Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Michael Herb


The question of loyalty in autocratic regimes has drawn a sustained scholarly interest, especially with the resilience of many of these regimes over most of world history and over the past few decades in particular. Autocratic leaders need to secure the support of their militaries to survive in office and to minimize the risk of a coup. Among the commonly employed mechanisms in this regard is the extension of extra-budgetary financial rewards, including ‘Military-Owned Businesses (MOBs).’ Nevertheless, under the increasingly significant threat of an uprising from below, military defection remains the key for the success of the revolution. The question then becomes: under what conditions would a military defect from an autocratic ruling alliance? Although many answers have been proposed to solve this puzzle, an increasing number of cases are proving them insufficient. Alternatively, this project presents one novel answer to this question, which is: militaries are “defection-proofed” in the face of mass uprisings when they develop financial dependency on the regime. By contrast, when the management of the extra-budgetary resource for the military, i.e. MOBs, becomes the exclusive domain of the military and independent from the regime, the military is expected to defect. This proposed hypothesis represents a contribution to the democratization literature, both its installation, i.e. underlining a ‘pro-democracy’ capacity of the military in removing the dictator, as well as its consolidation, i.e. handling the legacy of the autocratic regime after the transition. This hypothesis is tested comparatively against the cases of mass protests in China (1989), Indonesia (1998), Thailand (2006), Iran (2009), and Egypt (2011). This comparative analysis represents another contribution of this study, bringing together a diverse array of cases unexpected to have much in common. Analysis draws on a mix of both primary resources collected from the field along with secondary materials. The comparisons are made considering the type of civil-military relations in each case, the size and type of financial rewards controlled by the military, and their effect, if any, on its decision to repress or defect based on the interaction between the military and the dictator.