Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


International Relations


Dennis Smith

Committee Members

Amy Oakes

Hiroshi Kitamura


The literature on civil-military relations universally asserts that air forces play little to no role in the prevention or conduct of the coup d’etat. This thesis contests this claim. Air forces have an extensive history of involvement in planned and attempted coup d’etats. In addition, air forces throughout the developing world are heavily coup-proofed at extreme cost in both military effectiveness and financial resources. The second section of this work establishes a theoretical framework that suggests a plausible explanation for this oversight in the theoretical literature. This gap in the literature is due to the field’s heavy focus on cases of successful coups. When the scope is broadened to include coup attempts, the role of the air force emerges. This thesis contends that innate technological and human characteristics associated with air forces and airpower result in (1) the high capacity to attempt coups, (2) a low ability to succeed in coup attempts, and (3) a high propensity to attempt coups regardless of the low rate of success. The applicability of this framework is illustrated through three in-depth case studies of the role of the air force in coup attempts in Morocco, Iraq, and Iran.

On-Campus Access Only