Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Remove a President (Other Methods)


This post is a continuation of the discussion of how a nation may remove a non-performing or insane chief executive that is outside the more constitutional methods of a nation.

I use the term “chief executive” as a synonym for “President”, “Chancellor”, “First Secretary”, etc.

As we discuss some of these famous cases from history be particularly alert for the principle of “unintended or unanticipated consequences” and remember that these examples are usually very specific to the country and the period of time they are a part of.

1. The General Rebellion

The "rebellion" as defined here often also goes by the name of revolution. They generally only happen after a prolonged period of distress and/or dysfunction of the government.  It requires that a significant portion of the population decides that the situation is untenable and that rebellion is the only alternative. Or they may not be thinking too hard about rebellion or revolution, they may simply be protesting the lack of food or the murder of one of their own by the security forces and things spin out of control.

This revolt may or may not include a substantial portion of the aristocracy and it may or may not be encouraged by foreign governments.

The rebellion is distinguished from the coup d'etat by being generally unplanned and involving a sizable percentage of the general population, in other words, people outside the present government.

Notable examples of the rebellion or revolution include the Glorious Revolution of 1638 in Great Britain, the American Revolution of 1776, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Islamic Revolution of 1989 in Iran. All of these cases resulted in a new constitution for the country. The Glorious Revolution and the Russian Revolution also had aspects of a civil war.

The Islamic and Russian Revolutions both started with a broader base of support and then were taken over by one of the revolutionary groups which came to control the government.  The Islamic Revolution started as a rebellion against the Shah's government but was only later taken over by orthodox Shia.  The Russian Revolution first resulted in the Kerensky Provisional Government and was later taken over by the Bolsheviks. 

2. The Coup d'Etat

Far more common in recent history is the coup d'etat which is distinguished from the General Rebellion by being initiated by a much smaller group of people working in secret. Very often the people who attempt a coup are part of the ruling government and generally includes in the conspiracy a part of that nation's military and internal security forces.

In the classic coup d'etat, members of the government and the aristocracy conspire to take over the government and depose the chief executive and his primary supporters. There is usually a specific event or date of the coup, the part of the military that is in control of the plotters attempts to take control of the capital, imprison or kill the chief executive, his loyal ministers, and anyone else who is perceived to be a threat. They generally attempt to control the primary media outlets, traditionally a radio or television station, in order to control the news about the situation. They generally attempt to seize and control the parliament of the country.

A successful coup will do all these things and the former chief executive will either be killed or be forced into exile, or in a few cases, internal exile. A coup that is not successful generally results in the death, imprisonment or exile of the coup supporters and a purge of suspected supporters from the government and from the country. The end result of an unsuccessful coup may have the result of leaving the existing government more powerful than before the coup. The fall of the Soviet Union was an unexpected result of an unsuccessful coup d'etat. 

The coup d'etat has in the past been a device of intelligence agencies of various nations attempting to execute regime change on a country that is not their own.

3. The Assassination

Perhaps the most direct way to change the chief executive of a country is to kill him or her. However, assassination has a mixed track record for achieving political goals as it often results in unanticipated or undesired results. Very often assassination may be the work of a very small cabal leading to questions of conspiracy and a strong counter-reaction.

Classic assassinations in history include John Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and Julius Caesar. In the case of Kennedy, it is not known why the assassination happened although of course there are numerous theories. In the case of Lincoln, the assassination did not help the Confederate cause, if anything it hurt it. In the case of the Archduke Ferdinand, the goal of the assassin involved regional politics and was not intended to start a general global war. In the case of Julius Caesar, the assassins were all dead within a few years and the Roman Republic was definitively destroyed.

Sometimes we are not sure whether a chief executive was assassinated.  An example of this is the death of Joseph Stalin who may or may not have been poisoned by Beria.

4. Suicide

In some circumstances, the chief executive can be encouraged to commit suicide as Hitler did at the end of World War 2.  This is not so easy to arrange and when it does happen it is usually in conjunction with some other circumstance, such as the one below.

5. Change of Government After Defeat in War

The final case of a non-consensual change of government is that which occurs after defeat in a war. The governments of Germany, Austria, and Japan in particular were imposed by the victors after World War 2, generally without the consent of the citizens of the defeated country.  If it does involve the citizenry of the defeated country, then that consent is only pro forma.

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