Publication of the Month: Dec 2014

Defect or Defend? Military Responses to Popular Protests in Authoritarian Asia by Terence Lee, Johns Hopkins University Press

Terence Lee’s (Political Science) Defect or Defend? explores the military’s role during regime change in Asia. Lee’s four case studies in the Philippines, Indonesia, China, and Burma are viewed through his theory of “high personalism” and power sharing among the military leadership. His method of understanding the transitional phases of democratization is also used to examine events in Eastern Europe’s democratization process during 1989, as well as the “Colored Revolutions” during the first decade of the new millennium, and the Arab Spring upheavals.

defect or defend cover

Although social movements and media can help destabilize authoritarian governments, not all social protest is effective or culminates in the toppling of dictatorships. Frequently, the military’s response determines the outcome.

In Defect or Defend, Terence Lee uses four case studies from Asia to provide insight into the military’s role during the transitional phase of regime change. Lee compares popular uprisings in the Philippines and Indonesia—both of which successfully engaged military support to bring down authoritarian rule—with protest movements in China and Burma which were violently suppressed by military forces.

Lee’s theory of “high personalism” and power-sharing among the armed forces leadership provides a framework for understanding the critical transitory phases of democratization. He uses this theory to review and assess Eastern Europe’s democratization events in 1989, the Colored Revolutions of the early 2000s, and the protests and revolutions unfolding in the Middle East. This book will appeal to students and scholars of comparative politics, Asian studies, security studies, and international relations, as well as defense policymakers.


Lee, T. Defect or Defend? Military Responses to Popular Protests in Authoritarian Asia (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)
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