Rewriting the Rulebook on coups, time to add cyberpower
Mere hours after the putsch in Turkey has failed, it is still too early to understand exactly what went on. Given those constraints, I still want to discuss something which has altered “the game” so much that the existing guidebook needs to be significantly revised.
I am not a military strategist, but I have lived through a couple coups here in Thailand, so I have some first hand experience of what they look like. The guide book to running a coup is still Luttwak’s Coup d’État, but it needs to be revised to reflect the use of cyberpower. In the same vein, people who talk about cyberpower need to understand what it actually is (hint: it isn’t a stockpile of exploits, it’s the ability to create and maintain advantage.)
The Good Coup Guide
A coup is basically a sucker punch. The trick is to end the fight before it even begins. The members of the coup are in the minority and a long drawn out fight, even if they win, will not have the trappings of legitimacy or stability. The goal is to have a rapid attack against the existing leadership and replace them before anyone knows what happened. At the same time, the general population needs to be kept out of the way, because large groups of civilians complicate things to no end.
Essentially, the existing leaders need to be removed from positions of power and their ability to coordinate and organise a resistance must be blocked. This is easier when there are only a few means of mass communication (e.g the TV station, or the radio station.)
Keys To A Successful Putsch
The basic process is something like the following, preferably all at the same time:
- Detain the existing leadership (failing that, act when they are unable to mount an effective defence, e.g. outside the country)
- Seize the mass communication channels, such as TV and radio stations (to prevent any elements of the leadership coordinating an effective defense)
- Restrict freedom of assembly, speech, and movement, to hinder the ability of the opposition to mount an effective defense
- Finally, keep troops on the street to maintain “order” while everyone gets used to having a new ruling class
Everything has to be done quickly to minimize the period of vulnerability — from when the coup begins until it has achieved mission success (the majority of people accept them as the new rulers.)
Read the Remainder at Medium