In August of 1972, members of the Moroccan Royal Air Force, reportedly acting on orders of defense minister Mohammad Oufkir, intercepted the jet of Morocco’s King Hassan II. Loyal troops came to the King’s aid, both ensuring his safety and arresting hundreds of rebellious air force officers. Later that day, Oufkir was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds; in his study was a heavily annotated and blood-spattered copy of the French edition of Edward Luttwak’s Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook.
Remarking on the failure of Oufkir’s effort in this year’s revised edition of the book, Luttwak notes that his original aim wasn’t actually to produce a DIY manual, but “to explore the meaning of politics in the many backward countries politely described as ‘emerging.’” In doing so he outlined the conditions under which coups may succeed, and detailed their strategy, planning, and execution. While the book’s new edition reflects a variety of geopolitical shifts in the five decades since Coup d’État first appeared, the bones of Luttwak’s analysis remain largely unchanged.
And so it’s not surprising to see Luttwak assess the weekend’s failed coup in Turkey in terms he outlined back in 1968. Here he is in Foreign Policy:
Rule No. 2 in planning a successful military coup is that any mobile forces that are not part of the plot — and that certainly includes any fighter jet squadrons — must be immobilized or too remote to intervene. (Which is why Saudi army units, for example, are based far from the capital.) But the Turkish coup plotters failed to ensure these loyal tanks, helicopters, and jets were rendered inert, so instead of being reinforced as events unfolded, the putschists were increasingly opposed. But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.
Read more on Luttwak’s work as it relates to events in Turkey in the Globe and Mail, USA Today, and the New York Post, as well as in news coverage from the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Greece, and Hungary.