Patterns of civilian control of the military in East Asia's new democracies

Aurel Croissant, David Kuehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Successful institutionalization of civilian control of the military is a necessary condition for the consolidation of democracy. This is particularly relevant for East Asia, where the military used to be a key player in the previous authoritarian regimes. This article analyzes the changes, advances, and setbacks in achieving civilian control in five countries that have made the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule: Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. The empirical analysis is built on a conception of civilian control that distinguishes three areas of political decisionmaking: political recruitment and overall public policymaking, national defense, and internal security. The study shows that only in Taiwan and South Korea have civilians succeeded in curtailing military influence in politics. In contrast, in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, the military has shown itself more or less resilient in guarding its prerogatives in the postauthoritarian era. This seriously impedes the democratically elected authorities' effective power to govern in these countries and has led to democratic deterioration in Thailand and the Philippines. The article highlights three arguments to account for the profound difference between the cases: historical legacies of authoritarian rule and the path of democratic transition, the internal security role of the military, and the relationship between development and democratic consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-217
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of East Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Civil-military relations
  • Democratization
  • East Asia
  • Indonesia
  • Military
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Transition


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