Regime change

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Not to be confused with Regime shift.

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

Regime change can occur through conquest by a foreign power, revolution, coup d'état or reconstruction following the failure of a state. Regime change may replace all or part of the state's existing institutions, administrative apparatus, bureaucracy and other elements.

Popular use[edit]

The transition from one political regime to another, especially through concerted political or military action - most recently seen in the regime change undergone by Tunisia.

The term has been popularized by recent US presidents. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush regularly used the term in reference to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Ronald Reagan had previously called for regime change in Libya, directing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work towards that goal.[2]

The term regime change is sometimes erroneously used to describe a change in the government of the day.

The term regime change can also be applied to bodies other than nation states.[3]

Internal regime change[edit]

Regime change can be precipitated by revolution or a coup d'état. The Russian Revolution, the 1962 Burmese coup and the 1990 collapse of communism in Eastern Europe are consummate examples.

Less violent examples of internally driven regime change are the establishment of the French Fifth Republic and the Federation of Australia.

In academic use[edit]

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.

Role of the United States[edit]

The United States has been involved in and assisted in the overthrow of foreign governments (more recently termed "regime change") without the overt use of U.S. military force. Often, such operations are tasked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, September 2007 draft
  2. ^ Washington Post 20 Feb. 1987
  3. ^ Margaret Heffernan (March 9, 2006). "Dealing with Regime Change at the Office". Fast Company. Retrieved 2015-04-21. 

External links[edit]