There was a military coup in Thailand today. You don’t see them as much anymore as you used to several decades ago, so I think it’s appropriate to take the opportunity to address several things:
1) This is the 18th coup that has taken place in Thailand since the end of WWII. That’s about once every 3 years. Thailand is not alone is suffering from multiple coups in the last 60 years. Many Asian, African, South American, and even European countries have had military leaders take control of the country in the second half of the 20th century. During that same time period, military conflicts between states have become quite rare. Most post-WWII military conflicts have been low-intensity conflicts involving separatist movements, civil wars, and terrorism.
Its sort of begs the question, why is a standing military necessary for most countries? By far, the primary use of standing armies in most countries around the world have been to fight with their own population, not to defend themselves from foreign invaders.
Costa Rica has no standing army. They’ve not had any military coups. Panama abolished their military in the early ’90s. (Hard to justify having one when your neighbor doesn’t I guess) Most island nations also lack standing armies. The only Pacific nation I can think of with a standing army is also the only one who has had a military coup: Fiji. I’m sure Canada could eliminate their military altogether and no one would notice.
At this point in history, unless there is a very explicit and obvious external threat (South Korea), having a standing army is a greater threat to democracy and freedom than being defenseless. (Even in the case of South Korea, they’ve spent more time since the end of WWII under military rule than under democratically elected governments)
2) The majority of military conflicts since the end of WWII could be resolved if we recognized a general right to secession. Most conflicts arise from the way the maps are drawn. I’m sure the world would be better off if Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, and Sudan ceased to exist and devolved power down to its ethnic/tribal units. This is frowned upon by most nations because the power structure in every country would be in danger if every ethnic group could split away. Russia (especially in the Caucuses) would split into a dozen countries. China would probably break into 4-5 countries. The US would probably lose Hawaii. Quebec would probably become independent.
3) Will anyone in Thailand notice or care? As a rule, military juntas are not good things. If Thailand goes the way of Burma (I refuse to call it Myanmar) it would not be good. However, if day to day actives in Thailand continue as they did last week, would a change in the leader really matter? The fact that the leadership of a country is elected is I think secondary to how they behave. Many countries have installed dictators via elections. African nations are especially prone to having an election and then never having a second one. It probably won’t stop anyone from backpacking through Southeast Asia.
We’ll see how this plays out over the next few weeks I guess. The coup plotters are promising a return to civilian rule in 2 weeks and a new constitution. Any constitution which can be thrown out and replaced so easily isn’t much of a constitution and doesn’t provide much of a barrier to the military taking power again.