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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 03:16 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 03:16 | SYDNEY

Defending the Roggeveen rule

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10 September 2009 11:26

Judah Grunstein and Art Goldhammer, two American observers of French politics, responded to my post proposing a rule of thumb about the kinds of countries that hold military parades. But I think I've been misunderstood. I was not trying to say that military parades are a sign of martial fervour or that only countries which stage parades of missiles and tanks have a militarised culture. Mine was a narrower, constitutional, point. Here's my rule of thumb again:

A preference for military parades (particularly those featuring heavy weapons) is a strong indicator of significant military influence over the civilian government.

In other words, my claim is that parades with tanks and ICBMs are a good indicator that civilians have less than total control over the state. Clearly the military has a prominent place in US political culture, but there is also a very strong constitutional provision for civilian control of the military. That goes for many other Western democracies, none of which hold tank and missile parades.

By contrast, China, Turkey, the Arab states and Russia have, to varying degrees, much stronger military influence over the civilian government. And those countries do stage tank and missile parades. Hence my rule of thumb.

As I tried to say yesterday, France seems to be the exception to this rule. Strong civilian control of the military, yet still with the Red Square-style parades.

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