Coup D’etat

(by Edward Luttwak) (1968)

The only good thing about the film Casino Royale (1967) is the moment when David Niven recalls Lenin as a ‘first-class organiser…second rate mind.’  This  cool, matter-of-fact, revolutionary, cookbook for a coup is rather the reverse of that characterisation.  It’s a impressive assembly of material, from necessary pre-conditions, to the strategic and tactical aspects of coups d’état, sprinkled with apt historical instances.

A masterpiece of concision, yet where the book meets it margins, we see what Luttwak recognises as the “difficulty of predicting human behaviour.”  So whilst the book is a worthy Machiavellian guide to the overthrow of established order, in practise it is nothing without that most dangerously human of qualities: zeal.  Think Lenin, Castro, Atatürk.  We don’t get much sense of that here, inevitably. And Luttwak has very little to say about the winning of hearts and minds post-coup (perhaps a sequel is indicated).

Edward_LuttwakBut it is still a subversively interesting work from a fairly contentious and always interesting scholar and geopolitical analyst (we note reports of his current involvement in the high-tech hunt for the Roman loot of Alaric’s horde in Calabria, buried circa 410AD).


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