Regime change is the replacement of one government regime with another. Use of the term dates to at least 1925.[1] 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.

Popular use

The term regime change is sometimes erroneously used to describe a change in the government of the day. It can also be applied to bodies other than nation states.[2]

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.[3] Bill Clinton and George W. Bush regularly used the term in reference to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

Internal regime change

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.

Examples of internally driven regime change are the establishment of the French Fifth Republic (1958) and the Federation of Australia.

Foreign-imposed regime change

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.[4] There have been over forty foreign-imposed leadership changes between 1915 and 2004.[5]

In academic use

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.[citation needed]

The United States and the USSR during the Cold War

During the Cold War, the United States frequently intervened in elections and engaged in attempts at regime change, both covertly and overtly.[6][7][8]

See also


  1. ^ "Regime change effort denied". Los Angeles Times. 1 Aug 1925. p. 8. Cited in Oxford English Dictionary s.v. regime.
  2. ^ Margaret Heffernan (March 9, 2006). "Dealing with Regime Change at the Office". Fast Company. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  3. ^ Washington Post 20 Feb. 1987.
  4. ^ Peic, Goran (July 2011). "Foreign-Imposed Regime Change, State Power and Civil War Onset, 1920-2004". British Journal of Political Science. 41: 453–475. doi:10.1017/s0007123410000426 – via JSTOR.
  5. ^ Goemans, Henk E.; Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede; Chiozza, Giacomo (2009). "Introducing Archigos: A Dataset of Political Leaders". Journal of Peace Research. 46 (2): 269–283. doi:10.1177/0022343308100719. ISSN 0022-3433.
  6. ^ Levin, Dov H. (2019-01-01). "Partisan electoral interventions by the great powers: Introducing the PEIG Dataset". Conflict Management and Peace Science. 36 (1): 88–106. doi:10.1177/0738894216661190. ISSN 0738-8942.
  7. ^ O’Rourke, Lindsey A. (2019-11-29). "The Strategic Logic of Covert Regime Change: US-Backed Regime Change Campaigns during the Cold War". Security Studies. 0 (0): 1–36. doi:10.1080/09636412.2020.1693620. ISSN 0963-6412.
  8. ^ Levin, Dov H. (2016-06-01). "When the Great Power Gets a Vote: The Effects of Great Power Electoral Interventions on Election Results". International Studies Quarterly. 60 (2): 189–202. doi:10.1093/isq/sqv016. ISSN 0020-8833.

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