Dictatorships, Why So Few?

A court in Argentina just cancelled the pardons that had been granted for human rights violations to former leaders of the Argentine military junta. Those pardons, granted under the Menem administration back in 1990, have been ruled unconstitutional.

My personal opinion – without the pardons at the time, there was a bit of danger that the military would try to take over again. At the very least, I think it is reasonably likely that the military would have tried to remain semi-independent, never coming under complete control of the civilian government. Put another way… the civilian government at the time was somewhat blackmailed into giving these pardons. And pardons given as a result of blackmail… well, I don’t see how they would be legal under most systems of government.

But it got me thinking… why aren’t there all that many military coups in South America any more. When I was growing up in South America, military regimes abounded. After all, they still have the guns. Overthrowing a civilian government can’t be that difficult. (Note – this question is generalizable. Why haven’t there been military coups in the US? And why do we still see them in some parts of Asia and the Middle East?) All I can come up with is this:

Military regimes failed even in the minds of military, at least in South America. So why would an officer want the problems associated being President? And if one did decide to be President, how would he know whether enough others would follow along?

Another random thought:

The US ceased to support military types in Latin America after the 1980s. Was Clinton less likely to provide support for new and existing dictators than Reagan and GHW? In Latin America, that does seem to be the case. I can’t see Clinton calling a butcher like Rios Montt a man of great personal integrity as Reagan did, be he a preacher or not. And it does seem we’ve become friendlier toward some tyrants (think Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt) since GW took office.

Anyway, I kinda ran out of thoughts this morning. Let me know yours.