• Erica De Bruin

    Assistant Professor of Government

    Hamilton College


    I am an Assistant Professor of Government at Hamilton College, where my work focuses on civil-military relations and civil war. I am interested in particular in the causes and dynamics of military coups, the variety of police and security forces rulers employ, and the ways in which armed groups build legitimacy. My book, How to Prevent Coups d’état: Counterbalancing and Regime Survival (Cornell University Press, 2020), examines how the design of coercive institutions affects regime survival.


    My research has been published in the Journal of Peace Research and Journal of Conflict Resolution. My writing has also appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, and Political Violence @ a Glance. I am currently working on a new, National Science Foundation-funded project on the determinants of Civilian Support for Criminal and Political Armed Groups.


    I received a PhD from the Department of Political Science at Yale University in 2014, and a BA from Columbia University in 2004. I worked previously as a Research Associate in U.S. Foreign Policy and International Law at the Council on Foreign Relations and as a Research Associate in the Fellows Program at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.


    At Hamilton, I serve as the Director of the Justice and Security Program at the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center, and organize the Women in Political Science lecture series. I teach courses on international security, civil-military relations, civil war, and U.S. foreign policy.



    Contact information

    Erica De Bruin

    Assistant Professor of Government

    Hamilton College

    198 College Hill Road

    Clinton, NY 13323


    Office: Kirner-Johnson Room 120

    Office phone: (315) 859-4526

    Email: edebruin@hamilton.edu

    Twitter: @esdebruin

  • Book: How to Prevent Coups

    Counterbalancing and Regime Survival (Cornell University Press, 2020)

    How to Prevent Coups d’état shows that how rulers organize their coercive institutions has a profound effect on the survival of their regimes. Where rulers use presidential guards, militarized police, and militia to counterbalance the regular military, efforts to oust them from power via coups d’état are less likely to succeed. Even as counterbalancing helps to prevent successful interventions, however, the resentment that it generates within the regular military can provoke new coup attempts. And because counterbalancing changes how soldiers and police perceive the costs and benefits of a successful coup, it can create incentives for protracted fighting that result in the escalation of coups into full-blown civil war.


    Drawing on an original dataset of state security forces in 110 countries over a span of fifty years, as well as case studies of coup attempts in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, the book sheds light on how counterbalancing affects regime survival. Understanding the dynamics of counterbalancing, the book shows, can help analysts predict when coups will occur, whether they will succeed, and how violent they are likely to be. The arguments and evidence in this book suggest that while counterbalancing may prevent successful coups, it is a risky strategy to pursue—and one that may weaken regimes in the long term.


    Purchase via Cornell University Press, Amazon, Google

  • State security forces (SSF) dataset

    Figure 1: Highest number of security forces in operation, 1960-2010


    How rulers organize and use their security forces has important implications for regime survival, repression, and military effectiveness. Yet efforts to understand systematic patterns have been hampered by a lack of reliable data that can be compared across states and within them over time. The State Security Forces (SSF) dataset, which includes 375 security forces in 110 countries, 1960-2010, tracks how each security force is commanded, staffed, equipped, and deployed, as well as the number of security forces and potential counterweights in each state’s security sector as a whole.


    The dataset draws upon 2,200 primary and secondary sources including academic works on military institutions and civil-military relations in each state, historical news sources, annual defense publications, government websites, and reports from non-governmental organizations. I am grateful to the International Peace Research Association Foundation for funding to support data collection.


    Please cite:

    De Bruin, Erica. 2020. "Mapping Coercive Institutions: A New Data Set of State Security Forces, 1960-2010." Journal of Peace Research. doi: 10.1177/0022343320913089. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022343320913089


    Security force data:

    This Dropbox folder contains the article, online appendix, country-year version of the dataset, and security force-year version. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to be in touch.

  • Publications and media

    Peer-reviewed articles

    2020. "Mapping Coercive Institutions: A New Data Set of State Security Forces, 1960-2010." Journal of Peace Research. doi: 10.1177/0022343320913089.

    2019. "Will There Be Blood? The Determinants of Violence During Coups d’état." Journal of Peace Research 56(6): 797-811.

    2018. "Preventing Coups d’état: How Counterbalancing Works." Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(7): 1433-1458.

    Other publications

    Forthcoming. “Counterbalancing and Coups d’état.” In William R. Thompson and Hicham Bou Nassif, eds., Oxford Research Encyclopedia of the Military in Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.


    2019. "Coups, Protests, and Violence: What to Expect in Bolivia." Political Violence @ a Glance, November 25.


    2019. "Why Does the United States Still Believe the Myth of the 'Good Coup'?" Op-Ed, Washington Post, November 13.


    2019. "Trump Wants Venezuela's Military to Remove its President. But Maduro Has Made that Difficult." The Monkey Cage, Washington Post. May 2.


    2014. "Coup-Proofing for Dummies: The Benefits of Following the Maliki Playbook." Foreign Affairs Snapshot. July 27.


    2009. “Beyond Words: U.S. Policy and the Responsibility to Protect,” in The Responsibility to Protect: The Global Moral Compact for the 21st Century, Richard Cooper and Juliette Voinov Kohler, eds. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan (with Lee Feinstein)

    Research in progress

    "From Civil War to Coup d’état: How Peace Agreements Shape Post-Conflict Violence" (under review)


    "Explaining Civilian Support for Political and Criminal Armed Groups" (NSF Award #1558488, with Michael Weintraub and Livia Schubiger)


    "Militarized Policing: A Global Dataset" (in progress)

    Media mentions