Militaries play dramatically different roles in different autocracies. At one extreme, the military remains the supreme political actor for generations. At the other extreme, militaries long remain subordinate to authoritarian leaders. We argue that the roots of this variation—from military supremacy to subordination—lie in military origins. Where authoritarian mass parties created militaries from scratch, the armed forces have generally remained subservient. Where militaries emerged separately from authoritarian parties, they enjoyed the autonomy necessary to achieve and maintain military supremacy. The core lesson is simple: Unless an autocratic regime created the military, it will struggle to control the military.
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