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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 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.
The term regime change is sometimes erroneously used to describe a change in the government of the day.
Internal regime change
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 (→ #Dissolution of the Eastern Bloc) are consummate examples.
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.
Role of the United States
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).
- "Regime change effort denied". Los Angeles Times. 1 Aug 1925. p. 8. Cited in Oxford English Dictionary s.v. regime.
- Washington Post 20 Feb. 1987.
- 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.
- Encarta Dictionary
- Word Spy: Regime Change
- Vijay Prashad, "The History of Regime Change and Its Ground Rules," The Hindu, May 31, 2016. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-history-of-humanitarian-intervention-and-its-ground-rules/article8668707.ece