relations in El Salvador in the twentieth century. What makes this study interesting, and timely, is its focus on strategies for military disengagement. Dr. Miller looks at institutional level factors that affect military disengagement in El Salvador at the end of the civil war. He argues that military disengagement is based on a strategic choice by the military leadership. Through the use of historical examples, Dr. Miller shows that a democratic transition that does not take strategic decision making in terms of cost-benefit analysis into consideration will not last ... The greatest merit of this carefully researched study is that the four strategies of disengagement can be applied to other cases in regions in transition towards democracy. With the theoretical relevance of the concept of military disengagement and its innovative empirical observations, this book contributes greatly to the scholarship of comparative Latin American politics.” – (from the Foreword) Professor Martyn de Bruyn, St. John Fisher College

“Serious studies on El Salvador are in short supply. Dr. Miller’s study of El Salvador provides a nuanced look at military disengagement and democratic consolidation in a unique Latin American country. This work promises to change the way people think about military disengagement in Latin America, and indeed, the world; it is a significant contribution to the area of comparative politics. This is must reading for students of Latin American politics.” – Professor Judson L. Jeffries, The Ohio State University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Martyn de Bruyn
1. Introduction
2. Historical Factors of Military Engagement
3. Military Power Consolidation and Maintenance in El Salvador
4. Military Disengagement and the Turn Toward Democracy in the 1980s
5. Military Disengagement and the 1992 Peace Accords
6. Conclusion: The Consolidation of Democracy and Civilian Control of the Military