Recent Essays


Learning from the Banality and Aftermath of Bolivia’s Coup

War on the Rocks, February 26, 2020

Despite Morales detractors’ best efforts to label his ouster as a revolution, it is hard to deny that this was a banal example of military intervention, not a unique something-by-another-name. The silver lining around the post-coup name-game is that both sides agree on the most important point: Those who are angry about Morales’ forced exit, as well as those who swear it was not a coup, both believe in the undesirability of army intervention over questions of political leadership.

What the history of coups in the Middle East tells us about Venezuela

The Washington Post, May 2, 2019

Using clues from my book project on the Middle East, I explain why Venezuela's Juan Guaidó has been recruiting soldiers for a military takeover and how past experience says similar efforts at coup advocacy have ended badly.

Sharing Saddles: Oligarchs and Officers on Horseback in Egypt and Tunisia

Revise & resubmit, International Studies Quarterly

I find that oligarchic elites veto attempts to establish civilian control over the armed forces when the prospect of democratization threatens their wealth and status. Establishing civilian control over the military thus depends not on the success of elite civil-military pacts but on the ability to balance revolutionary demands for social and economic justice with the interests of oligarchs and officers.


Politicians at Arms: Civilian Recruitment of Soldiers for Middle East Coups

Armed Forces & Society, June 12, 2018

Why would politicians recruit soldiers for military coups d’état? This essay examines the conditions in which politicians recruit soldiers to seize power by investigating the understudied processes of military takeovers. Using British Foreign Office documents, Arabic language memoirs, and Polity data, I find that civilian statesmen in Iraq (1936) and Syria (1951) could not tolerate their civilian rivals’ incumbency but were unable to challenge them peacefully, so they recruited like-minded officers for coups.

The Invisible Line: Soldiers and Civilians in the Middle East

Jadaliyya, July 17, 2018

A recurrent but overlooked theme in Middle East politics is that civilians—far from passive or lacking in agency—have played prominent roles in most of the region’s coups. Their stories resist the tendency to reduce the source of power in coup-prone states to tanks, bombs, and guns.

I received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, and am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.  


My book project, Politicians at Arms, uses Arabic language memoirs, as well as reports of the British Foreign Office and French Ministère des Affaires étrangères, to understand why party leaders advocated for military coups d'état in the post-colonial Middle East. Well-known Syrian and Iraqi coups were the product of revolutionary civil-military alliances, not the ambitions of middle-class officers. When civilians transfer political legitimacy to soldiers, the latter possess a dangerous combination of the pen and the sword. 


Portions of my research have been published in Armed Forces & Society and invited for resubmission at International Studies Quarterly. I have also written for the Washington Post and Jadaliyya.

Tulane University

Department of Political Science

New Orleans, LA 70118

Orcid ID: 0000-0002-9961-2669

©2020, Drew H. Kinney. All Rights Reserved.