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Regime change is the replacement of one government regime with another. Use of the term dates to at least 1925. Regime change may replace all or part of the state's most critical leadership system, administrative apparatus, or bureaucracy.
It can be the deliberate product of outside force, as in warfare. Rollback is the military strategy to impose a regime change by defeating an enemy and removing its regime by force. Regime change can occur through inside change caused by revolution, coup d'état or reconstruction following the failure of a state.
The transition from one political regime to another, especially through concerted political or military action, as was done in World War II to Italy, Germany, and Japan (also known as the Axis Powers). The term has been popularized by recent US presidents. Ronald Reagan had previously called for regime change in Libya, directing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work towards that goal. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush regularly used the term in reference to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
Regime change can be precipitated by revolution or a coup d'état. The Russian Revolution, the 1962 Burmese coup, the People Power Revolution and the 1990 dissolution of the Eastern Bloc are consummate examples.
The deposition of a regime by a foreign state. This deposition can be achieved through covert means such as in the 1989 United States invasion of Panama or by direct military action. Interstate war can also culminate into a foreign-imposed regime change for the losers, as it did in Germany and Japan in 1945. Foreign-imposed regime change are sometimes used by states as a foreign policy tool. There have been over forty foreign-imposed leadership changes between 1915 and 2004.
In addition to the above uses, the term 'regime change' can also be used in a more general sense, particularly in academic work, to refer to a change in political institutions or laws that affect the nature of the system as a whole. For example, the end of the Bretton Woods system was a regime change in the international system, as was the repeal of the National Mandatory Speed Limit in the United States. Regime changes are often viewed as ideal opportunities for natural experiments by social scientists.