This idea suddenly popped into my head after I finished commenting on the Mugabe situation in Africa.
What do China, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe all have in common?
For China, think Tiananmen Square.
In all three situations, the military played an important role in determining the course of development (assuming the recent military action in Zimbabwe holds).
For Venezuela, you may recall that Hugo Chavez first came to power through the actions of the military of that country. A military that was loyal to Chavez.
For Tienanmen Square, it was the military that suppressed a rebellion there.
In Zimbabwe, the military justifies its actions by declaring itself to be against the corruption of the current regime. If genuine, that strikes me as a very populist sort of notion.
In Latin America, military dictatorships had a long history. What made Chavez's rise to power different is that the military their championed a leftist leader. Past military coups and dictatorships had aligned themselves with the business elite of their countries. Castro did come to power through force of arms, but that was a revolutionary force organized outside of the existing military of that time.
China's success at suppressing dissent at Tienanmen Square came about because the military was in large part staffed by recruits from the peasantry of that country. Its Communist past also gave the current regime a leftist populist like cover. Such rural recruits had no problem suppressing the rising urban middle class"counter-revolutionaries" that fueled the Tienamen Square protests.
This all reminded me of the Praetorian Guard of ancient Rome:
The Praetorian Guard (Latin: cohortes praetoriae) was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman Army whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials such as army generals or provincial governors. With the Republic's transition into the Roman Empire, however, the first emperor Augustus founded the Guard as his personal security detail. Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became notable for its intrigue and interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming their successors. In 312 the Guard was ultimately disbanded by Constantine the Great.
In the modern variation that we see, such a Praetorian Guard can be viewed not as guardians of the current emperor, but more as guardians of the interests of the peasantry and of workers who otherwise exert minimum control over the means of production.
In Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man he writes of society arriving at the last stage of development. A stage that is based on democratic principles with a mix of both public and private economic interests working more or less harmoniously with each other. What Fukuyama subsequently conceded is that he might have underestimated the possibility of countries backsliding into something other than such a liberal democratic state. Islamic theocracy comes to mind. Another possibility now appears to be what I am calling a sort of Praetorian Populism or perhaps a Praetorian Socialism.
In such states, the military defines its role in terms of something other than protecting the interests of a capitalist elite. Such a military may come to define their role through sympathies and roots within the native peasantry and impoverished underemployed or under-compensated wage workers within relatively underdeveloped countries, such as Zimbabwe or Venezuela. Alternatively, it may come to this perspective through a determination to protect the orthodoxy of a Communist society such as China. In the case of China, a business class may be allowed to develop, but only under the watch full eye of such a Praetorian Guard. Were Venezuela more stable, it could also be described in those terms.
At any rate, that is the idea that popped into my head. What do you all think?
Have I overlooked something, or do you find my way of categorizing things to be unsatisfactory?