There has been much about military coups in the news lately: Thailand's while the prime minister was at the UN; Venezuela's prime minister maintaining a grudge against Bush for supporting a failed one; the debate over whether General Musharraf*, who came to power through one, is really the best person to lead Pakistan. I wondered whether someone with much more knowledge than I about international law could inform me on the protocol for dealing with coups in a foreign nation. Ought the American government feel obligated to automatically condemn military coups as a subversion of democracy, or (in cases where the previous government hadn't had popular support at election time, as with a monarch) as destructive of order and the rule of law?
We seem to have a fairly instrumental view of coups. Ones that put U.S.-friendly regimes in place, as in Pakistan or Venezuela, are good; ones that do not, like the very short lived 1971 Communist coup in Sudan, are bad. Hence "the muted response to the coup from the United States and Britain, which deplored the damage to Thailandís young democracy but did not call for Thaksinís restoration to office," because Thaksin is viewed as doing a poor job fighting the Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand. I envision the note to the prime minister, now exiled to London, as thus: "Dear Thaksin Shinawatra, Sorry to hear about your being deposed, especially after that big military push to deal with the terrorists. Dealing with militants was taking a lot out of you and at least it was a bloodless coup, which I find preferable to the other type. Be consoled that the generals say they'll return control to civilians in two weeks, even if you won't be among those civilians. You can say what you like about one night in Bangkok, but I'd take the West End girls. Best, G.W. Bush."
* In totally unrelated news, Musharraf reportedly underwent cardiology testing in East Texas, but since it happened in Paris, I feel confident in saying that no one I know was involved.